My Review of White Lies by Ellie Holmes for #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

white lies

 

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

I gave White Lies 4* out of 5*

My Review:

White Lies is an  interesting story that explores the different ways in which people in close relationships can so easily lie and deceive one another, however well meant the lie; however ‘white’ the deception. And ultimately reveals the damage such duplicity can cause, both to themselves and to those around them.

Ellie Holmes writes in a skillful easy to read style that smoothly keeps the plot going. It’s a compelling read as we are led one way and then another, following the characters, empathising with them, condemning them, getting exasperated with them, even disbelieving some of their actions and reactions. I suppose the fact that I reacted like this shows how realistic the authors has created and rounded these characters. But, ultimately I realised that I didn’t really ‘root’ for any of the main, not even the protagonist, Sam.

All that aside, I felt the dialogue, both spoken and internal  was realistic and consistent with the characters.

And I must say I did like the minor sub-plot of recently widowed Daphne  and the artefacts. And the benevolent character of Connor, Sam’s business partner, was  a light relief amongst all the machinations of the others.

There were also some good descriptions of the characters’ appearance, subtly drip-fed in. Usually this isn’t something I comment on; I like to imagine how each looks but they were quite understated portrayals that fitted my thoughts from how each acted.

 Ellie Holmes cleverly brings the expectations of Sam’s talents as an interior designer into the narratives so it is easy to picture the settings of the rooms and houses.   And  the external settings were described to bring alive the action of each scene: the misery of the sleet and rain in the initial scenes, the mist over the garden and looming darkness to match the despair of the protagonist in a later scene. (I don’t give away any spoilers if i can help it in my reviews, so you’ll need to read the book to discover what i mean here)

There was only one main problem with White Lies for me. Normally I do like to feel that there is a satisfactory ending, if not a happy one, to a novel; even if it is left open ended for me to imagine. I didn’t quite know how I felt about the denouement in White Lies, I was a little dissatisfied.

Nevertheless, this is a book I would recommend to be read during long summer days.

 Book Description

From the author of The Flower Seller

Have you ever told a white lie?

Sam Davenport is a woman who lives her life by the rules. When her husband Neil breaks those rules too many times, Sam is left wondering not only if he is still the man for her but also if it’s time to break a few rules of her own.

Actions, however, have consequences as Sam soon discovers when what starts out as an innocent white lie threatens to send her world spiralling out of control.

White Lies is a warm, engaging read about love, deceit, betrayal and hope.

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk; http://amzn.to/2uldTjo

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2t2gcUH

My Review of Skin Deep by Laura Wilkinson for #RBRT #contemporaryread

Skin Deep: A beautiful read that will get under your skin by [Wilkinson, Laura]

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

I gave Skin Deep 4* out of 5*

Book Description:

Art student and former model Diana has always been admired for her beauty, but what use are good looks when you want to shine for your talent? Insecure and desperate for inspiration, Diana needs a muse.

Facially disfigured four-year-old Cal lives a life largely hidden from the world. But he was born to be looked at and he needs love too. A chance encounter changes everything and Cal becomes Diana’s muse. But as Diana’s reputation develops and Cal grows up, their relationship implodes.

Both struggle to be accepted for what lies within.
Is it possible to find acceptance in a society where what’s on the outside counts for so much?

My Review:

I have previously read Public Battles, Private Wars by Laura Wilkinson and admired her writing style,  so was looking forward to delving into her latest offering. I wasn’t disappointed, even though it is completely different  from what I expected.

In a way it’s a strange, almost uncomfortable tale, told in both present time and flashback. But it is one I came to understand; so many times we are judged by how we look and the author skilfully handles the characters; they come to life slowly but surely as the story progresses.

The dialogue is realistic and natural; the internal monologues of Cal as an adult are fascinating.

Some sections of the Northern setting in the 1980s were familiar for me  and gave a good sense of place. The descriptions of the darkest parts of the city and the living conditions of the characters were well written and gave an insight to the seedier side of Manchester at that time.

Less than a plot and more of a thoughtful unravelling of the interior lives of both the protagonist, Diana, and the other main character, Cal, Skin Deep is a book that left me pondering on the rights and wrongs of Diana’s actions on how her relationship with Cal. progresses.

Loved the ending by the way.

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2sodsmE

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2soGkes

My Review of Fall Out by Lizzy Mumfrey for #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

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I received this book from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team, #RBRT, in return for an honest review.

 I gave Fall Out 3.5 stars out of 5 stars

Book Description

WHAT IF THE TIES THAT HOLD TOGETHER A COMMUNITY ARE IRREVOCABLY DESTROYED? The sociable commuter village of Charlton is an ordinary neighbourhood, typical of many, home to a colourful range of residents, many of whose teenagers go to the local academy. An ordinary day becomes extraordinary when a school trip to London coincides with an appalling terrorist attack and everyone’s cosy, humdrum life is shattered. The fallout affects every resident in dramatically different ways. Who lives and who dies is just the start – irrational suspicions, prejudice and misunderstandings lead to blame and persecution. Buried secrets are revealed, friendships fractured and trust destroyed. IS IT POSSIBLE THAT LIFE WILL NEVER BE NORMAL AGAIN.

My Review:

I read this book twice in consecutive sessions because I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. And I have to say that although I liked the idea of Fall Out (clever play on words with the title, by the way) and enjoyed certain parts  of the book, I struggled with it for so many reasons.

Don’t get me wrong; Lizzy Mumfrey can write, it’s a good plot and there are scenes that certainly bring a sense of empathy to the characters.The first chapter caught my attention straight-away with the introduction of the main character, Susie Cole. I was intrigued. But then we are immediately taken to another scenario with two other characters, Susie’s husband, Peter and his friend, Richard Hughes, who reveal the threat of terrorism that the world is under, the fact that Peter has achieved a high rank in the police force and that there will be a dinner party to celebrate this promotion.

On my second read it occurred to me that the first chapter would have worked well (better) as a Prologue. Because it’s quite some while until we actually discover why this foreshadowing of the whole plot is revealed.

There is then quite a long section giving the inner thoughts of the protagonist of how she sees herself and the people she will invite, and the menu for the meal. This not only slows the story down but there are also chunks of information dumps, giving descriptions of these other characters and their lives; their jobs, their houses, their children. Good depictions of them all but I would have liked them not to be in such detail and these passages are something that I feel would be better drip-fed into the story.

And these meticulous  narratives  through  Susie’s internal thoughts continue. I wanted to like her; her dialogue is as intrinsically slapdash (sometimes irritatingly so) as her lifestyle. And this is the whole crux of the plot; the way she is, is why she becomes the target of  “irrational suspicions, prejudice and misunderstandings lead to blame and persecution.”  It’s a brilliantly thought out  set of circumstances that is threaded throughout the book.

Sections of the book are told through the points of view of some of the other characters, though, and these gave a good insight to them, their backgrounds and their role in Fall Out. And they give an alternative understanding to their personalities than that of Susie’s.

But there are other situations  that I felt could be whole different novels and that I would have liked to have been explored and dealt with. Two such are those of the family stories of a couple of the students in the school: Ellie and, Charlie. Both from dysfunctional families. Charlie’s mother is absent; he’s a lonely lad struggling to survive and letting no one know he is on his one. And there is one point in Ellie’s story that brought me up short and I was waiting for it to develop. But, although it did hover around in the story, it got submerged by the larger plot.

And, perhaps, this is why I had some reservations about Fall Out; that there are so many brilliant, intriguing characters that I felt deserved their own stories.

And then there is the terrorist attack itself. Now I know the whole idea of the novel is the affect on the village of Charlton.  There are many evocative descriptions of the way the characters deal with the situations and of various places. And it is perfectly clear that life for the residents of Charlton will never be the same again. So, as this the crux of the book, it certainly succeeds.  But somehow I didn’t sense the devastating scenario to the whole country that followed such a traumatic event.

However, as I said earlier, I do like Lizzy Mumfrey’s writing and look forward to reading another of her books.

Links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2r0oX1r

Amazon.com:http://amzn.to/2rm07Jw

My Review #History In a Gilded Cage by Susan Appleyard for #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

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I received this book from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team., ‘#RBRT

 I gave In a Gilded Cage  4* out of 5*

Book Description:

In a Gilded Cage is a B.R.A.G. Medallion winner! Sisi enjoyed a carefree lifestyle in the hills of Bavaria until she was chosen by Franz Josef to be his wife. At the age of sixteen she became Elisabeth Empress of Austria and moved into the imperial palaces of Vienna, where a hostile court disdained her for her low birth, and strict protocol ruled her every act. She had no other purpose than to adorn the emperor’s arm on ceremonial occasions and to make babies who were taken from her at birth to be raised by her domineering mother-in-law. Of too sensitive a spirit, and dazzlingly beautiful, she was often ill and anorexic and had to flee the court to distant places in order to heal. She struggled to adjust to her new life in an alien environment until she found a cause into which she could pour her heart and soul: Hungary. Like Sisi herself, Hungary struggled to find its place in the world, where it would not be subsumed by a soulless empire. Having found her salvation, she also found a man she could love in the great patriot, Count Andrassy.

My review:

This is the second novel I’ve read of Susan Appleyard’s; the first was  Queen of Trial and Sorrow:  http://amzn.to/2pGiV77

I like this author’s style of writing; In a Gilded Cage is a compact, detailed read that need a lot of concentration but is so worth it. And, as in Queen of Trial and Sorrow it is obvious that the author has research in great detail has preceded the writing of this book. It is an enthralling read of the time and the two countries.;the sense of the politics and machinations, threaded throughout reveal the tumult that the characters live through

Told in first person point of view from Elisabeth Empress of Austria The reader lives through all the emotions the protagonist feels: the uncertainties, the ,contentment, the wretchedness, the distress,the love. It’s easy to empathise with the changes in ‘Sisi’s’ life.

At the front of the book there is a long list of the principle characters that is quite complex and I often had to go back and refer to it which interrupted my reading. But that’s a small quibble. On the whole the characters are well rounded and believable; I liked those the author intended me to like and disliked those who made the protagonist unhappy or afraid. If a book does this for me as a reader… it works.

Susan Appleyard has a knack for capturing the sounds and syntax of an historic period; she doesn’t disappoint in this novel. For me the dialogue gives a real flavour of the era as I imagine it to be.

Again, as in Queen of Trial and Sorrow, although there is a wonderful sens of place through the descriptions of the countries, the buildings, the costumes, I did feel that they were sometimes a little arduous and I was tempted a few times to skip through them. (although I didn’t, knowing I needed to review honestly and fairly)

Would recommend In a Gilded Cage? Yes, I would; the book suit readers who enjoy first person accounts of historical fiction

Buying Links:

Amazon .co..uk: http://amzn.to/2q9XEQ2

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2rrpGLD

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.