Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Forbidden Fruit by @stangazemba #Africa Life @TheMantle

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba

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FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Stanley Gazemba

4 out of 5 stars

Forbidden Fruit is a novel about life in a Kenyan village, about the vagaries of human nature, but I felt it was more an illustration of the life and times of the people; the plot comes second.  The ‘forbidden fruit’ of the title refers not only to an illicit affair, but other aspects of the story.

The main character is impoverished villager Ombima, who, at the beginning of the novel, is stealing food from the farms owned by his employers, simply because his family do not have enough.  I found the differences between the poor and the wealthy starkly delineated; this interested me and was very well done.  The descriptions of the rural life were quite an education, and even though, by Western standards, the lives of the villagers is harsh, I felt that they were no badly off than we are.  Certainly there was much joy to be found.

I found the dialogue a little strange at times; I don’t know if it was translated from another language or if the author’s first language is not English; there is no author profile on Amazon for me to see.  But it was a mixture of Americanisms and some curious choices of words; I don’t know how Kenyans talk so I can’t say whether or not it is authentic.

If you are interested in every day life in rural Africa I am sure you will love this book; every aspect of life is explored in great detail.

Book Description

Fiction. African and African American Studies. Winner of the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature. Desperate to make ends meet, Ombima commits a “harmless” crime. When he tries to conceal his misdeed, the simple farm laborer becomes a reluctant participant in a sinister affair. If discovered, the consequences could be disastrous for Ombima’s family, friends, and a spate of unwitting, gossipy villagers. A delicious tale of greed, lust, and betrayal, Stanley Gazemba’s FORBIDDEN FRUIT is more than a dramatic tale of rural life in western Kenya. The moral slips and desperate cover-ups–sometimes sad, sometimes farcical–are the stories of time and place beyond the village of Maragoli

About the author

Stanley Gazemba

Stanley Gazemba is an award-winning author and his breakthrough novel, ‘The Stone Hills of Maragoli’, published by Kwani? won the Jomo Kenyatta prize for Kenyan Literature in 2003. He is also the author of two other novels: ‘Callused Hands’ and ‘Khama’, he has written eight children’s books. A prolific writer, Stanley’s articles and stories have appeared in several international publications including the New York Times, ‘A’ is for Ancestors, the Caine Prize Anthology and the East African magazine. Stanley lives in Nairobi and his short story ‘Talking Money’ was recently published in ‘Africa 39’, a Hay Festival publication which was released in 2014. Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Inc, ‘Africa 39’ features a collection of 39 short stories by some of Africa’s leading contemporary authors. Stanley is also in the process of working on an array of creative literary projects.

 

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WW2 #HistFic Wolfsangel by @LizaPerrat #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reviewing Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat

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WOLFSANGEL by Liza Perrat

5 out of 5 stars

This is the second of the Liza Perrat’s Bone Angel trilogy to be written, but the latest in historical period; it takes place during the Nazi occupation of the village of Lucie-sur-Vionne in World War Two.  I think it’s the best of the three.

The trilogy’s theme of medicine woman and herbalist continues in the form of the mother of twenty-year-old Celeste, the main character.  At the outset of the book, Celeste is dealing with the occupation of Lucie with the same quiet fear and anger as the other villagers and her friends.  As time goes on, the demands of the Germans increase in their severity, and no one is sure who is collaborating.  Celeste goes to work with the Resistance in Lyons, but she has her own dark secrets with which to contend, as she falls in love with someone she shouldn’t.

The book is a real page-turner, and the sense of growing fear is so well done.  I was pleased that it was realistic; Celeste loses people she loves, and there are some truly gripping scenes, such as when she and other Resistance workers rescue two prisoners from a hospital.  The last twenty pages, when a truly shocking event takes place, took me by complete surprise; I was engrossed.  The ‘afterwards’ bit is written with great sensitivity, too, with a couple of surprising reunions, but it avoids becoming schmaltzy; it’s too respectful of those who really suffered such tragedy for any such cheap shot.

I found the hot-headed Celeste irritating at times, but that was fine, because she was meant to be like that; she worked.  The book is so well researched, and there is a section after the novel has finished that tells of the real life events that inspired some of this fascinating story.  Well done, Liza Perrat!

Book Description

Seven decades after German troops march into her village, Céleste Roussel is still unable to assuage her guilt.
1943. German soldiers occupy provincial Lucie-sur-Vionne, and as the villagers pursue treacherous schemes to deceive and swindle the enemy, Céleste embarks on her own perilous mission as her passion for a Reich officer flourishes.
When her loved ones are deported to concentration camps, Céleste is drawn into the vortex of this monumental conflict, and the adventure and danger of French Resistance collaboration.
As she confronts the harrowing truths of the Second World War’s darkest years, Céleste is forced to choose: pursue her love for the German officer, or answer General de Gaulle’s call to fight for France.
Her fate suspended on the fraying thread of her will, Celeste gains strength from the angel talisman bequeathed to her through her lineage of healer kinswomen. But the decision she makes will shadow the remainder of her days.
A woman’s unforgettable journey to help liberate Occupied France, Wolfsangel is a stirring portrayal of the courage and resilience of the human mind, body and spirit.

About the author

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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.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT The Last meridian by @HefferonJoe Noir #crime #SundayBlogShare

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Last Meridian by Joe Hefferon

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THE LAST MERIDIAN by Joe Hefferon

4.5 stars

The past is a stone – you can carry it around with you, or you can step up on it to see what’s coming over the next hill’.

The Last Meridian is a crime novel set in the 1960s, in the ‘noir’ sub-genre; it’s not one I’ve explored before, and somewhere near the beginning I realised I should read it out loud, leaning against a lamp-lit wall down a dark alley, wearing a fedora and smoking a French cigarette.  I imagined this; it really did make the dialogue work!

In the first chapter in 1948, a girl drives away from Illinois, along Route 66, heading for LA.  We don’t know why, but Lynn becomes Nina, and starts a new career as an interior designer for the stars. Meanwhile, back in 1965, a man associated with the underworld is murdered, and the murder is witnessed by the teenage son of the victim’s girlfriend.  Nina’s involvement in this is one I didn’t guess at all, and, as the mother of the boy tries to save her son, a private detective called CS and a journalist/writer called Jimmy are brought in, centre stage.

The book took a short while to gel for me as there are a lot of characters to remember, at the beginning, but before 10% I’d settled into the back-and-forth-in-time structure, and begun to really enjoy it.  Mr Hefferon is masterful at creating atmosphere, and I loved the cynical, seedy crime/Hollywood characters.  I especially liked some of the short backstories; that of CS, and mother Larissa, in particular.  The character I found the most interesting was Jimmy, and I liked the extracts from his manuscript, and his philosophical pondering… ‘in some cross-layered way, each of us is the supporting cast for all of us … how do we arrive at the places where our lives mesh with the people we need for our own narrative?’.  

…I liked the observations about the people, fashions and culture: ‘Beards, shaggy hair and abraded clothing were just becoming the craze of the anti-establishment, yet this juvenile bandito remained stuck in 1958, unconcerned with change.  He had chosen his look … he would wear it proudly until time and prison sucked the black from his mane’.

…about the locations: ‘No one with any style lives in Bakersfield … it’s all money and no pizazz.  What kind of claim is ‘Halfway to Fresno’?

….and about Nina’s dysfunctional marriage: ‘In a lovers’ paradox, they found each other attractive at different times, but never at the same time… it was a marriage of inconvenience’.

Joe Hefferon is an intelligent and talented writer, and I hope he is as proud of this clever and delightfully atmospheric novel as he should be.

The novel ends at around 90%, after which there is an author’s note, acknowledgements, and an excerpt from another novel from the same publishing company.

Book Description

A telegram sets off a chain of events that destroys five lives, throwing Hollywood insider Nina Ferrer’s life into turmoil. The infant boy she gave up for adoption in Chicago sixteen years earlier has been arrested for murder. A plea from the boy’s adoptive mother pushes her to act, but Nina has a big problem—she never told her husband about the boy.

Nina must come to terms with her guilt, while accepting the reality of her fragile life and her cheating husband, who’s embroiled in another deadly plot. As her life unravels, the boy’s fate grows ominous. Set against the backdrop of the Hollywood heyday of the early 1960s, the quick-witted, smart-talking Nina, a designer for the well-heeled of Los Angeles, hires a private detective to uncover the facts about what happened back in Chicago, and save her boy. Maybe… just maybe… he can save her, too.

Or perhaps Nina will have to save herself, the most frightening prospect of all. To do that, she must cross The Last Meridian, the place beyond which life as she knows it will no longer exist.

About the author

Joe Hefferon

Retired law enforcement. Enjoying the process of creating a second career as a writer

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Safe With Me by @GraceLowrie1 #Contemporary Romantic drama

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Safe With Me by Grace Lowrie

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SAFE WITH ME by Grace Lowrie

3.5 stars

Safe With Me is a contemporary romantic drama involving themes of fostered children and domestic abuse.  The story alternates between the points of view of Katerina (sometimes Kat, sometimes Rina), and Jamie.

The novel opens with Kat in a deeply depressing situation.  After a terrible childhood in and out of foster homes, then life on the streets, she has been married for many years to Vic, a criminal who owns a greasy spoon café on a London market.  Her life is one of imprisonment, abuse and drudgery, as she works in the café all day every day, and spends her evenings tiptoeing round Vic’s temper.  She hates him, but is completely worn down and unable to see a way out.   The one light in her life is her memory of Jamie, the little boy with whom she was fostered as a child.  I thought this part of the book was written very well indeed, I was most impressed.  I felt every moment of Kat’s fear and hopelessness.

Jamie, by contrast, has led a happy life, but always longed to see Kat again.  When they meet up, completely by accident, neither of them have any idea who the other is.  This novel turns on the head the current trend for unguessable plot twists, which I liked very much: in Safe With Me, the reader knows what’s going on, but the characters don’t.  It really worked, because I found myself wondering how they were going to discover each other’s identities; the ‘reveal’ is well done, and is unexpected; I liked it.

Ms Lowrie has a nice, easily accessible style of writing, very readable.  I did prefer the first half of the book, which, for me, had more atmosphere and realism.  The second half is centred round the relationship between Kat and Jamie, and Kat’s road to recovery; it’s done well but, for me, the climax of the book came too soon.  This is just a personal preference, of course.  Conflict/tension is provided by Jamie’s ex-girlfriend, and the uncovering of some secrets of Jamie and Kat’s past, but I thought the Vic situation was disposed too easily, and sometimes descriptive passages slowed the momentum; I think it needed a better edit.

This novel has much to commend it; on the whole, I’d say it’s a book for readers who like the gradual unfolding of emotions to ponder over, rather than page-turning drama.

Book Description

An emotional and evocative story about the deepest bonds of friendship.

Abandoned as children, Kat and Jamie were inseparable growing up in foster care. But their bond couldn’t protect them forever.

From a troubled upbringing to working in a London greasy spoon, Kat’s life has never been easy. On the surface Jamie’s living the high-life, but appearances can be deceiving.

When they unexpectedly reunite, their feelings become too intense to ignore. But as secrets come back to haunt them, are they destined to be separated once more?

About the author

Grace Lowrie

Having worked as a collage artist, sculptor, prop maker and garden designer, Grace has always been creative, but she is a romantic introvert at heart and writing was, and is, her first love.
Safe With Me, the first women’s fiction novel in The Wildham Series, is published by Accent Press, who also released her debut contemporary romance novel, Kindred Hearts, in 2015.
A lover of rock music, art nouveau design, blue cheese and grumpy ginger tomcats, Grace is also an avid reader of fiction – preferring coffee and a sinister undercurrent, over tea and chick lit. When not making prop costumes or hanging out with her favourite nephews, she continues to write stories from her Hertfordshire home.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Whispers In The Alders by @HA_Callum #fridayreads #litfic

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Whispers In The Alders by H A Callum

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WHISPERS IN THE ALDERS by H A Callum

4.5 out of 5 stars

I received a review copy of this book from the author for an honest review.

This book was submitted to Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team, of which I am a member.  Interestingly, I didn’t initially choose it as the genre and blurb didn’t particularly appeal, but then I got talking to the author on Twitter (about something else entirely) and he asked me if I would take a review copy.  I’m glad I did.

Lesson for readers: don’t bypass books just because they don’t immediately appeal; you never know what gems you might find behind that quiet cover.

Lesson for writers: talk to people on social media!

Whispers in the Alders is set in the small east US town of Alder Ferry, where young teenagers Aubrey (female) and Tommy both suffer loveless, cold childhoods.  Aubrey’s family are wealthy, whereas Tommy’s are poorer, and his life is quite brutal.  They meet in a wooded area behind Aubrey’s family home, amongst the alders, a place that both of them feel is ‘home’.

The book starts in the present, with Aubrey in Portland, Maine, as an adult; she has left her family and the prejudices of the small town long behind.  It then goes back to her early teens, and the loneliness she feels.  The books spans the period of this time until early adulthood, and follows the tragedies of her and Tommy’s lives.

I’d class this book as literary fiction, as well as a contemporary ‘coming of age’ story.  Much of the writing is beautiful; I read that Mr Callum is a poet, too, and this is evident, but it’s not wordy for the sake of it.  It’s quite a dense sort of novel, with much description, and on occasion I felt it could have been trimmed down just a little, but that’s just personal preference, and I certainly appreciated every line.  The plot itself develops slowly, with some shocking outcomes (child abuse and homophobia, but nothing graphic), and it’s perfectly plotted.  It’s a heartrending, lonely sort of book; I longed for Aubrey and Tommy to find happiness.

A hidden gem by an extremely talented writer, very American (which I liked), and one I definitely recommend ~ I hope some other members of Rosie’s team pick it up, or that anyone who reads this takes the plunge and clicks ‘buy’!

Book Description

Alder Ferry would have been just another nondescript suburb living in the shadow of its urban parent if not for one detail: the mysterious stand of alder trees anchoring the town to its past and standing as a reminder to the wilderness that once stood in its place.

In the shadows of the alders a boy named Tommy found refuge. There, an eclectic book collection was his only companion through a tumultuous childhood, serving as his escape from the brutal realities of his life. That was, until Aubrey appeared.

Born of different worlds, the alders become their escape while their unlikely friendship blossoms into a love that few people ever come to understand or enjoy—proving that true friendship is a romantic pursuit in its purest form.

Together they come of age in a town hostile to their friendship—a friendship that challenges the intersecting boundaries of class, gender and sexuality. Prejudice and privilege masquerade to destroy their dreams while class, gender and faith collide. All are tested as Tommy and Aubrey carry each other through their teen years and into adulthood.

Whispers in the Alders is an impassioned experience that will test the emotions and is a story that will linger with the reader long after the last page is turned.

About the author

H.A. Callum

Of all the hats I have worn, the only one that has truly defined me is that of the writer. Whatever has happened, and wherever I have been, writing has always been my guidepost.

Writing has been the best way to examine life while contrasting it to the “what ifs” and “why nots” that surround the marquis events of our existence. This is also why we read: to give us a greater understanding of our own lives through the lens of characters that face similar challenges as we do.

I’m glad you stopped in to visit. I hope you enjoy what you read here and take some of it along with you to share. As always, I am most interested in what you – my readers – have to say.

The light is always on and the keyboard endlessly humming along, through late nights and endless cups of coffee. It’s a writer’s life!

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT The Buried Few by M.J Lau @YesTHATMattLau #SciFi #Dystopia

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Buried Few by M.J. Lau

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THE BURIED FEW by M J Lau

3.5 out of 5 stars

The Buried Few is set in 2030, when wars have left many children in America without parents.  Adults can be ‘Creators’, ie, give birth to children, which means being watched at all times, or ‘Guardians’: adoptive parents.  There are many rules governing the status of the parent and their suitability.  Unclaimed children face an uncertain future, to be shipped off to other countries where they may be adopted, or drift from orphanage to orphanage until adulthood.  

Daniel, a computer security specialist, has a broken relationship with Renee, as there are stumbling blocks about their parental future.  He finds an abandoned baby he wants to keep as his own, which sets the couple down a difficult path as they come up against Gozzum, a government agent who has his own issues after a turbulent childhood.

There was much I liked about this book, but I think it needs the hand of an experienced editor.  The beginning was the weakest area and seemed disjointed; if I hadn’t been reading it for the purpose of reviewing, I’d have abandoned it, which would have been a shame, because I soon began to like it much more.  It starts with a long prologue told from the point of view of Raina, a small child, containing scenes from her imaginary world that had no bearing on the actual plot; to me, this was as pointless as detailed dream sequences, and not the stuff of which reader-hooking openings are made.  Then the novel proper begins: we meet Daniel.  We see him meeting Renee, then finding the abandoned baby.  I found the first 15% confusing, with little explanation, so I could only guess at what was going on, though I enjoyed some excellent character cameos (feedback for author: Selah and J!).

The ‘world-building’ continued to be sketchy, and it took until at least 30% before I was clear about the whole parent-child situation (and even then I wasn’t quite sure).  However, so much of the characterisation is extremely good, the dialogue is excellent, for the most part, and some passages I loved (feedback for author: the ‘typical tale of heartbreak.  Boy meets girl at flash mob’, etc, and the backstory about Gozzum’s father).  There are many beautifully descriptive sentences, but maybe too many.  Sometimes, they held up the plot.

New characters are brought in at regular intervals, and there was a lot to keep in my head as it was not clear at first how they all linked up.  I loved the story of Ten, a Native American, and I particularly liked M J Lau’s ideas about the fate of her people.  There are some good observations later on about how the government uses the internet to collect data about the population, how/why the population give it up willingly, and that if they have enough opportunity to ‘vent’ on social media, they are less likely to actually do anything about social injustices; so, so right, and enough said.  Suffice to say that the author and I are singing from the same hymn sheet.

To sum up: there is no doubt that M J Lau can write, but I think he needs to learn when less can be more.  My opinion is that this is a good novel that could have been much better; it’s all there, it just needs restructuring.

Book Description

Work, home, repeat. Daniel Allingham, a computer security specialist, led a very routine life – until one evening, on his way home from work, he found a baby abandoned in a park.

But it gets worse. Daniel lives in a future America where a series of protracted wars have claimed the lives of a generation of parents. The result: a massive foster state, with most children being raised by relatives, friends of family, or in some cases complete strangers. At the behest of the public, the government has mandated that all children must be produced by certified Creators and adopted by registered Guardians. This means that children with no pedigree, like the one Daniel finds in the park, face deportation – or possibly destruction.

Pursued by a relentless government agent, Daniel and his friends fight to secure a better life for one child… risking their own welfare in the process.

About the author

M.J. Lau

M. J. Lau is an English teacher by day and an author by night… or rather, a teacher day and night, and an author whenever he gets a free minute in between. His first novel, The Buried Few, is a work of near-future speculative fiction influenced in equal parts by dystopian classics, fatherhood, and Wired Magazine.

Lau is currently working on the first installment of a fantasy series, with an anticipated release of March 2018.

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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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