My Review of Walls of Silence by Helen Pryke for #RBRT #FridayReads

wall of silence

I received this book from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team

 I gave  Walls of Silence 3*

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.

My Review:

First of all, I’d like to say how fascinating the Book Description is. Just enough to tempt the readers in without giving away the story, as so often happens.

I always try not to give spoilers with my reviews but with Walls of Silence I found it difficult to write the following without giving any of the story away. I hope I’ve succeeded.

 To say I enjoyed the whole of this book isn’t totally true; I enjoyed Helen Pryke’s writing style and the fact that all the way though she convinced me of the danger to the protagonist, Maria, if she revealed what was happening to her. There are deeply disturbing sections and the actions of some of the characters are distressing. It is a dark book.

I did have a few problems with pace of Walls of Silence. After being instantly drawn into the story through the Prologue, it then slowed, drastically. I love Prologues and this one was strong; I was intrigued by Pietro’s story. But then the abrupt change to Maria’s story; the flashback, left me a bit stranded. I kept wanting to know the reactions of both Pietro and  his and Maria’s daughter, Antonella, who, presumably , were learning about Maria’s life together. I have to be honest though; I’m not at all sure how else the author could have written it. I just wanted more of these two characters after such an interesting introduction to them

I felt the first half of the first chapter was too drawn out (although I realised later that it was to introduce some of the characters we, as readers, would meet again towards the end of the book). But  I did like the second half; Maria’s early family life in Sicily and the descriptions of the characters in her community, ruled so completely by the Catholic Church during the era of the 1950/60s.

This variation in the pace of the plot, some parts too drawn out, others too quickly passed over, was, I felt, a little awkward.

But I thought the characters that Maria met throughout her difficult life were well drawn and the dialogue was believable and rounded out most of them.

However I did have a problem with the relationship between the protagonist and Pietro; it did feel a little contrived and unsatisfactory. to me as a reader.

 Still, as I’ve said I did like the author’s style of writing, I found the descriptions of the settings brilliantly evocative and the story very moving. And Walls of Silence is an excellent title; it gives the claustrophobic sense on enclosure, secrecy, despair that Maria and the other women experience.

And, I must say i do like the cover; to me it embodies the whole story.

After I wrote this review I read the book description. Part of the proceeds from this book will go to a women’s centre in the UK. This kind of statement always gives me a problem; I feel guilty if I don’t rate the book higher. But then I always try to give an honest review, so will leave the above as written.

What I can say yet again, is that Helen Pryke writes well and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2qylmKx

 Amazon.com:http://amzn.to/2pDzQEa 

My Review of Queen of Trial and Sorrow by Susan Appleyard #RBRT #FridayReads

Queen of Trial and Sorrow by [Appleyard, Susan]

 

I was given this book by the author as  a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in exchange for a fair review.

 I gave Queen of Trial and Sorrow  4* out of 5*

 Book Description:

A B.R.A.G. Medallion winner, this is the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of King Edward IV and the mother of the Princes in the Tower. As an impoverished widow, she was wooed and won by the handsome young king and believed her dreams had come true. But she was soon swept up in the War of the Roses, enduring hardship and danger as her husband struggled to keep his throne. When he died Elizabeth was unable to protect her family against the ruthless ambitions of the man he trusted above all others. It was the king’s brothers, the unstable Duke of Clarence and the loyal Duke of Gloucester, who would prove to be Elizabeth’s most dangerous enemies.

My Review:

 I really liked this novel. I like the author’s style of writing; told in first person point of view from Edward IV’s wife, Elizabeth, it is almost as though she is holding a one-way conversation with the reader. Although I found it a compact and exacting read that took a lot of concentration (I am a very slow reader) I enjoyed this interpretation of  Elizabeth Woodville’s life in Queen of Trial and Sorrow.  Every emotion resonates through each chapter and throughout all the years that we are following her; the happiness, the sadness, the fears and apprehensions. The main plot of her time, before, during  and after the Court years is threaded through with subplots of intrigues and politics.

There is no doubt whatsoever that an enormous amount of research has preceded the writing of this book; it’s a fascinating account of the era.

 The characters are multi-layered and some were ever-changing as time went by depending on the intrigues and striving for personal gains.  Both those characters who are portrayed as good and those shown as wickedly self serving are plausible; their actions believable – if at times inconceivably cruel or dangerous.

 The dialogue was written as I imagined was spoken at the time; the syntax and the language rang true to that period for me. And it was easy to follow which character was speaking even without the dialogue tags.

 The descriptions of the settings; the buildings and the places the characters moved around in, the clothes, the ceremonies were all very evocative. The only  problem  I had was that sometimes I felt these descriptions were a little laboured and ‘heavy’. I would have preferred a lighter touch; I thought these sections slowed the story down

However, this is a very small objection and I’m sure anyone who loves to read historical  novels will love Queen of Trial and Sorrow . I have no hesitation at all in recommended this book by Susan Appleyard

Buying links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2qGE6EB

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2pGiV77

 

 

 

My Review of The Mistress of Blackstairs by Catherine Curzon #RBRT #FridayReads

#RBRT Review Team

mistrtes of blackstairs

I was given this book by the author as a member of #RBRT in return for an honest review

I gave The Mistress of Blackstairs 4*out of 5*

The Book Blurb:

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.

My Review:

Although the story has a slow start for me, I thoroughly  enjoyed this book once I  persevered. Catherine Curzon has obviously researched the era well and I do like her style of writing.

 The characters come alive on the page with the excellent, drip-fed descriptions of their appearances. Even minor characters are well rounded and easily envisaged. I especially liked the many layered portrayal of the protagonist, Georgina Radcliffe aka Madam Moineau whose back story is revealed in a steady and interesting style throughout. And her foster daughter, Molly, shown to be a child of the streets, behaves just as I would expect; living where and how she exists. Interestingly she is portrayed with a mixture of pathos and humour. Anthony Lake; an empathetic and charming character, even though shown to be a  bit of a rogue, I liked as soon as he put on an appearance. As for the  Viscount Polmear…instantly dis-likeable, as all good antagonists should be.

A lot of the story is carried on dialogue which is strong and it is easy to follow who is speaking even without dialogue tags.

 Although it is a time- honoured and steadily paced plot (most of the time) of ‘ boy meets girl’ and initially disliking each other, the story is so multi-faceted and played out in such an intriguing way that I read it in one sitting.

I so wanted to give The Mistress of Blackstairs  five stars but there were a couple of disappointments for me.  I love novels that give me a sense of place through descriptions using all five senses and although the interior settings were brilliant I got little sense of the streets, of the places in London at the at time (except for the lovely descriptions of the fires on the corners of the streets), that the characters move around in.

 And, although the lead up to the ending is exciting, the actual denouement feels too rushed and, I’m afraid, a little predictable, although I accept it would be disappointing (for me anyway) if it hadn’t factually ended as it did.

 All in all though, an excellent read and one I have no hesitation in recommending to readers who enjoy historical fiction.

My Review of Blind Side by Jennie Ensor for #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

#RBRT Review Team

 

blind side

I was given this book by the author as a member of #RBRT in return for an honest review

 I gave Blind Side 4*out of 5*

The Blurb:

Can you ever truly know someone? And what if you suspect the unthinkable?

London, five months before 7/7. Georgie, a young woman wary of relationships after previous heartbreak, gives in and agrees to sleep with close friend Julian. She’s shocked when Julian reveals he’s loved her for a long time.

But Georgie can’t resist her attraction to Nikolai, a Russian former soldier she meets in a pub. While Julian struggles to deal with her rejection, Georgie realises how deeply war-time incidents in Chechnya have affected Nikolai. She begins to suspect that the Russian is hiding something terrible from her.

Then London is attacked…

Blind Side explores love and friendship, guilt and betrayal, secrets and obsession. An explosive, debate-provoking thriller that confronts urgent issues of our times and contemplates some of our deepest fears.

My Review:

I liked this book. Jennie Ensor writes in an easy to read style and, after an initial fairly slow start, the book flows with various story lines interwoven so I was soon absorbed. And, although Blind Side can be seen as a romance novel it is much more than that; the story reveals the darker side of relationships, of life in a contemporary world, of remorse and self-reproach, secrets and lies, of disappointments and  regrets

The author has obviously researched into both the political, societal and historical backgrounds for the fairly recent settings that the characters move in and this is equally dark. And so realistic; I love when there is such a good sense of place.  Here the background reflects some of the underlying themes of racism, terrorism, immigration. Chilling stuff!

And against this there is the personal turmoil of the characters. Well played out, with enough tension and suspense to keep the reader on their toes.

The main characters are well portrayed with many levels to their personalities. I liked the protagonist, Georgie; despite the fact that I first thought her shown to be quite cold. The character is well rounded and the author gives her a history that explains much about her actions in the story; her fears, her suspicions, her obsession, her need to trust in Nikolai.  This character is also well written and given a past life that shocks. Despite not understanding his motives at first (and it took me a while to get used to the way the dialogue is written for him) I liked Nikolai. And then, the character of Julian; initially seemingly naive and harmless (in an obsequious way, I thought) but is ultimately shown to be less than the friend first portrayed.

 Told mainly from the point of view of the protagonist it would be easy to see the plot only from her side of things but the author manages to insert enough external detail, away from Georgie, to give more depth to the story.

There were a few parts of the plot that slowed the story (only a few though) and I found it trailed off a little at the end but, as I’ve said, I enjoyed Blind Side.  All in all, it’s a good debut novel from Jennie Ensor and one I would recommend. I look forward, with anticipation, to further offerings from this author..

LInks:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2naq5Mw

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2mK697y

My Review of Tropical Shadows by Susie Vereker for #RBRT #FridayReads

 

Tropical Shadows by [Vereker, Susie]

I was given a copy of Tropical Shadows as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team and for an honest and unbiased review

 I gave Tropical Shadows 3* out of 5*

The Blurb:

Respectable Julia is horrified to receive a phone call from the British Consul saying that her teenage sister Emily has been thrown in jail on a South-East Asian island for alleged drug smuggling.

Immediately she takes the next plane for Maising, leaving her disgruntled husband behind.

Even more bad news, nobody knows the whereabouts of her sister’s child.

Julia visits the jail where Emily insists toddler Rosie is safe because she’s with a trusted friend.

But where the trusted friend is, no one knows.

Emily, a teenage single mum on a belated gap year plus toddler, says she bought a padded cotton bag from an itinerant seller at the bus station.

Yet when she went through airport security, the bag was found to have a false bottom containing cannabis.

Julia believes Em’s claims that she’s been framed, but the young Consul says the penalties for drug smuggling are severe, as in many other parts of South East Asia.

Obviously Julia wants to rescue her sister and find her child as quickly as possible.

The British Embassy vainly tries to help and so does Duncan Hereford, an expat doctor with something of a past, and Julia’s pompous husband keeps phoning with his ideas too.

The Embassy advises it is imperative the British Press don’t get to hear about Emily because the tabloids are bound to write nonsense about backward foreign Maising and offend the Prince, making Emily’s chances of receiving a royal pardon highly unlikely.

But she’s innocent, Julia keeps saying but no one will believe her.

Meanwhile there are constant rumours from the outlying islands that a white child has been seen and Duncan offers to take Julia on several boat trips to investigate, all in vain.

But then the tabloids get hold of the story of the beautiful imprisoned British girl and her lost baby and all hell breaks loose. And Emily’s bad-news ex-boyfriend, the toddler’s natural father, begins to take an interest.

Tropical Shadows is a delightful story of sibling love and loyalty that will capture your heart.

My Review:

Firstly,  I’d like to say I think the Blurb gives away  too much of the plot. When I read a book I like to find out for myself what happens; to discover the story for myself. 

 Tropical Shadows begins interestingly and sets up the story in the long first chapter.  The reader is thrust into the plot right away and I was looking forward to a tense read.  A young girl caught with drugs and imprisoned into a primitive prison in a foreign country has all the ingredients of a disturbing, even sinister tale. Add to that a disquieting parallel plot of a missing child and the expectation of tension grows.

There are quite a few portrayals of interesting characters who add background to Tropical Shadows, some well-written descriptions of the settings that give a good sense of place, and a quite good insight to how Embassies could be run. It’s a good plot.

But, as a whole, I’m afraid it didn’t work for me. I found difficult to have any empathy with both the protagonist or any of the main characters because I didn’t feel I got to know them. And, somehow, the dialogue isn’t emotional enough; it doesn’t show the fear, the anxiety, the hopelessness of the some of the situations.  The words are there but there is no showing of rise and fall of crisis and conflict in the characters or the action. And every now and again the story falls into telling, rather than showing, especially when relating the past.

Perhaps a tighter, final edit  could resolve these issues.

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2nk97f2

Amazon.com:hhttp://amzn.to/2lIswtX

My Review of Watercolours in the Rain by Jo Lambert for #RBRT

 

Jo Lambert

I gave Watercolours in the Rain 4* out of 5*

I received Watercolours in the Rain from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team and for an honest review.

Back Page Blurb:

WATERCOLOURS IN THE RAIN

What happens to the future when past and present collide?

JESS:  Six years ago Jess’s relationship with Talún Hansen was torn apart by one night of deception. He disappeared from Lynbrook village and she headed for university vowing never to let anyone break her heart again. Currently teaching in Oxford, Jess returns from holiday to an unexpected phone call and life changing news which eventually sees her returning home.

Talún: Six years on Talún Hawkeswood, as he is now known, is heir to his grandfather’s Norfolk farming empire. When he hears of trouble in the village due to Lynbrook Hall being put up for sale, going back is the last thing on his mind. But staying away is not an option either, not when someone he owes so much to is about to lose their home and their livelihood.

LILY: Splitting with her husband after her son Josh’s birth, Lily now works as part of an estate agency sales team.  She has always held onto her dream of finding a wealthy husband and a life of self-indulgence. When the sale of an important property brings her face to face with Talún, she realises despite the risks involved, the night they spent together six years ago could be the key to making those dreams come true.

As Jess, Talún and Lily return to Lynbrook and the truth about what happened that summer is gradually revealed, Talún finds himself in an impossible situation. Still in love with Jess he is tied into a trade off with Lily: his name and the lifestyle she craves in exchange for his son. And when a child is involved there is only one choice he can make…

My Review:

Although I hadn’t read  Summer Moved On (The South Devon Duo Book 1) Jo Lambert’s first book in the series, I had no trouble following the story and discovering the personalities of the characters involved. (It wasn’t until I began this review that I read the blurb and realised how much Watercolours in the Rain  can indeed be a stand-alone novel.) Any past action from the previous book was subtly and cleverly inserted; either into the dialogue, brought out through memories, or the descriptions of the settings, or how the characters have evolved..

I don’t give spoilers away in my reviews so I’d just like to say why I so liked this novel.

First of all  Watercolours in the Rain   is written in a style that I love; different points of view presented by each of the characters. In this case,  Jess, Lily  and Talún, all with their own voice There is no doubt whose dialogue it is and as the  story progresses the characters are given greater depth; leaving it to the reader who to have empathy with… and who to detest. And, believe me, there are one or two really detestable characters that I became angry with. (being so involved that I still feel some emotion, whatever it is, when I’ve put the book down,  is always a good sign that I’m reading a brilliant story) .

Both the internal and the spoken dialogue is realistic and, as I say above, distinctive to each character.

 The characters are rounded and believable without unnecessary detail of how each looks; this is drip -fed throughout the book..

 The descriptions give a great sense of place.

I thought the plot line both clever and, sometimes, surprising.I liked the author’s style of writing; so easy to read and yet constantly throwing up tantalising twists and turns. 

 And, best of all, it’s a good story. I hope to read more from Jo Lambert. 

So, as you may gather, I would thoroughly recommend   Watercolours in the Rain  

 Buying links:

Amazon.co.uk:http://amzn.to/2j6DcfF

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2jUJzaq

 

 

 

 

My Review of Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel for #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

manioultaed

 

I was given  Manipulated Lives   by the author, as a member of #RBRT and on the understanding that I gave an honest review.

I gave  Manipulated Lives 4* out of 5*

The Blurb

Five stories – Five Lives.
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth

My review:

This is an absorbing compilation of short stories that give a thought-provoking insight to human behaviour. Manipulators, those people who will do anything, try any tactic, to exploit those who they are involved with, who they sometimes purport to love, are all around. Manipulated Lives is a cleverly written book showing the diversity of this behaviour.

As I read each one I found myself becoming both angry at the manipulator and aggravated by the character who was being manipulated; why couldn’t the latter see what was happening?  Afterwards I realised that for me to become so absorbed proved the skillfulness of H.E  Leuschel’s writing.  The normality of the situations that the characters are set in lend to the credibility of every story; it’s so easy to relate to them; to sit back and think’ yes, I’ve met someone like that’. Or even, ‘have I ever acted in any way like that?’ Scary!

 Every character is rounded and believable. There are strengths and weaknesses revealed in them all; they are multi layered, true to all human vulnerability. My initial (yet fleeting) sympathy for who proved to be the antagonist in The Narcissist is a prime example. Even incapacitated, helpless in his sick bed, there is no remorse, no enlightenment to his behaviour. Yet in another story, My Perfect Child, I was uneasy from the very start.

H.E  Leuschel’s writing style is compact and evenly paced.  The inner dialogue is excellent,  revealing so much of human nature that I sometimes had to sit  back to think about a scene, a situation, an observation.

 To trust in another leaves anyone open to vulnerability, to being controlled. To be the recipient of that trust could, and often does, result in the ability to control. It’s a disturbing thought and one that is highlighted in Manipulated Lives.

To my mind there isn’t a story in this anthology that will leave the reader unmoved. It truly is a compelling read.

 Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2hHLAly

Amazon.com:http://amzn.to/2gUhAmi