I was given an ARC copy of Inside Out by the author, in return for an honest review.
I gave Inside Out 5* out of 5*
Triton station, Outer Circles headquarters of Ragnox Inc, on the moon of Neptune, is as far as the intrepid can go. It’s a place to make money, lots of money, and for seven lucky travellers, bound for Triton on the ISF Heloise, that’s exactly what they intend to do. Maggy Jole wants to belong. Peter Selden wants to escape. Abigail Dieterman wants to be free. Merrit Burnand wants to start again. Christie Steen wants to forget. No one knows what David Rabiotti wants. And Smith, well, Smith wants everything. Does it really matter what they want? The journey to Triton will take them eleven months – eleven months to contemplate the future, come to terms with the small print of their contracts, and wish they’d never signed. But changing their minds is not an option. Sometimes it really is better to travel… than arrive.
For many years I have admired Thorne Moore’s work. She has written in various genres but, threaded through all, there is always a psychological mystery: a need to know why her characters have acted in a certain way, what were the circumstances that “upset the applecart”, as I like to think of it. The mystery may have parallel themes of crime, or the introduction of historical or contemporary, events, or the exploration of relationships, but there is always the psychological ‘why’ lurking. I think this is one reason I have always been gripped by her stories and the intricate ways they move along.
And this smooth progression of the plot is often reinforced by the background of the novel, whether it’s of the countryside and life at a certain era, an old house that’s been lived in by generation, or myths and legends. And, as an added extra, to give atmosphere and emotion to these settings, there are always short evocative descriptions of the weather to reflect the mood of the scene. Wonderful!
So, I have to admit, I was surprised and not a little perturbed to hear she has delved into writing Science Fiction. After all, one of this author’s greatest qualities is her innate ability to bring setting to life, by just a line or two of description that instantly evokes a sense of place and an immediacy to the background that her characters move around in.
I mean, a spaceship in Outer Space! No weather, no interesting ‘moving around settings’ for the characters, no historic background, no real characters (Maybe ET-Type aliens?).
Yes, yes, I know; I have little knowledge of the Sci-Fi genre. Which I was to learn. Very quickly.
It is at this point I always say that I don’t give away spoilers.
But what I will say is that Inside Out is not just science fiction, it is a story that includes all that I admire of Thorne Moore’s writing..
There is mystery and intrigue. Excellent individual dialogue from the brilliantly rounded main characters, all with their own back stories and reasons for being on what initially seems to be a luxurious cruise liner for rich, middle-class passengers. (I say “luxurious” but there is a ‘wait and see’ moment – and that’s all I will say about that). Together, with a cast of minor characters as foil to the main ones, there is crime, danger, adventure, humour, and even a little romance. And … there are brilliant settings: of the layers and decks of the ship, of the various planets that the ISF Heloise docks at, and of a chilling description of outer space. And, then, ultimately, we land on Triton, the destination of the group of main characters, where we are made aware of the truth of life with Ragnox Inc.
Just here, I was very tempted to write, Dum De Dum Dum Dah here, but I won’t.
All I will say, is that Inside Out is a novel I thoroughly enjoyed and one I would recommend to any readers who enjoys character-led stories – whatever the genre.
Thorne was born in Luton and graduated from Aberystwyth University (history) and from the Open University (Law). She set up a restaurant with her sister and made miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, as does Luton. She writes psychological mysteries, or “domestic noir,” exploring the reason for crimes and their consequences, rather than the details of the crimes themselves. and her first novel, “A Time For Silence,” was published by Honno in 2012, with its prequel, “The Covenant,” published in 2020. “Motherlove” and “The Unravelling” were also published by Honno. “Shadows,” published by Lume, is set in an old mansion in Pembrokeshire and is paired with “Long Shadows,” also published by Lume, which explains the history and mysteries of the same old house. She’s a member of Crime Cymru. She also writes Science Fiction, including “Inside Out” (2021).
Summer 1966: When her father comes home with lipstick on his collar, ten-year-old Claire’s life is turned upside down. Her furious mother leaves the family and heads to London, and Claire and her brothers are packed off to Ireland, to their reclusive grandmother at her tiny cottage on the beautifully bleak coast of Connemara. A misfit among her new classmates, Claire finds it hard to make friends until she happens across a boy her own age from the school next door. He lives at the local orphanage, a notoriously harsh place. Amidst half-truths, lies and haunting family secrets, Claire forms a forbidden friendship with Emmet – a bond that will change both their lives forever.
Sara Gethin has a unique talent for being able to enter a child’s mind, to give their thoughts, speak their dialogue. I know this is commonplace in children’s stories but what I mean is that she has the ability to speak from a child’s perspective in an adult world. A world that is dysfunctional, that the child sees and comments on, but is swept along, helpless in the chaos those adults create.
Yet threaded throughout Emmet and Me is the wonderful developing friendship between the Welsh, displaced protagonist, Claire and the, equally displaced Irish boy, Emmet.
I also admired the short sections where Claire speaks as an adult looking back on her childhood and on that time in her life, which affected so much and says why she is now the woman she is.
I first came across this author when I read Not Thomas, also published by Honno, (my review here: https://bit.ly/3tUBjHw and greatly recommended.). Emmet and Me is as poignant, as heartrending as that book. And as with Not Thomas, I both cried and rejoiced with the characters at certain partsof the story.
This is a novel set in Ireland at a time when many children had absolutely no control over what happened to them. To say any more would be to add spoilers: suffice it to say it is obvious Sara Gethin has researched thoroughly and has brought that era to life within this book.
This is superb writing: the plot is enthralling (and, although I had an inkling which way the story was travelling, in no way did this spoil the read for me), all the characters are well rounded, grow as the story progresses and come to life on the page, and the settings have a real sense of place.
Emmet and Me is a novel I have absolutely no hesitation in recommendedto any reader.
About the author:
Sara Gethin grew up in Llanelli and worked as a primary school teacher. ‘Not Thomas’, her debut novel for adults, was shortlisted for The Guardian’s Not the Booker prize in 2017 and the Waverton Good Read Award in 2018. Her writing has been shortlisted for the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award and she was selected for the Hay Festival Writers at Work programme in 2018. She has written four children’s books under the name Wendy White, and the first of these won the Tir na-nOg Award in 2014. While west Wales remains her home, Sara is a frequent visitor to Ireland where she loves spending time browsing the many bookstores of Dublin. She is an avid reader and theatre-goer.
I received a copy of Eternity Leave from the author in return for an honest review.
I gave the book 4* out of 5*
A MUST READ FOR ANY PARENT…
FOUR CHILDREN. ONE MAN. HOW HARD CAN IT BE?…
Dear Chloe, Emma, Ruby, and Ollie,
‘I am applying for the position you haven’t advertised, has no specific job description and no hope of fiscal reward. I am applying because I have this misguided belief that it will look like it does on the cover photo of ‘The Complete Guide to Childcare’ where everyone appears relaxed and bright-eyed, not knackered, irascible or covered in snot.
Armed with a pristine copy of ‘The Complete Guide to Childcare’, ambitions to be the next literary giant and live off the grid, what could possibly go wrong?
‘Five minutes after Brigit’s maternity leave ended I realised the magnitude of my error. I was now the sole carer for two six-month old children who thought the hands smearing yoghurt over their faces belonged to somebody else, and a two-year old who walked for five steps and decided it wasn’t for her.’
I crashed into a world of mainly strong, resourceful, resilient women, a mountain of nappies to rival Kilimanjaro and a widening gap where my self-esteem used to reside.’
I am a man. I soon discovered this was not an excuse…’
Simon Kettlewell’s Eternity Leave has been on my TBR list for some weeks, and I was sorry I’d left it so long because It’s an easy and enjoyable account of family life. Humorous yet poignant at the same time, it’s a story that many parents will recognise and identify with. Yet, as a stay at home father (not a mother) there is a obvious and unique slant on this account of the chores and trials that the narrator lives through, coping throughout the years from the children being babies to teenagers (oh, those wonderful years when the adult is never right and needs to be patronised!. Yet at no time is there any melodramatic response to these encounters, these carefully negotiated concessions.)
I ‘ve said this is an easy read, but only because it’s one any parent can recognise and nod along with (and grandparent might give a sigh of relief and laugh because its something they have lived through). But also it’s a cleverly written, evenly paced, droll story, told with great insight to reveal each of the children’s character – and judged so honestly, but with great affection – admirable in itself.
Yet, despite the wry humour (with which I thoroughly delighted in) there is also a sense of isolation in being a stay at home father; of being ‘the other’, that is threaded throughout the book. Even an inability to share with other parents what the narrator has shared with the reader. Even so, nowhere is the a sense that this father would rather be holding down any other kind of ‘job’ but that which he has been given. The narrative is undeniably optimistic and gives a sense of satisfaction and relish in his part in leading his family to adulthood in the best way he knows how.
This is yet another book by Simon Kettlewell that I thoroughly recommend.
When Val Poore first agreed to take on an abused rescue puppy, nothing prepared her and her partner, Koos, for the challenges they were going to meet in the coming years. This short memoir is a story of the love and loyalty they developed for Sindy (Sin) against considerable odds and frequent pessimism. It is Sindy’s story, but at the same time it is that of many other damaged dogs.
The ebook book is illustrated with a few photos to mark the different stages of her life, but there is also a link to a file with further photos at the end.
Val would also like to thank the hugely respected dog psychologist, Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, for reading the first draft of this book and giving it her support. Lisa, whose knowledge of dog behaviour is simply incredible, is the founder and principal of the International School for Canine Psychology & Behaviour whose website can be found at http://www.theiscp.com
My Review: Living With My Sin is a story that one moment made me laugh and the next brought tears. And it will be a story that stays with me for quite a while in its simplicity for showing the love, compassion and patience that only anyone who has had a damaged, yet lovable, animal in their lives could truly understand. Sindy’s start in life was fraught with emotional and physical abuse so when Val and her partner Koos took her on, they knew life would be difficult with Sindy – but they had no idea how hard. Or how soon they would fall in love with her.
And it was wonderful to read how easily Val and Koos friends also adored her; enough to help this oh so troubled puppy ( soon to grow into a large lovable dog), cope with her surroundings.
The descriptions of the various places the author lived with Sindy and Koos give a wonderful sense of place: the barges, flat, the dilapidated cottage. However, Val comes into her own when describing the walks and parks where she and Sindy go – they are easy to envisage. But it is the emotions in these settings and circumstances, threaded throughout these sections of the book, especially as Sindy grows older, where the reader can empathise with her. I have to admit I reached the end of the book in tears
A brilliantly written book that I wholeheartedly recommend to any reader ( especially dog lovers like myself!). Living With My Sin tells not only the life of Sindy but also gives a glimpseinto the life and emotions of the authorand her partner.
About the Author:
Val Poore was born in London, England, and grew up in both north London and the west of Dorset. After completing her degree in English, History and French at Bournemouth, she took a further course in the conservation and restoration of museum artefacts at Lincoln College of Art which qualified her for nothing at all really. She then spent two years doing furniture restoration before going to South Africa in 1981 with her husband and small children.
Valerie left South Africa permanently in 2001 and has settled in the Netherlands, where she shares her time between a liveaboard barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in Zeeland. She teaches academic and business English on a freelance basis and still writes in her spare time, although she admits there’s not enough of that at the moment. In fact, she has been writing since childhood and wrote stories, articles and radio plays for years before embarking on her first book in 2005. Val loves travelling especially when it involves roughing it a bit. She feels that she has better adventures and more interesting experiences that way.
Winter, 1904, and feisty twenty-one-year old Ellen has been summoned back from her new life in Hoboken, New Jersey, to the family farm on windswept Gower, in a last bid to prevent the impending death of her alcoholic father.
On her return, she finds the family in disarray. Ailing William is gambling away large swathes of Thomas land; frustrated Eleanor is mourning the husband she once knew; and Ellen’s younger twin brothers face difficult choices.
Ellen, tasked with putting her family’s lives in order, finds herself battling one impossible decision after another. Resourceful, passionate, and forthright, can she remain in Gower, where being female still brings with it so many limitations? Can she endure being so close to her lost love? Will she choose home and duty, or excitement and opportunity across the Atlantic?
I loved this book for so many reasons.Jane Fraser’s writing style is superb; the story is a good one, the characters well rounded, the dialogue immediately summons up each of them, the descriptions evoke instant images.There is not one word wasted.
The protagonist, Ellen, is multi layered, the reader becomes aware of her fragility, both emotionally and physically as the story progresses. She has striven to distance herself from her family’s needs, from a lost love, by going to America – yet still,on her return to the farm, she is drawn in by those needs, by that love.
To paraphrase a sentence in the book, “long days, short time.’ – the story only covers a brief six months, but each day is long, each day needs to be endured, dealt with by Ellen. New decisions have to be made. And all the while we are listening to her internal dialogue: learning her history, of her relationship with those in her life, getting to know them through her eyes; discovering how each fits into the society and era of Wales in the early twentieth century, what is expected of them. How, in the past, through no fault of her own, she didn’t fit in, and now refuses to succumb to others’ expectations.
What I most admire about this author’s writing is the brevity of words in bringing the background, the setting, the weather, to life on the page. A sentence, here and there of poetic prose immediately evokes a sense of place. Wonderful.
Whilst I realise that, for some readers, there may be not enough background fleshed out – and it’s difficult for me not to give spoilers here – ( i.e. Ellen’s life before America and her life there) – I felt the subtlety of the writing that covers both of these events was enough for me and the absenceof that backdropdoesn’t take anything away from the story.
Advent is a book that will stay with me for a long time. I have no hesitation in recommending it to any reader who loves a well written historical family story.
Ireceived a copy of Writedown as member of Rose Amber’s Review Team#RBRTin return for an honest review.
I gave Writedown 4 out of 5*
Writedown provides a unique record of life in Galloway, south west Scotland during lockdown through the work of 22 writers in a collection of lyrical poetry, desperate rants, humour and quiet endurance. They tell the story of a community encountering unprecedented times.
At a time when we we are once more in Lockdown/Tier whatever/ or equivalent, it was interesting to read the accounts of the twenty-two writers in the first Covid lockdown earlier this year.
This is a thought provoking collection which instantly recognises the strangeness of 2020 ( and maybe the first few months of 2021!). And yet it also shows how adaptable, as human beings, we are. However much we resent situations. These stories, accounts and poems, (which I viewed as individual diaries), reveal the uncertainty, the stoicism, the fear of unexpectedlylosing the life we took for granted, the half-forgotten memories which became precious because of lost loved ones, or because of the anxiety that those times might not be repeated.
There is poignancy, humour, sadness, anger here. But, threaded throughout, there is also, a strange feeling of relief in being able to step away from normality, of not ‘having’ to do something, of not being tied to duty. And being able to look at the world around us, to see nature in all its glory; to appreciate it. In this collection I was glad to see what I saw in those months – an underlying sense of freedom
Writedown reveals a fascinating glimpse of an extraordinary time in our lives and I have no hesitation in recommending this book to any reader, as a reminder of 2020 in the years to come.
Ireceived a copy of The Boy and the Lake from the author as member of Rose Amber’s Review Teamin return for an honest review.
I gave The Boy and the Lake4* out of 5*
Set against the backdrop of the Newark riots in 1967, a teenage Benjamin Baum leaves the city to spend the summer at an idyllic lake in northern New Jersey. While fishing from his grandparents’ dock, the dead body of a beloved neighbor floats to the water’s surface—a loss that shakes this Jewish community and reveals cracks in what appeared to be a perfect middle-class existence. Haunted by the sight of the woman’s corpse, Ben stubbornly searches for clues to her death, infuriating friends and family who view his unwelcome investigation as a threat to the comfortable lives they’ve built. As Ben’s suspicions mount, he’s forced to confront the terrifying possibility that his close-knit community is not what it seems to be—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darker forces may be at work.
The Boy and the Lake is a coming of age story that was recommended to me. I have to admit it’s the first of this genre I’ve read, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I found it to be a good story well told. It’s a steady read, introspective and very well written; I did like the author’s writing style, especially the descriptive language of the settings, the seasons, the lake.
And it’s the lake in New Jersey (a summer retreat for the protagonist, Ben, and his family before the riots in the nineteen- sixties made it too difficult to stay in the city) that is the background of the book.
The story is told from the first-person point of view by Ben. The reader learns of his relationship with his parents, Abe and Lillian, his friend, Missy and various members of the closed, committed Jewish community he lives in. And, through his eyes we see the rituals and ceremonies that are celebrated throughout the year. Learn of his attitudes towards them, whilst all the time he is also grappling to solve what he sees as an unexplained drowning of one of the neighbours, Helen.
The discovery of the body in the lake by Ben and his grandfather is the lynch pin for all the action, for all the contemplation by the protagonist. How Helen drowned takes up quite a lot of the narrative, and of both his internal and spoken dialogue. But there is also the angst of youth: of indecisiveness, self-doubt, infatuation, guilt for thoughtless actions. And a retreat into childhood, where he needs the love and comfort of his mother (two attributes she cannot supply) that vies with an insight to adulthood, when he sees, with pity, the weakness in his father (who refuses to acknowledge the truth of his marriage). But there is also a strong bond between father and son which will be broken when Ben leaves the life he has always known, to go to university. A bond not only broken by distance but by the results of actions of the two of them.
As I said at the beginning, this is the first of this genre I have read. There is a much to enjoy: the descriptions, the many layers and growth of the protagonist, The twist at the end of the story. For readers who enjoy a coming of age story, I have no hesitation in recommending Adam Pelzman’s The Boy and the Lake.
I received a copy of Pretty Evil New England as member of Rose Amber’s Review Teamin return for an honest review. I must thank Sue’s publishers, Globe Pequot Press, for sending me a paperback copy of the book.
For four centuries, New England has been a cradle of crime and murder—from the Salem witch trials to the modern-day mafia. Nineteenth century New England was the hunting ground of five female serial killers: Jane Toppan, Lydia Sherman, Nellie Webb, Harriet E. Nason, and Sarah Jane Robinson.
Female killers are often portrayed as caricatures: Black Widows, Angels of Death, or Femme Fatales. But the real stories of these women are much more complex. In Pretty Evil New England, true crime author Sue Coletta tells the story of these five women, from broken childhoods, to first brushes with death, and she examines the overwhelming urges that propelled these women to take the lives of a combined total of more than one-hundred innocent victims. The murders, investigations, trials, and ultimate verdicts will stun and surprise readers as they live vicariously through the killers and the would-be victims that lived to tell their stories.
It’s been a while since I read a non fiction book. Whilst I generally enjoy the genre, it’s usually more to gain knowledge on a certain subject, to read about a particular topic or person. And then move on.
Sue Coletta‘s Pretty Evil New England is a book that will stay in my mind for a long time. I should say at this point, although I never give spoilers when reviewing fiction, I have, below, given some details of each of the five women, the murders and the resulta of the trials
It is obvious from the beginning that the author has researched these stories extensively. Her attention to detail is remarkable. Not only in that she brings these women to life for the reader, not only in that are their crimes are revealed, but the background story of each one gives an insight to the way their characters were formed. Which, in a way, gives the reasons, why it was almost inevitable, that they. became murderers.
The author gives a voice to each of the woman. It’s quite chilling to hear the way they saw the world and their victims. The reasons they say why they chose their victims are varied; suffice it to say, it only shows how evil they were.
The book is divided into five sections, dealing with each woman: Jane Toppan, truly frightening in the caring facade she presented to society for so long. Wicked in her careless reasoning for the deeds she carried out – for the way she discarded the deaths of some. Reading between the lines of the author’s writing, I thought Lydia Sherman was a a sociopath with little empathy for those around her. Again, a woman with veneer of compassion in public life that hides her true vicious character. Nellie Webb was a conundrum; well educated and religious, she stood trial as a poisoner but was not convicted ( though many doubted her innocence) Afterwards, together with her husband, she vanished. Her grave was never found. Sarah Jane Robinson, in debt and desperate for the payment from insurance policies, nevertheless, gave the appearance of a compassionate woman.who gathered her own and others’ families around her but she was a woman who claimed to have dreams of loved ones dying. And then they did. After the trial, she lived the rest of her life in solitary confinement. Harriet Nason was a solitary person by choice, viewed by many in the community with distrust. Although shown through the author’s research to be almost certainly the murderer of four people, she was found not guilty.
For me, Sue Coletta’s writing style keeps the reader enthralled. Her attention to detail is impeccable; she presents the court transcripts, newspaper articles, the interviews with the women against the background of the era at the time, and reveals the society they lived in.
I must give a mention to the illustrations and photographs. Excellently portrayed and placed to add a grim reality to the text.
And I loved the cover.
This is a non fiction book that will fascinate any reader who loves both fictional and real life crime. Thoroughly recommended.
About the Author:
Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and Expertido.org named her Murder Blog as one of the “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net” (Murder Blog sits at #5). Sue also blogs at the Kill Zone, a multi-award-winning writing blog.
Sue lives in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire and writes two serial killer thriller series published by Tirgearr Publishing. She also writes true crime for Globe Pequot, the trade division of Rowman & Littlefield Group.Coletta is a proud member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Kill Zone, an award-winning writing blog where she posts every other Monday.
The darkness closed around her. She tried to clear her vision, but there was no light, no noise, nothing. Only the emptiness, the echoing sound of being alone. Fear pulsed through her. The man had come out of nowhere. Who was he? Blinking away tears of frustration, in the pitch black she felt the floor and walls surrounding her. Cold. Steel. Bars.
Detective Ellie Reeves heads into the wilds of the Appalachian Mountains when she wants to get lost––to forget the whispers chasing her and the past that keeps her up at night. She’s sick of having to prove herself to her small town.
But hiking in the endless miles of woods isn’t the escape she was hoping for. One night, as dusk falls, a gust of wind blows some petals on to Ellie’s path. Following the trail, she finds a golden-haired young woman dead on a bed of daffodils, with a note: Monday’s child is fair of face.
When Ellie emerges from the forest, there is a message on her phone. Someone has sent her a picture of her colleague, Officer Shondra Eastwood, with the words: Can you find her, Detective Reeves? Ellie is racked with guilt––while she was busy hiding from life a killer was on the loose, and he has taken her beloved friend.
The wilderness, and its shadows, are the perfect hunting ground for a criminal––but what does the sinister nursery rhyme mean? It soon becomes clear when another dead woman, Tuesday’s Child, is found.
Ellie is up against a serial killer who will claim a victim for every day of the week, and in the next twenty-four hours there will be another body. As this ruthless murderer closes in on her, can she save more innocent women––and Shondra––from his clutches? Or will he get to Ellie first?
I realised as soon as I was into the first chapter that I was reading the sequel of a previous book. The characters are already formed and interact well with one another, showing previous relationships and a backstory. And this is okay, there is enough spoken dialogue and internal dialogue that explains both the action and the denouement of the first book.
I liked the story, it is a good plot with an even pace, and enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. And I did like the author’s narrative writing style.
There were only a couple of things that disappointed me: the dialogue sometimes (and it is only sometimes) is written in a ‘telling style’, as though as an explanation to the reader. And, although the outdoor settings are evocative, occasionally there is unnecessary repetition. The initial descriptions are excellently written, but then there are extra clauses that aren’t needed and so slow down the action.
However, this doesn’t happen in the sections which describe the “Cold. Steel. Bars.” the last place the victims know. ( I try not to give spoilers in my reviews – it’s a little difficult here) Suffice it to say, these well written settings are both sinister and chilling to read.
I found the explanation of the symbolism of wild flowers and nature fascinating; it’s obvious the author has researched this extensively and has cleverly interwoven them with the story.
All in all, I enjoyed the read and have no reservations in recommending this book to readers of crime fiction.
Many thanks to the author, Bookouture and NetGalley, for the copy of Wildflower Graves, in return for an honest review.
I received The Inconvenient Need to Belong from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review.
I gave The Inconvenient Need to Belong 3*out of 5*
In the summer of 1953, twenty-year-old Alfie steals away from his troubled childhood home in London to start a new life in Exeter. His own life. And at first it’s everything he ever dreamed it would be. For the first time in his life Alfie feels like he belongs.
Today, in a care home in the Midlands, eighty-six-year-old Alfie is struggling to come to terms with his dark past.
Alfie’s story is one of regret, the mistakes we make, and the secrets even the most unassuming of us can hold. But it is also a story about family, friendship, the things we should treasure and protect, and how the choices we make can shape our lives and the lives of others.
I found this book a difficult one to review.On the one hand there was much to enjoy about the story, it’s an interesting account of a man’s life: the friendships and relationships formed over a lifetime, the honest self realisation of someone nearing the end of his life, living within the controlled regime of a care home. A regime he rebels against in small ways,which emphasis the greater rebellion in his earlier life when he left home and the controlling rigid rules of his father. On the other I think an extra edit would have shortened and tightened the story, making it much stronger.
On the plus side I liked the portrayal of the protagonist, Alfie. Nicely rounded, the internal dialogue adds layers to the character as he recounts his life story. Unfortunately I didn’t get much of an insight to a lot of the other characters and I wonder if this is because there are too many minor ones, whose limited input add little to the story. However, there is another storyline that runs parallel to Alfie’s story, that of Julia. This is a much stronger portrayal and I think this character is worthy of a separate story of her own. But this is only my thought.
On the whole the dialogue is good and differentiates the characters. And there are evocative descriptions to give a few of the settings a good sense of place. And it is a poignant easy read that, I’m sure, will appeal to any reader who enjoys what reads as a fictional memoir.
Did you know that 99% of the reading public never post a review for a book?
At Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team (six years and going strong!), we often look at ways to encourage more people to review. This autumn, Rosie has planned a Review-A-Book Challenge, with a great list of books to choose from, all free of charge to anyone serious about writing a review for her blog – and possibly joining the review team, if you enjoy the process. Each day for a week or so, she will feature articles on how to write simple reviews, on choosing a star rating, and many more. The challenge is open to all, from experienced reviewers and book bloggers, to those who have never written a review. If this has piqued your interest and you would like to take a look at the books on offer, please click here to read the full post and view the book list.
Crime Cymru has three main aims. – To support crime writers with a real and present relationship with Wales – To help in the development of new writing talent – To promote Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world.
2020, a year that brought us Covid 19, months during which many brilliant books have been produced but have struggled to be found by readers. Here is the list of books by our authors that have arrived this year or are in the pipeline: https://bit.ly/2Q2rqpA. I have read quite a few of them but have been remiss in writing reviews, so have set myself the task of catching up over the next few weeks
My fourth review is ofWilderness by B.E Jones.2020 saw its publication in paperback (already available as e-book and audio).
Two weeks, 1500 miles and three opportunities for her husband to save his own life. It isn’t about his survival – it’s about hers. Shattered by the discovery of her husband’s affair, Liv knows they need to leave the chaos of New York to try and save their marriage. Maybe the road trip they’d always planned, exploring America’s national parks – just the two of them – would help heal the wounds. But what Liv hasn’t told her husband is that she has set him three challenges on their trip – three opportunities to prove he’s really sorry and worthy of her forgiveness. If he fails? Well, it’s dangerous out there. There are so many ways to die in the wilderness; accidents happen all the time. And if it’s easy to die, then it’s also easy to kill.
I readWildernessquite a while ago and it’s a book that has lingered in my mind for all this time.
I try not to give spoilers in my reviews(and, here, the book description gives a quick run-down of the story anyway)so I tend to concentrate on what I liked about the make up of a book and the writing style of the author. And I have to say I loved B. E. Jones’ masterful command and stylish portrayal of the English language. This is a skilfully crafted psychological thriller; a story of juxtaposed timelines that, as a reader, swayed me one way and another in empathy with the main characters. Liv and Will, both rounded, both meticulouslydeveloped as the plot unfolds. And supported by a cast of well drawn minor characters.
As the protagonist, Liv tells the story. But from the start it is obvious that she is an unreliable narrator. Her judgement is flawed and erratic; she is ruled by self-doubt and mistrust of others, by her anger and hurt. Although portrayed as a meticulous planner of the journey, her reactions to the unexpected sometimes give the storyan unexpected slant.
Both the internal and spoken dialogue is well written and adds to the layers of all the characters.There is never any ambiguity as to who is speaking. And there is no ‘head hopping’ from minor characters (a pet hate of mine).
The descriptions of the settings bring each to life. From the immense skyscrapers and crowded streets of New York, where it is possible to feel both excluded and at one with the city, to the evocative images of America’s national parksthat are the background of so much of the actionon the road trip, the author manages to draw the reader into each scene. The sensation of being alongside Liz and Will travelling through so many remote areas and also having access to her thoughts and deliberations adds to the tension.
Wildernessis one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in a long time. Threaded throughout the plot are themes that reveal the characters’ strengths and weaknesses: love and hate, rage and revenge, betrayal and forgiveness. Packaged inside the powerful writing style of B E Jones, I have no hesitation in recommending Wilderness to any reader who enjoys a gripping, character-driven crime novel.
About the Author:
Beverley Jones is a former journalist and police press officer, now a novelist and general book obsessive. Bev was born in a small village in the South Wales valleys, north of Cardiff. She started her journalism career with Trinity Mirror newspapers, writing stories for The Rhondda Leader and The Western Mail, before becoming a broadcast journalist with BBC Wales Today TV news, based in Cardiff. She has worked on all aspects of crime reporting (as well as community news and features) producing stories and content for newspapers and live TV. Most recently Bev worked as a press officer for South Wales Police, dealing with the media and participating in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning. Perhaps unsurprisingly she channels these experiences of ‘true crime,’ and her insight into the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales. Her latest novel, Where She Went, is published by Little Brown under the name BE Jones. Visit Bev’s website at bevjoneswriting.co.uk, chat with her on Goodreads.co.uk under B E Jones or Beverley Jones and on Twitter @bevjoneswriting
Crime Cymru has three main aims. – To support crime writers with a real and present relationship with Wales – To help in the development of new writing talent – To promote Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world.
A page-turning crime thriller set in Catalonia.
killer is targeting figures of corruption in the Catalan city of Girona, with each corpse posed in a way whose meaning no one can fathom
Elisenda Domènech, the head of Girona’s newly-formed Serious Crime Unit, believes the attacker is drawing on the city’s legends to choose his targets, but soon finds her investigation is blocked at every turn.
Battling against the press, the public and even her colleagues, she is forced to question her own values. When the attacks start to include less deserving victims, however, the pressure is suddenly on Elisenda to stop him.
A gripping series sure to appeal to readers of Val McDermid and the Inspector Montalbano novels
Ireally enjoyed City of Good Death. Chris Lloyd has an easy writing style and, although both Girona and its history and legends of Catalonia were unknown to me it didn’t detract from what is a a clever and intricate plot, It’s also an astute study in human nature, where evil deeds are seen as retribution and values are twisted to justify immoral acts.
The author was recommended to me and I chose this book knowing that it is the first of a series. I was anxious to see if I could relate to the main characters before I carried on with the others. I needn’t have worried; the characters are well rounded and distinguishable despite the names and ranks being unfamiliar(though I must admit that, at first, I needed to go back once or twice to make sure I knew who I was reading about. But that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book).The protagonist, Elisenda Domenech, the law-enforcement officer leading the investigations, is portrayed as a lonely, yet self sufficient woman. Her background and that of her family are, as yet, to be explored more thoroughly in the next books, I surmise. Nevertheless she is a character with whom one can empathise.
The dialogueis good, with those idiosyncrasies and turns of phrase a reader would expect of a book set in a different country with a mixture of languages.
But it is the descriptions of the settings, especially those of the legendary clues, that give the story so many levels. It is obvious that the author both knows Girona and has extensively researched the country in both its historical and contemporary eras.
As the book description says this is a page turner. Any readers who enjoys a crime thriller in an interesting setting, with characters that evolve as the story progresses, will enjoy City of Good Death as much as I did. Recommended.
Straight after graduating in Spanish and French, Chris Lloyd hopped on a bus from Cardiff to Catalonia and stayed there for over twenty years, falling in love with the people, the country, the language and Barcelona Football Club, probably in that order. Besides Catalonia, he’s also lived in the Basque Country and Madrid, teaching English, travel writing for Rough Guides and translating. He now lives in South Wales, where he works as a Catalan and Spanish translator, and returns to Catalonia as often as he can. He writes the Elisenda Domènech crime series, featuring a police officer with the newly-devolved Catalan police force in the beautiful city of Girona.
There is Still Crime!The Black And The White by Alis Hawkins #TuesdayBookBlog
THE WELSH CRIME WRITING COLLECTIVE
Crime Cymru has three main aims. – To support crime writers with a real and present relationship with Wales – To help in the development of new writing talent – To promote Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world.
My second review is of The Black And The White by Alis Hawkins
Far from home, in the middle of a frozen and snowy night, a stranger saves Martin Collyer’s life. But is he a good man or a callous opportunist? A difficult question to answer at the best of times but this isn’t the best of times. It’s the winter of 1349 and England is in the grip of a plague which may herald the end of the world. Martin has left his home in the Forest of Dean to travel the breadth of England, to Salster, to save his father’s soul. But he is not travelling quite alone. Though no mortal walks with him, Martin has a troublingly lifelike statue of his father’s patron saint under a blanket in his cart. Does his rescuer, Hob Cleve, know about the saint’s miraculous image? Has he been watching, waiting for his chance? Or is he what he seems, a runaway determined to make a better life for himself? As Martin and Hob travel through a plague-blighted landscape, sudden death is never far away. Will Martin and Hob find Saint Cynryth’s shrine at Salster or will her cult prove to be nothing more than a tale told by a peddler? Will they enter the city as heroes and saint-bearers or as discredited charlatans? Will both of them arrive at all?
I have long admired Alis Hawkin’s writing style. I first came across her work when I read None So Blind (The Teifi Valley Coroner Series), my review here, https://amzn.to/2YQ84J2, and, although The Black And The White is a completely different read, nevertheless it is just as absorbing.
The Black And The White is what I call a slow burner; it took me a while to get into the story. But this didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the reading of it. As always Alis Hawking’s research into creating a world for her characters is impeccable; this truly is fourteenth century England, torn apart by plague, stifled by religion and ruled by those who control; through the ministry of the church and those who own land. The author’s attention to the smallest detail fills the pages, both before and after the main protagonist, Martin Collyer, begins his slow and dangerous pilgrimage from the Forest of Dean to Salster.
Told from the first person point of view of Martin Collyer, the internal dialogue reveals his character.His gratitude that he has overcome the plague juxtaposes his fear that his father has died without confession of his sin, without absolution, and his certainty in Saint Cynryth’s ability (the statue he carries with him),to save his father’s soul. The whole thread of the story is his determination to place the statue in the shrine in the woods outside the town of Salster; the place he believes the saint belongs, where it will do most good for the people who comes to bow before it. The portrayal of his innate goodness and innocent naivety and superstitious innocence, alongside his doubts and lack of confidence, make him an easy target for evil. The reader is left to puzzle through many pages whether the companion who first rescues him from a violent situation then that joins him on his pilgrimage, Hob Cleve, is a true and caring friend to Martin or a cynical foe.
The descriptions, the details given, of superstition, religion, the charcoal burning, the horse and cart, the clothes, the buildings, all give a brilliant sense of place and era.
I actually read The Black And The White over two weeks, it was essential for me to read slowly, to take in the atmosphere that pervades the whole story; that of a credulousand mostly illiterate people ruled by a ubiquitous God and yet mostly living on their wits and hard work.
My only problem, though slight, was the denouement. I wasn’t sure how I thought the book would end. And, as I never give spoilers of any novel I review, I won’t reveal it here. All I can say is that I was surprised (though, on reflection, it was inevitable). I’ll leave that there.
But, without doubt, I wholeheartedly recommend The Black And The White to any reader who enjoys both historical and crime genres and a good story, well written, that builds in tension throughout.
Every now and again one my books receive a review that takes my breath away – that makes my day/week/month… even makes me think that, if I never write another word, this is what I’ll treasure. Something that says I succeeded in writing something I can be proud of.
This review from author Barb Taub covered not only one of my books, but the whole of the Haworth trilogy and the prequel. So chuffed was I that I copied, pasted and printed it off to pin on my notice board to remind me that I can write – even on the days when I am banging my head on the keyboard and writing xmjhnsdjhsdjhfjhf …
This is Barb’s review:
“We’ve all read epic family sagas—sweeping multi-generational tales like The Thorn Birds, The Godfather, Roots, the Star Wars franchise, and anything remotely connected to the British Monarchy. So as I read Judith Barrow’s Howarth Family trilogy, I kept trying to slot them into those multigenerational tropes:
*First generation, we were supposed to see the young protagonist starting a new life with a clean slate, perhaps in a new country. *The next generation(s) are all about owning their position, fully assimilated and at home in their world. *And the last generation is both rebel and synthesis, with more similarities to the first generation made possible by the confidence of belonging from the second one.
But the complex, three-dimensional miniatures I met in the first three books of the trilogy stubbornly refused to align with those tropes. First of all, there’s Mary Howarth—the child of parents born while Queen Victoria was still on the throne—who is poised between her parents’ Victorian constraints, adjustment to a world fighting a war, and their own human failures including abuse, alcoholism, and ignorance.When Pattern of Shadows begins in 1944, war-fueled anti-German sentiment is so strong, even the King has changed the British monarchy’s last name from Germanic Saxe-Coburg to Windsor. Mary’s beloved brother Tom is imprisoned because of his conscientious objector status, leaving their father to express his humiliation in physical and emotional abuse of his wife and daughters. Her brother Patrick rages at being forced to work in the mines instead of joining the army, while Mary herself works as a nurse treating German prisoners of war in an old mill now converted to a military prison hospital.
Mary’s family and friends are all struggling to survive the bombs, the deaths, the earthshaking changes to virtually every aspect of their world. We’ve all seen the stories about the war—plucky British going about their lives in cheerful defiance of the bombs, going to theaters, sipping tea perched on the wreckage, chins up and upper lips stiff in what Churchill called “their finest hour”. That wasn’t Mary’s war.
Her war is not a crucible but a magnifying glass, both enlarging and even inflaming each character’s flaws. Before the war, the Shuttleworth brothers might have smirked and swaggered, but they probably wouldn’t have considered assaulting, shooting, raping, or murdering their neighbors. Mary and her sister Ellen would have married local men and never had American or German lovers. Tom would have stayed in the closet, Mary’s father and his generation would have continued abusing their women behind their closed doors. And Mary wouldn’t have risked everything for the doomed love of Peter Schormann, an enemy doctor.
I was stunned by the level of historical research that went into every detail of these books. Windows aren’t just blacked out during the Blitz, for example. Instead, they are “criss crossed with sticky tape, giving the terraced houses a wounded appearance.” We’re given a detailed picture of a vanished world, where toilets are outside, houses are tiny, and privacy is a luxury.
The Granville Mill becomes a symbol of these dark changes. Once a cotton mill providing jobs and products, it’s now a prison camp that takes on a menacing identity of its own. Over the next two volumes of Howarth family’s story, it’s the mill that continues to represent the threats, hatred, and violence the war left behind.
Unlike the joyful scenes we’re used to, marking the end of the war and everyone’s return to prosperity and happiness, the war described in these books has a devastatingly long tail. When Changing Patterns takes up the story in 1950, Mary and Peter have been reunited and are living in Wales, along with her brother Tom.
But real life doesn’t include very many happy-ever-afters, and the Howarths have to live with the aftermath of the secrets each of them has kept. The weight of those secrets is revealed in their effect on the next generation, the children of the Howarth siblings. The battle between those secrets and their family bonds is a desperate one, because the life of a child hangs in the balance.
Finally, the saga seems to slide into those generational tropes in Living in the Shadows, the final book of the Howarth trilogy. Interestingly enough, this new generation does represent a blend of their preceding generations’ faults and strengths, but with the conviction of their modern identities. Where their parents’ generation had to hide their secrets, this new generation confidently faces their world: as gay, as handicapped, as unwed parents, and—ultimately shrugging off their parents’ sins—as family.
But I didn’t really understand all of that until I considered the title of the prequel (released after the trilogy). 100 Tiny Threads tells the story of that first generation, their demons, their loves, their hopes, and their failures, and most importantly, their strength to forge a life despite those failures. That book, along with the novella-sized group of short stories in Secrets, gives the final clues to understanding the trilogy. As Simone Signoret said, “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.” And it’s both those secrets and those threads not only unite them into a family, but ultimately provide their strength.
This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that each of these wonderful books can be read alone. But no, don’t do that. In fact, if you haven’t read any of them, you’re luckier than I am, because you can start with the prequel and read in chronological order. I chose to review these books as a set, and I believe that’s how they should be read.
Every now and then, I come across books so beautifully written that their characters follow me around, demanding I understand their lives, their mistakes, their loves, and in this case, their families. Taken together, the Howarth Family stories are an achievement worth every one of the five stars I’d give them.”
An edited excerpt from the first of the trilogy, Pattern of Shadows. (Taken from the chapter where Mary Haworth, the protagonist – has just had her first date with Frank Shuttleworth.)
Frank stared into the flames for a couple of minutes and then said. ‘Tell me about your brother, Tom.Patrick told me he’s a Conscientious Objector. There doesn’t seem much love lost there.’
The anger flared immediately. ‘My younger brother has a big mouth. Tom’s a lovely bloke and entitled to his own beliefs.’
Frank held his hands up. ‘Whoa, I was only saying.’
‘Yes, well,’ Mary said, ‘for some reason, Patrick’s been jealous of him for as long as I can remember. Her voice faltered. ‘Look, I know what people think about COs. I’m not expecting you to feel any different. Let’s leave it for tonight.’
‘No. I want to know.’ Frank was insistent. ‘Tell me.’
Mary felt the clench of her stomach muscles. ‘Tom was always the odd one out, the only one in the family who still went to church when the rest of us lapsed years ago.’ How many times had she tried to understand the depths of Tom’s unquestioning faith? ‘His beliefs rule his life. It would have been easier for him if they didn’t. After it all came out, we discovered he’d belonged to a group in Manchester for ages. You know, meetings, talks on pacifism, how he felt about violence, how he felt it wrong to get involved with the war. When he first refused to sign up, he was given exemption, provided he continued to work in local government; he was in the Stationery Department. But he turned that down; he said he wouldn’t work for a government of a country at war.’ Mary met Frank’s stare. ‘He was sent to London to Wormwood Scrubs and he’s been there on and off ever since. They keep trying to make him do fire watching and he won’t do that either. They’ve extended his sentence loads of times. Dad won’t have his name mentioned in the house … won’t let Mam visit him, wouldn’t let him come home the times he’s been released.’
A memory of the last grubby bed-sit Tom lived in flashed into her mind. It had been in a part of Bradlow she didn’t even know existed, a maze of narrow streets lined with shabby back- to back terraced houses and filled with gangs of dirty kids and barking dogs. She’d studied the bit of paper with the address written on it before pushing her way past the two women smoking on the bottom step of a flight of stairs. The door to Tom’s room was open and for a moment she’d watched him sitting on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands, his arms sticking out of the sleeves of a jacket too small for him, his back shuddering with sobs.
‘They keep saying he has to do work that involves the war and he refuses. I think they do it for spite.’ Sparks flew from the fire onto the hearthrug and Frank reached out with his foot and stamped down on them. She couldn’t tell from his expression what he was thinking. ‘I admire what he did. I think it took a lot of courage.’
Frank leant forward, his hands clasped in front of him. Then he pressed his thumb against the first knuckle of each finger until it cracked. The noise jarred in the silence between them…
In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them consulting with her occasional co-author/daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.