My Review of Under Your Skin by Rose McClellend #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Under Your Skin by [Rose McClelland]

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

I gave Under Your Skin 3.5* out of 5*

Book Description

When Kyle’s wife Hannah goes missing, the whole town is out in force to try to find her. One person knows where she is. One person is keeping a secret.

Detective Inspector Simon Peters and Detective Kerry Lawlor have been brought in to investigate the case, but Hannah has left no traces and Kyle has no clues.

Local Belfast resident Julia Matthews joins the #FindHannah campaign and becomes friendly with Kyle, sympathising with his tragedy. As Julia becomes more involved in the case than she bargained for, she begins to uncover more secrets than the Police ever could.

Julia was only trying to help, but has she become drawn into a web of mystery that she can’t escape?

My Review::

I wasn’t sure how to review this book. On the whole I liked Rose McClelland’s writing style, but I couldn’t decide what genre Under Your Skin is. This doesn’t bother me normally, many books cross genres but, for me, there were some elements that didn’t feel quite right in this story about one of the most destructive and distressing trait in any relationship. And, so, for the first time, before I wrote this, I checked to see what other reviewers thought.

Under Your Skin has been well received; most of the comments have concentrated on how well the issue of domestic violence is at the forefront of the story; it’s the main theme. And I agree, how a person can gain control over another in a carefully planned and invidious way is excellently written through the characters of Kyle and Hannah. With both the internal and spoken dialogue the reader learns how the husband thinks and acts. I admired the author’s in-depth approach to that.

Kyle Greer, the antagonist, is multi-layered. Told in the third person point of view the narrator initially depicts him as a pleasant easy-going man, concerned about his missing wife. But slowly a different personality emerges. The underlying sinister side to Kyle becomes more obvious, his actions more violent. The author has written a good portrayal of a husband who controls, who is an abuser, a cruel manipulator.

The same careful representation has been given to his wife, Hannah. This character is written in first person point of view. At first, the reader is led to believe that she has been kidnapped. She says, “Even if I tried to batter on the tiny window… no one would hear”. To begin with, because of the dialogue, I believed her to an unreliable narrator, ostensibly because of her fear, depression and mental instability. But as the story progresses, and she reveals how she has become a victim of Kyle’s bullying, I understood why she was characterised in that way. The stages of the relationship between them is shown in past tense, through flashbacks: from the time when she first met him to the present time and to the present situation. Each memory exposes her degradation brought on by Kyle’s jealousy, possessiveness and moods; her ability to excuse his behaviour, to turn off her emotions in an attempt to save her sanity. And too proud to admit she’d made a mistake marrying him. It made difficult reading and I empathised with her.

But, for me, the other characters vary, some being more rounded, even though they all occupy equal importance in the book and I felt those characters detracted from the strong theme that occupies the central story.

I found the portrayed relationship between Kerry Lawlor and DCI Simon Peters unrealistic and unnecessary. The inferred, lightly romantic, attraction between them, especially on the part of Kerry Lawlor, felt forced and It all sort of petered out in the end, anyway. A straightforward colleagues’ relationship would have been enough for me. Though I admit I enjoyed the twists and turn in the police investigations, from the searching for her as missing person to the suspicions about Hanna’s husband Kyle

The representation of Kate and her husband, Guy is shown through her point of view and the relationship between them, showing all the difficulties of a working wife and a stay at home writer husband is okay, though I did wonder how they fitted in and when that was shown towards the end I felt a little sceptical that this was realistic,(perhaps this was because of the first chapter with Hannah and the dialogue there )– I’m not sure.

 The story line between Julia and Kyle is stronger. I thought it was included to show how easily a certain type of woman can be taken in by a certain type of man. But she plays a more important part than that. Yet I also felt there was little depth to her character, considering what she apparently has been through and is still struggling with; her portrayal and her actions didn’t ring true.

And though, overall, the dialogue quite clearly differentiates the characters, I have to say that, occasionally, the speech attributed to some didn’t give them any depth, and even detracted from how they were portrayed. And, more than that, there were dialogue tags that clash with the actual dialogue; an example being, “piped up”when the dialogue showed quite a different mood that “piped up”represented.This happened in quite a lot in places and I found it irritating. I’m a great believer that dialogue should show the emotion, the way it is spoken, and that” said” is enough most of the time.

The story is set in Belfast and, through some of the descriptions, there was a good sense of place.

Despite my latterly reservation I think it is a good plot, covering an important issue; and is a theme sensitively written by Rose McClelland.

Loved the cover by the way.

All reviews are subjective; mine is no different, so I think I should leave it to other readers to decide if Under Your Skin is for them. As I said at the beginning it’s a book that has been well received and admired.

My Review of Season of Second Chances by Aimee Alexander #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

Season of Second Chances: an uplifting novel of moving away and starting over by [Aimee Alexander]

I gave Season of Second Chances 4* out of 5*,

I was given a copy of Season of Second Chances, as a member of Rosie Amber’s reviewing team.

Book Description:

Grace Sullivan flees Dublin with her two teenage children, returning to the sleepy West Cork village where she grew up. No one in Killrowan knows what Grace is running from – or that she’s even running. She’d like to keep it that way.

Taking over from her father, Des, as the village doctor offers a very real chance for Grace to begin again. But will she and the children adapt to life in a small rural community? Can she live up to the doctor her father was? And will she find the inner strength to face the past when it comes calling?

Season of Second Chances is Grace’s story. It’s also the story of a community that chooses the title “Young Doctor Sullivan” for her before she even arrives. It’s the story of Des, who served the villagers all his life and now feels a failure for developing Parkinson’s disease. And it’s the story of struggling teens, an intimidating receptionist, a handsome American novelist escaping his past, and a dog called Benji who needs a fresh start of his own.

My Review:

I haven’t read anything from Aimee Alexander before but, as I love any story about the machinations and intricacies of families, when I saw Season of Second Chances on the #RBRT reading list,  I decided to choose this book. It’s described as a novel about, ‘family, love and learning to be kind to yourself…A heart-warming story of friendship, love and finding the inner strength to face a future that may bring back the past.’

In a way it’s a predictable plot. But it’s so well written I don’t think that matters too much. And with a thoroughly rounded protagonist in Grace Sullivan, it’s easy to believe in her; to start cheering for her straight away in her secret quest to escape her life with an abusive husband. She is desperate to find her roots again in the  village of Killrowan, in West Cork; where she grew up with her parents. But, having been away for years, and taking her father’s place in the GP practice following his retirement, she is initially treated with suspicion by most of his patients. So she is lucky to rediscover the support of two old friends.

In addition to the antipathy of some of the villagers she has two teenage children who have problems of their own; Jack, who utterly resents the move, and her daughter, Holly, who, though glad to have escaped from their father, is emotionally damaged. But both are protective of their mother.

I also liked the parallel plot of the change in Des, Grace’s father. Having retired and in poor health, her return with her family brings him out of his chosen isolation and gives him hope for the future.

 I try not to give too much information about story-lines so I’ll leave it there.

Both the main characters and the minor supporting ones are well drawn, with dialogue that immediately identifies them and I could easily picture each one as they took their part in the story.

The settings are brilliantly described and give a good sense of place. I especially liked the sense of peace that is shown through Grace when she is by the sea. There are excellent descriptions here.

 There is also a lovely, almost cameo piece, of a dog, Benji, coming into their lives.

Of necessity, in a story of domestic abuse, there are themes of cruelty, fear, lies, self-hatred and loneliness. But in Season of Second Chances, there is also hope, friendship and love. These are all well balanced throughout the book.

 As I’ve said, it is a predictable plot in many ways but I loved the author’s style of writing. And, tantalisingly, there are also a couple of loose ends. These left me to suspect that there would be a sequel to Season of Second Chances.As, indee, the author states in the end notes.

I would recommend Season of Second Chances to any reader who enjoys a good story in which to escape.

My Review of What’s Left Unsaid by Deborah Stone #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT



What's Left Unsaid

I was given a copy of What’s Left Unsaid by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT, in return for an honest review.

I gave this book 5*

Book Description:

Sasha is just about managing to hold her life together. She is raising her teenage son Zac, coping with an absent husband and caring for her ageing, temperamental and alcoholic mother, as well as holding down her own job. But when Zac begins to suspect that he has a secret sibling, Sasha realises that she must relive the events of a devastating night which she has done her best to forget for the past nineteen years.

Sasha’s mother, Annie, is old and finds it difficult to distinguish between past and present and between truth and lies. As Annie sinks deeper back into her past, she revisits the key events in her life which have shaped her emotionally. Through it all, she remains convinced that her dead husband Joe is watching and waiting for her. But there’s one thing she never told him, and as painful as it is for her to admit the truth, Annie is determined to go to Joe with a guilt-free conscience.

As the plot unfurls, traumas are revealed and lies uncovered, revealing long-buried secrets which are at the root of Annie and Sasha’s fractious relationship.

My Review:

There are some books that grab you from the first page, even the first paragraph. What’s Left Unsaid did just that for me:

“If Annie had just been honest with me, we might have avoided much of the ugliness which followed… but she wasn’t and we didn’t…”

How could I resist? I didn’t! It helped when I realised the story is told in one of my favourite formats; it’s written from different points of view under the name of three characters: the protagonist, Sasha, her mother Annie and her late father, Joe. I especially liked Joe’s objective viewpoint that balanced out the subjective viewpoints of the other two characters as they describe the complex and difficult relationship between them. Even so, the question hovering throughout the text is what is truth and what is lies. It’s a cleverly written narrative and I loved the writing style of Deborah Stone; she moves from character to character, slipping easily into their voices, alternately moving the reader to understand each with empathy, yet being able to see the flaws in them as well.

The plot is tense and tightly woven, moving at different paces to reveal the secrets held for years held by this family. There are many themes: family secrets and deceptions, emotional power struggles between characters, dementia, miscommunications, understandings and forgiveness. All delicately intertwined throughout the text.

I always think that, when we reach a certain age we are formed by the things that we have done, what has happened to us, how we have been treated and how we have treated others. In What’s Left Unsaid the flashbacks to Annie’s earlier life reveal her vanity, her prejudices of others and her jealousy of her own daughter. As a reader I was torn between disliking much of what she was and yet having compassion for what she has become; a woman in the throes of dementia. The flashbacks of Joe’s earlier life show his Jewish family’s struggles to move from a totalitarian Russia at the end of the nineteenth century to the North of England where they face fascism and suffer poverty that they fight to escape, much as they have escaped from an oppressive regime.

The characters are many layered. The protagonist, Sasha is living in a loveless marriage and cannot understand either her husband, Jeremy, who has a secret of his own or her son, Zac, typically a monosyllabic, hormonal teenager. She has no closeness with her mother yet is forced to be deeply involved in her life. The author cleverly and subtly reveals the tensions hidden in Sasha, much as she does in all the major characters.  Her internal dialogue initially shows her timidity, her nervousness, in the way she approaches her family. Yet there is also exasperation and even anger. And this comes out more and more as the story progresses.

Joe’s words, spoken from beyond the grave, are wise and, as I said earlier, objective. I felt they gave a distanced reflective view on human nature as a whole. Yet, through the dialogue and thoughts of the other characters, his personality in life is exposed to have had had the same flaws and weaknesses as their own.

Even without the story being allocated to each character the reader is left in no doubt who is speaking; each have their own distinctive voice.

The narrative describing the settings give a good sense of place and provide an interesting background to the story.

What’s Left Unsaid is a complex and poignant read. Thought provoking and absorbing it left me reflecting on the complexities of marriage and families. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy well-written family sagas

 

 

My Review of Connectedness (Identity Detective Book 2) by Sandra Danby #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Connectedness (Identity Detective Book 2) by [Danby, Sandra]

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

I gave Connectedness 4* out of 5*

Book Description:

TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING

Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.

My Review:

I enjoyed reading Connectedness. Although it is the second novel in the ‘Identity Detective’ series that features Rose Haldane, journalist and identity detective, who reunites the people lost through adoption, it can be read as a standalone novel. In Connectedness the story revolves around the protagonist, successful artist, Justine King, who discovers her life is, and has been, a web of lies and secrets. She is vulnerable and haunted by incidents that happened in her younger days as a student. The suspenseful plot is revealed through a clever blend of her past and present and has a steadily growing pace after an intriguing prologue.

There are numerous layers to this book, details that are cleverly drip-fed throughout to reveal many themes: of sadness and distress, memories, anger, grief, familial love, discovery, loss and regret.

The characters are well rounded and portrayed to evoke sympathy and understanding in the reader. Both the internal and spoken dialogue add to their credibility.

It is obvious the author has researched the art world that is the basis of the story. Research that adds to the character of the protagonist who uses her emotions, her fears, her pain, both consciously and unwittingly, when producing her work. There is a wonderful sense of art being part of both the human condition and the environment around us,

The descriptions of the settings of contemporary Filey in Yorkshire, Malaga in Spain in the eighties and London are evocative through the use of all the five senses and give a wonderful sense of place. At times I felt I was travelling alongside the protagonist in her journey of discovery.

And the denouement is poignant and satisfying.

Just the one reservation, and I’m sorry to say this, but I don’t like the title. If I hadn’t been intrigued by the book description and if I hadn’t loved the cover on first sight, I wouldn’t have chosen Connectedness. It doesn’t mean anything to me. Suffice it to say I’m glad I did choose this book.

This is the first book I’ve read by Sandra Danby It won’t be the last. The idea of the story itself is intriguing and she has a sensitive yet powerful writing style that I have no hesitation in recommending to readers who enjoy contemporary and women’s’ fiction.

About the author:

An image posted by the author.

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, ‘Ignoring Gravity’ and ‘Connectedness’, Sandra is not adopted.

 

 

 

My Review of Finding Max by Darren Jorgensen #RBRT #Crime #TuesdayBookBlog

Finding Max by [Jorgensen, Darren]

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

I gave this book 4* out of 5*

Book Description:

Five-year-old Max is abducted from a playground on a hot summer day while his brother, Gary, has his back turned. Seventeen years later, Max returns to Gary’s life in a serendipitous twist with a disturbing tale to tell. As they learn to love and trust each other, they must outwit and outrun the nefarious Quinn, who seeks to re-abduct Max for his own evil purposes. Killing Gary and his new girlfriend, Jean, to get them out of his way is just part of his plan. Will they escape? And when all is said and done, will Max and Gary ever truly be freed from the shackles of guilt and pain from the past? Amid the gritty, harsh landscape of New York City, Finding Max explores those areas of society we seldom like to look at—homelessness, hunger and sexual abuse—with profound delicacy, brutal honesty and compassion. This thrilling novel will keep you reading long into the night

My Review:

Finding Max is an intriguing and powerful novel; a cross genre of psychological thriller and mystery. It’s a dark plot that is threaded through with themes of violence, abandonment and sexual abuse but these are juxtaposed and balanced by themes of courage, loyalty and love. I liked the writing style of this author and it’s obvious there has been a great deal of research into the deep-seated trauma of childhood mistreatment and cruelty. Darren Jorgensen treads a fine line but it’s done with sensitivity and skill. The reader is taken into the inner lives of the two main characters, two brothers, Guy and Max and their past and present lives.

On the whole all the characters throughout are well-rounded and believable. Both Guy and Max are multi layered. They are portrayed, individually, as damaged by their history but in different ways, Max, by his abduction as a child, and Guy, by his belief that he failed his brother by his neglect and inability to stop the abduction. But, as in all good writing, both are also depicted to grow and change as the story progresses. This transformation is helped by the introduction of Jean, Guy’s new girlfriend. I wasn’t sure, at first, by this character but eventually realised her purpose to the plot; she is an emotional go-between – having a strong impact on both brothers in the short time span

The antagonist, Quinn, is interesting; a psychopathic murderer who is shown to have a disturbing, unnatural love for Max. He stalks him, desperate to reclaim him and dangerously bitter by his belief that Guy and Jean have taken Max away from him. It’s a strong, well written portrayal of an adversary.

I deliberated over some of the dialogue; I’m not convinced by it, especially that of Max. The inner dialogue, on the whole, is excellent, revealing the horror, the terror, the power of the mind and it gives understanding to some of Max’s irrational behaviour and need to hide, to run away. But the spoken dialogue he is given doesn’t always ring true; there is a sophistication there that feels wrong for this naive character. And, without the dialogue tags, it is occasionally difficult to discern who is speaking, Guy, portrayed as an educated and socially competent man, or Max.

The description of the settings: Guy’s office, the shelter where he is based as a social worker, and his apartment; the way homelessness on the streets is shown, give a brilliant sense of place. I could see the world the characters move around in.

Besides my thoughts on the dialogue, I had only a few reservations. Firstly, I felt that the pace of the plot was slowed down, in places, by the unnecessarily introduction of issues not particularly relevant to the story, Secondly, I was never quite sure about the coincidence of Max walking into the drop-in centre where Gary is based. But, for the sake of the plot, I accepted it as possible.

I think it also should be said that there are explicit details of child sexual abuse some readers may find upsetting.

Although Finding Max is a standalone novel it is open- ended and could lead to a sequel.

On the whole this is a powerful and absorbing read. One I would recommend in particular to readers who enjoy a dark physiological crime genre

 

 

Our Review of Jimmy The (House) Spider by Raymond T. Davies #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

jimmy spider1

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

We gave Jimmy the House Spider 3.5*out of 5*

Our Review:

Our review is set out in two parts’ Mine and Seren’s (our (almost) eight year old granddaughter)

Judith: Jimmy The (House) Spider is a short and simple, straightforward story to be read to young children (I would imagine the book is aimed at five – seven year olds). The themes of kindness and respect are threaded throughout. And the book encourages empathy to all living creature

Seren: It is a good story. It’s very interesting and teaches children about spiders and being kind. Of course it is a bit young for me. I will be eight in four days. I can read properly.

Judith: It’s also a useful to explain to children that house spiders are nothing to be afraid of.

Seren: I am not frightened by spiders. And I like wood lice.

Judith: The language isn’t patronising – though, on the other hand, some of the words are a little difficult for a young child, such as “laboriously”, “peril” and “retreat”  and would need explanation: (that isn’t to say that’s wrong; just pointing it out) . Also some of the sentences are unusually long for this age group and there is little of the repetition of words and phrases that are in most children’s books.

Seren: I knew all the words but some of them are a bit difficult to say out loud.

Judith: Each character is well drawn through the narrative and the dialogue is straightforward and portrays each character well.

Seren: I liked Jimmy, he was funny and I liked Grandpa, he was kind. He has a beard like my Grandad.

Judith: It’s a slender book; twelve pages in all, most of which have lovely colourful drawings on them that illustrate the story beautifully.

Seren: I liked the drawings very much.They make Jimmy look like a friendly spider. 

Judith: We enjoyed reading the book together

Seren: I read it to Nanna It is a good story. I was glad Jimmy was safe.

Judith: There are some details that needed explanations, which is quite good and gives extended knowledge of Nature. However Seren didn’t understand the joke about “silverfish and thrips”; perhaps if it had been made in conjunction with a reference to Grandpa eating fish and chips at the same time it would have made more sense.

Seren: I learned that an Orfe is a fish.

Judith: All in all a delightful story.

Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2IjLWwM

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2FKfYeB

 

about-author-2

 

Raymond T. Davies

Raymond T. Davies says:

‘I have spent a good deal of time teaching my children and grandchildren to respect the other creatures we share our world with. Many children and even many grown-ups, suffer from arachnophobia with unfortunate results for themselves and the spiders; particularly those who inhabit our homes. My hope is this house spider adventure will dispel some of those fears and influence children and their parents to look kindly on these useful and harmless little creatures and indeed, all life forms which make up our world. They all have their part to play in ensuring our unique planet and the life it supports, will continue.’

 

My Review of That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

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

 I gave That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel 4*out of 5*

 

Book description

 

Mia Flanagan has never been told who her father is and aged ten, stopped asking. Haunted by this, she remains a dutiful daughter who would never do anything to bring scandal or shame on her beautiful and famously single mother. So when Archie Fitzgerald, one of Hollywood’s favourite actors, decides to leave Mia his Irish estate she asks herself – is he her father after all? That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is a tale of passion, jealousy and betrayal – and the ghost of a secret love that binds this colourful cast yet still threatens, after all these years, to tear each of them apart.

My Review:

 I did enjoy That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel, I really did. Whether it was the actual story, the way the narrative flows, the many differing characters, the sense of place that is so evocative throughout by the descriptions… I’m not sure. The reason I’m hesitant to say why I enjoyed this book is that the narrative actually goes into all the characters’ heads; we hear all their points of view, even the minor characters, sometimes only for a sentence or two. It’s odd, this usually irritates me. But the way this story is written it fits somehow

It’s a well worn plot in many ways; girl let down by boyfriend, handsome stranger on the sidelines; love finds a way, despite so many obstacles. But there are numerous other threads woven throughout that add depth and  intrigue (including one very large and intriguing mystery – see the hint in the book description; I’m not the one who will give away spoilers! )

There are some great rounded characters; quirky, poignant, funny, slightly wicked antagonists, and a great child character. Mostly I liked the way the protagonist grew in strength as the story progressed.

And each character is unmistakable in their dialogue; no dialogue tags needed a lot of the time, which, I think keeps the narrative moving well, especially at important section of the plot

There are wonderful descriptions of the scenery and the  settings, although sometimes these (mostly of the sea and sky) were a little too drawn out and repetitive  and took me out of the story

This was a different read for me. I usually enjoy novels where I can follow and empathise with one, maybe two, characters but, as I said before, this time it works (mostly).

There is one point where I would have liked to have more of a build up, more detail, more atmosphere. It’s a scene where one character threatens Mia. Already portrayed as obnoxious,yet not threatening, here he is menacing. Yet I felt that it didn’t quite work and the protagonist wasn’t shown to be really afraid. We are told she is but I didn’t really get any sense of real fear and the scene is quickly glossed over. Though it is actually a pivotal romantic point in the plot.

But, all in all this  book worked for me and I have no hesitation in recommending That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel  to readers who enjoy  contemporary women’s fiction with a hint or two of mystery.

Buying Links:

 Amazon.co.uk:  http://amzn.to/2Im2Cn7

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2DlHjhW

 

About the author

 

adrienne vaughan

Adrienne Vaughan has been making up stories since she could speak; primarily to entertain her sister Reta, who from a very early age never allowed a plot or character to be repeated – tough gig! 

As soon as she could pick up a pen, she started writing them down. No surprise she wanted to be a journalist; ideally the editor of a glossy music and fashion magazine, so she could meet and marry a rock star – some of that came true! And in common with so many, she still holds the burning ambition to be a ‘Bond Girl

The Circumstantial Enemy: An astounding, based-on-true-events WW2 thriller by John R.Bell #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

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I received this book from the author as member of Rosie Amber’s review team #RBRT in return for a fair and honest review.

I gave The Circumstantial Enemy 4* out of 5*

Book Description;

On the wrong side of war, there is more than one enemy…

When Croatia becomes a Nazi puppet state in 1941, carefree young pilot Tony Babic finds himself forcibly aligned with Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Unbeknownst to Tony, his sweetheart Katarina and best friend Goran have taken the side of the opposing communist partisans. The threesome are soon to discover that love and friendship will not circumvent this war’s ideals.

Downed by the Allies in the Adriatic Sea, Tony survives a harrowing convalescence in deplorable Italian hospitals and North African detention stockades. His next destination is Camp Graham in Illinois, one of four hundred prisoner of war camps on American soil.

But with the demise of the Third Reich, repatriation presents a new challenge. What kind of life awaits Tony under communist rule? Will he be persecuted as an enemy of the state for taking the side of Hitler? And then there is Katarina; in letters she confesses her love, but not her deceit… Does her heart still belong to him?

Based on a true story, John Richard Bell’s The Circumstantial Enemy is an energetic journey to freedom through minefields of hatred, betrayal, lust and revenge. Rich in incident with interludes of rollicking humour, it’s a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, love and forgiveness.

My Review:

The Circumstantial Enemy drew me in from the first page; Bell has a writing style that has great depth, tells a story that has so many sub-plots, mixes facts with fiction, yet is easy to read

This book is based on real events that happened during World War II and it is obvious the author has also researched extensively. The plot reads authentically with many twists and unexpected events. Set between 1941-1952 , It’s a cross-genre story of history, politics, war  and romance: a story that exposes the devastation and horror of war, the reactions of human beings to the stress and trauma of enforced separation from family and friends, of enduring love against all the odds. The pace is swift and encompasses the difficult period when Yugoslavia was divided into Serbia and Croatia,  moving to Italy, the stockades in North African,  American prisoner of war camps and on to post war Europe.

Yet all is not doom and gloom; there are touches of humour here and there, showing the resilience of the human condition.

The characters  are well portrayed with authentic and individualistic dialogue, particularly that of the protagonist,  Tony Babic, shown in so many layers through both his actions and internal  dialogue as the story progresses. As the story moved forward I felt, as a reader, that I almost knew what his responses would be to everything he faced. This is a strong protagonist, embodied by self-respect, honour, courage; a man who faces life with stubborn perseverance even in his darkest moments. And the minor characters, being well drawn and believable, give excellent support within the plot.

The descriptions of each of the settings are extremely well written and give a great sense of place.

If I had any reservations about this debut novel it would be that sometimes, just sometimes, a point is belaboured, slowing the action down. But, as I say, it is a small irritation compared with the enjoyment I had reading The Circumstantial Enemy.

 Striking cover as well!

I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with wars as the background and a touch of romance and  I look forward to reading John R Bell’s next novel.

Links to buy:

 Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2AEWJfXhttp://amzn.to/2AEWJfX

 Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2CR1x7K

About the Author:

 

John Richard Bell

 

John Richard Bell was born in Chigwell, UK and now resides in Vancouver, Canada.

Before becoming an author of business books and historical fiction, John Bell was a CEO, global strategy consultant, and a director of several private, public, and not-for-profit organizations. A prolific blogger, John’s musings on strategy, leadership, and branding have appeared in various journals such as Fortune, Forbes and ceoafterlife.com.

John’s novel, The Circumstantial Enemy, chronicles the trials and capers of Tony Babic, a young pilot who finds himself forcibly aligned with Hitler’s Luftwaffe in 1941. Unbeknownst to Tony, his sweetheart Katarina and best friend Goran have taken the side of the opposing communist partisans. The threesome soon discover that love and friendship can not circumvent this ideals of this war. Like many of the adventure novels of Wilbur Smith and Bryce Courtenay, The Circumstantial Enemy is an energetic journey to freedom through minefields of hatred, betrayal, lust, and revenge. Rich in incident and rollicking humor, it’s a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, love, and forgiveness.

John’s business book, ‘Do Less Better – The Power of Strategic Sacrifice in a Complex World’, was released by Palgrave Macmillan USA in 2015. This book helps leaders recognize the complexity within their businesses and suggests how they can simplify and streamline through specialization and sacrifice. For leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs who need help embracing the practices that foster agility, foresight, and resilience, ‘Do Less Better’ provides a tool-kit of road-tested strategies.

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Donkey Boy and Other Stories by Mary Smith #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

Donkey Boy and Other Stories by [Smith, Mary]

 

I reviewed the book as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review

 I gave Donkey Boy and Other Stories  4* out of 5*.

Book Description:

Shot through with flashes of humour the stories here will entertain, amuse, and make you think. Mary Smith’s debut collection of short stories is a real treat, introducing the reader to a diverse range of characters in a wide range of locations. A donkey boy in Pakistan dreams of buying luxuries for his mother; a mouth artist in rural Scotland longs to leave the circus; a visually impaired man has a problem with his socks; and a woman tries to come to terms with a frightening gift – or curse

My Review:

I do like Mary Smith’s style of writing. Previously I have read and enjoyed No More Mulberries by this author; my review here: http://bit.ly/2CTEuZl

This is a fascinating collection of short stories, set in various places with a wealth of diverse characters, all wonderfully rounded. The author has a talent for setting the scene and giving a sense of place with few well-chosen words.

 I read each of these unusual stories slowly, taking in the way each situation unfolded, savouring the reactions of the characters to each problem they faced, enjoying the touches of humour, poignancy, empathising with the great sadness in some of the tales.

 Not sure I had an overall favourite, they are all easy to read, but these are the ones that stayed with me long after I’d read them:

The story in the title, Donkey Boy. The protagonist, Ali, should be in school but instead drives a donkey cart for his father. His resentment is palpable from the very start. The dilemma he faces exposes the way different cultures live;  not only their values and ethics but the differences in the child and adult in these societies.  This is well deserving as the title story.

Trouble with Socks. Set in a care home with the character George; patronised by one of the carers who really is in the wrong job.

Accidents Happen. Set in Pakistan; the story of a young girl with a step father she detests.

Asylum Seekers. One of the monologues (I did like this way of writing/reading a short story). Though ironic, this reveals unpleasant bigotry and prejudice,

There is a whole gamut of human emotions in Donkey Boy and Other Stories and I thoroughly recommend this collection by Mary Smith to any reader. Whatever your favourite genre you’ll be sure to find one that will linger with you long afterwards.

Links to buy: 

 Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2D9bxGk

Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2D9bxGk

About the author:

Mary Smith

 

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.
Mary loves interacting with her readers and her

Links to Mary:

Website  www.marysmith.co.uk.
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2wWIDci
Twitter: http://bit.ly/2ws6LAt

My Sweet Friend by H.A. Leuschel #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

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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 My Sweet Friend 4* out of 5*

Book Description

A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives
A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?
Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships.
But is Alexa all she claims to be?
As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?
In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.

My Review:

I first came across  H.A. Leuschel when I read and enjoyed her collection of short stories, Manipulated Lives ( my review here, http://bit.ly/2BxfSVz.)

In this novella the author  has, once again, concentrated on the theme of manipulation; from the manoeuvrings for power in business to the exploitation that can be committed in personal relationships. This is an emotional exploration of the human psyche on various levels. It is also a brilliant story.

Told from the first person point of view of the two main characters, Rosie and Alexa, each have their own chapters, which move from present to flashbacks.  The plot takes us from absolute loyalty and hope in Rosie’s understanding of her relationship with Alexa, to the first seeds of doubt and distrust, (emphasised by the exchanges of dialogue with Jack; would be boyfriend and initially also taken in by Alexa). With Alexa the portrayal of  the ultimate confidence that she is in control of her life and is blinkered to any faults of her own, is gradually undermined by glimpses of vulnerability. Each character is so multi layered and believable that I found myself at various points throughout the narrative both empathising but being exasperated with Rosie and disliking yet understanding Alexa. Ultimately, though, I had compassion for both.

These are strongly- written characters; Leuschel has an innate sense of the way anyone can manipulate others through the facade of friendship and loyalty; even subliminally. Both the internal  and the spoken dialogue are used to give rise to unease and doubt in the reader’s mind as to who is actually the victim in this relationship.  Even the descriptions that give a good sense of place are used to show brilliant interpretation of the emotional weakness of each character.

I would have loved the intricacies of the relationships within the story to have moved more slowly, shift in the strengths and weaknesses between the characters. I felt this novella could easily have been made into a novel. But then, perhaps, it wouldn’t have worked; it is a very intensely controlled friendship so would have always burned out quickly.

There is only one tiny thing I really disliked in this story – and I will admit it sounds trivial and silly but it is a personal aversion; I did not like the word “sniggered” (Alexa sniggered a few times – it drove me mad!) the verb just did not fit in with the image I had of this character. Sorry H.A. Leuschel.

Putting such an inconsequential point to one side  I would certainly recommend My Sweet Friend to any reader; it’s a thought-provoking physiological and gripping read.

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2BpPp9K

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2k7Mw6a

 

About the Author:

H.A. Leuschel

 

Helene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle by James_D_Dixon #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

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Book Description:

In a Scotland beset with depression, Willem is one victim among many. He loses his job, his mother dies and he is forced out of the flat they shared. Seeing no other option, he takes to the streets of Edinburgh, where he soon learns the cruelty felt outside the confines of his comfortable life. Stories from his past are interwoven with his current strife as he tries to figure out the nature of this new world and the indignities it brings. Determined to live freely, he leaves Edinburgh, hiking into the Scottish Highlands to seek solitude, peace and an unhampered, pure vision of life at nature’s breast.

The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J. Gyle is at once a lyrical, haunting novel and a set piece in the rage of an oppressed, forgotten community. J. D. Dixon’s sparse, brutal language captures the energy and isolation of desperation, uniting despondency and untrammelled anger in the person of his protagonist.

My Review:

I finished The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle thinking this has to be made into a film. And I’m ashamed to say I finished the book almost a week ago and have dithered on how to review because the emotion that it has stirred in me prevented a rational and objective/subjective ‘putting down words here’. Which delay does the author, James_D_Dixon, no favours at all, I know.

All I can say is that this is a brilliantly compelling read: the author’s stark but totally gripping style, the twists and turns of the story, the layering of the protagonist’s character and the many other characters that people this book and  the multiplicity of themes, all make The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle a novel that stands out…unrivalled in my opinion, especially as  it is a debut novels. But it also hits home… hard. This is a  harsh indictment of our times, of our country, of our humanity. Over the top? I don’t think so (having worked for a short while among such disadvantaged people – I believe the author has researched well.)

A little slow to begin with, the pace of the story then moves inextricably towards the protagonist’s decline, from bewildered homelessness, which instils pity in the reader to a brutal callousness and a total lack of empathy for and with those around him; his thoughts and actions shock and sicken. And yet, for me, the sympathy still hovers for Willem.

A word on the title: at a time when many titles are of one or two words I found this one intriguing. (I’d maybe suggest cut out the word “Unrivalled”?)  

And the cover? Loved the way the protagonist blends in with the brickwork behind him; much as he disappears from the view of those that pass him by.

Would I recommend The Unrivalled Transcendence of Willem J Gyle? You bet!! All I can say to anyone, whatever their usual preferred genre is …  please do read it

 Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2A7LcKw

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2AYug9v

About the author:

J. D. Dixon was born in London in 1990. He studied English Literature and History at Goldsmiths College, University of London, before pursuing a career as a writer. He currently lives with his wife, the psychologist Dr Lauren Hadley, in Edinburgh.

Links to J. D. Dixon: 

Twitter: http://bit.ly/2AxBKNu

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2iYxxOC

I Could Write a Book: A Modern Variation of Jane Austen’s “Emma” by Karen M Cox #RBRT

 

I Could Write a Book: A Modern Variation of Jane Austen's "Emma" by [Cox, Karen M]

Book Description:

For readers of romantic comedy, coming of age, historical romance, Southern fiction)
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich…”
Thus began Jane Austen’s classic, a light and lively tale set in an English village two hundred years ago. Yet every era has its share of Emmas: young women trying to find themselves in their own corners of the world.
I Could Write a Book is the story of a self-proclaimed modern woman: Emma Katherine Woodhouse, a 1970s co-ed whose life is pleasant, ordered, and predictable, if a bit confining.
Her friend George Knightley is a man of the world who has come home to fulfill his destiny: run his father’s thriving law practice and oversee the sprawling Donwell Farms, his family legacy in Central Kentucky horse country.
Since childhood, George’s and Emma’s lives have meshed and separated time and again. But now they’re adults with grown-up challenges and obligations. As Emma orchestrates life in quaint Highbury, George becomes less amused with her antics and struggles with a growing attraction to the young woman she’s become.
Rich with humor, poignancy, and the camaraderie of life in a small, Southern town, I Could Write a Book is a coming of age romance with side helpings of self-discovery, friendship, and finding true love in the most unlikely places.

My Review:

Retelling  a classic in modern times is an interesting concept and one that has worked really well here.  Karen Cox clearly has a talent for this genre and I enjoyed reading this re-working of Jane Austen’s Emma.

I must admit, though, I found I Could Write a Book impossible to review as I normally would review a book. This is a  canonical classic; it is difficult for me to criticise the story of a novel I have long admired.

But here goes…

Told through alternating perspectives of Emma and George Knightley the different depiction of the personalities of each character is well rounded and follows closely to that of Austen’s, though naturally adapted to the setting of Kentucky, during the 1960’s and 1970’s. The juxtaposition of  humour and poignant tenderness is threaded throughout. Nevertheless the actions of the modern strong-willed Emma still brought out the same feelings of exasperation in me as it had in the original Emma. Yet, as before,  I felt empathy and compassion for the character; there is still the underlying naivety there. Though cosseted by her family I also felt protective of her when George Knightley, battling his own feelings towards her, attempts to ‘open her eyes’ to herself.

Good characterisation of both and I also found the supporting characters to be multi-layered, adding to the background and action within the plot. And brought right up to date by the emphasis as much on religion and race as on the class divisions in the original story.

Both the spoken and internal dialogue adds to an understanding of these two friends as the friendship grows into a burgeoning romance- (I liked the way Emma is shown almost as the omniscient narrator through her free indirect language – much in the way Jane Austen shows)

I liked the author’s style of writing and the steady easy pace of the story was reassuringly similar Austen’s.

I Could Write a Book works well and I would urge both readers who are admirers of Jane Austen and those curious to see how a classic can reappear as a contemporary read to discover this book for themselves.

About the Author:

Karen M Cox

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of four full-length novels accented with romance and history: “1932”, “Find Wonder in All Things”, “Undeceived”, and “I Could Write a Book”. “The Journey Home”, an e-book companion novella to “1932” is now available. She also contributed a short story, “Northanger Revisited 2015”, to the anthology, “Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer”, and wrote “I, Darcy”, a short story in “The Darcy Monologues” anthology.
Karen was born in Everett WA, which was the result of coming into the world as the daughter of a United States Air Force Officer. She had a nomadic childhood, with stints in North Dakota, Tennessee and New York State before finally settling in her family’s home state of Kentucky at the age of eleven. She lives in a quiet little town with her husband, where she works as a pediatric speech pathologist, encourages her children, and spoils her granddaughter.
Channeling Jane Austen’s Emma, Karen has let a plethora of interests lead her to begin many hobbies and projects she doesn’t quite finish, but she aspires to be a great reader and an excellent walker – like Elizabeth Bennet.
Connect with Karen:
Website: www.karenmcox.com

Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/karenmcox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Night: A Christmas Story Collection by Wendy Clarke #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

 

Silent Night: A Christmas Story Collection by [Clarke, Wendy]

Book Description: ‘Silent Night’ is a collection of thirteen Christmas stories by Wendy Clarke, a regular writer of fiction for national magazines.

I was given this book by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s review team in exchange for an honest review.

 I gave Silent Night 4* out of 5*

 My Review:

I enjoyed reading these short, sometimes very short, stories around the theme of Christmas. These are tales very much ‘in the moment’, of love lost and found, unrequited love returned, families torn apart and reunited (or about to be), of friendships. All set around Christmas time. They fit neatly into the genre they were written for; as it says in the book description, they are, ” fiction for national magazines”.

Reading to review a collection of such short stories is completely different from reading to review a novel. There are no multi layered characters, no complex plot, no wrestling with an unreliable narrator, no in-depth internal dialogue, no  time for peaks and troughs in the story. Just a good honest telling of a tale with (if not always completely a happy ending), always with a satisfying denouement.

 As such, I settled down to read each one and enjoyed most of them. Wendy Clarke is a good storyteller, I like her style of writing. I loved the depth of emotion she gave to the characters through the dialogue; they were mostly all truly believable.  I especially enjoyed her portrayal of the children; for me she got the dialogue of these perfectly.

And her descriptions and narratives give a good sense of place and era.

What I most admired was the author’s ability to weave the tone of the story into the narrative. Perhaps i should explain by giving a couple of examples:

Silent Night: (the story that gives the collection its title) and  Do You believe in Angels – poignant tales of familial love in wartime. These were my favourites.

Together for Christmas: A lovely humorous story of friendship and empathy.

This collection has obviously been published in time for the Christmas market, although I would certainly recommend Silent Night to any reader who enjoys short stories anytime.

 Love the cover, by the way.

Buying links:

Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2zRJvMU

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2yhbqcR 

About the Author:

Wendy Clarke

Wendy Clarke is a full time writer of women’s fiction. She started writing when the primary school she taught in closed down and after completing two creative writing courses, began writing short fiction for magazines. Since then, she has sold over two hundred short stories and her work regularly appears in national women’s magazines such as The People’s Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles.

Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food! 

 

A Kiss Before Killing: Nothing can keep the doctor away #TuesdayBookBlog by Keith McCarthy #RBRT

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I was given this book by the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s review team in exchange for an honest review.

I gave A Kiss Before Killing 3* out of 5*

Book description

Each man kills the thing he loves…

Edward Marsham is admitted to the Royal Infirmary having hung himself in his prison cell.

As predicted, he dies.

In the wake of several unexpected deaths at the hospital, however, Dr. Claire Woodforde suspects there is a killer amongst the staff. As Detective Chief Inspector Beverley Wharton and her new sergeant Tom Bayes begin to investigate Marsham’s death, they too start to wonder if it was natural or whether someone…

helped him along.

But as they start to make headway on the case, something much more sinister comes to light.

A body is found in an empty house.

A body without its limbs. And head.

Dr. John Eisenmenger is tasked with examining the torso to uncover clues which will lead to its identity and cause of death; a grisly job even for the most hardened of pathologists.

But as the investigation unfolds, the team discovers that there is much, much worse to come, and in addition, there is growing suspicion that there is a link between the two cases.

This not-for-the-faint-hearted crime thriller shines a light into the darkest recesses of the human soul.

Fans of Patricia Cornwell, Tami Hoag and Tess Gerritsen will be hooked on A Kiss Before Killing.

Praise for A Kiss Before Killing

‘Pacey, well-written medical thriller … the suspense built so that I had to finish it in a sitting’ – Andrew Puckett, bestselling author of Sisters of Mercy

‘Dark and disturbing. Sharp and deliciously violent. A must read’ – Robert White, bestselling author of Breaking Bones

Praise for Keith McCarthy

‘McCarthy lays on the grisly detail with a practising doctor’s detached eye.’ – Publishers Weekly

‘McCarthy handles his material with real brio.’ – Crime Time

‘McCarthy excels at capturing his readers and not letting go until the shocking conclusion … Will appeal to fans of John Harvey’s crime novels’ Library Journal

Keith McCarthy was born in Croydon, Surrey. Educated at Dulwich College and then at St George’s Hospital Medical School, he began practising pathology in 1985 and has done so ever since. Keith is a Consultant Histopathologist in Gloucestershire where he lives with his wife and three daughters. in 1985 and has done so ever since. Keith is a Consultant Histopathologist in Gloucestershire where he lives with his wife and three daughters.

My Review:

From the start it is obvious that the author knows a great deal about cadavers and forensics; there is a lot of detail about the dissection of bodies and the necessary criminal investigation. I didn’t mind reading about those sections; in fact I can deal with grisly as much as the next reader of this genre but it felt rather clinically shown so, as a reader, the dreadfulness of the murders, the horrendous dismemberment, was, for me, portrayed too clinically; there was something emotionally missing.

I liked some of the characters; most were multi – layered. Beverley Wharton is well rounded and the relationship between her and John Eisenmenger is interesting. And we get some insight into her sergeant, Tom Bayes and his background. We also get a good understanding of their  professional environment.  All of which shows that these characters and their relationships to one another could lead to further stories. But I couldn’t quite get a handle on the character of Dr. Claire Woodforde. (I did think this was perhaps what the author intended as, although portrayed as a professional person her interaction with other characters was hesitant and not what I would have expected)

On the whole the dialogue is realistic and shows who was speaking, though it is a little stilted, less realistic, at times.

It’s a good plot. And, generally, well told. The author has a good writing style that carries the story along. But there are too many cliches in the narrative and far too many  metaphors and similes. (and these also slip over into the dialogue occasionally. Which would be fine if it were an idiosyncrasy of only one or two of the characters).

My whole problem with this book was with the editing and the proof reading. I think the book needs another good edit and, certainly, a more exact proofreading.

Once this is done I would certainly recommend A Kiss Before Killing.

Buying links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2vZg2ip

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

 

Everybody’s Somebody by Beryl Kingston #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

everybod's somebody

I received a free copy of this book as a member of Rosie’s Book Review team in exchange for an honest review.

 I gave Everybody’s Somebody 4*out of 5*

Book Description:

“Life’s for real an’ you got to get on with it.”

Rosie Goodison is not one to shy away from life’s problems. Whether it’s finding work or challenging injustice, Rosie squares her shoulders, sets her chin high and faces it full on.

Born at the end of the nineteenth century, in the rural south of England and sent into service aged just twelve, Rosie quickly discovers that many good people spend their lives toiling for very little reward, whilst others ‘have it all’.

She decides it won’t be like that for her. Why can’t she ride in a car? Why can’t she work when she’s pregnant? Why can’t she live in a nice flat? Why can’t she be an artist’s model?

Whilst working as a housekeeper for two upper-class boys, Rosie starts to learn more and more about the world, gleaned from overheard conversations and newspapers left lying around. This triggers an ongoing thirst for knowledge, which shapes her views, informs her decisions and influences her future. 

Rosie aspires to have a better life than that of her parents: better living conditions, better working conditions and pay, better education for her children, to be able to vote, to be able to control how many children she has…

Without realising it, this young woman is blazing a trail for all those who are to come after.

Whilst working in London, Rosie meets her sweetheart Jim, but the The Great War puts paid to their plans for the future, and matters worsen afterwards, as she, along with the rest of society, tries to deal with the horrors and losses.

This heart-warming story follows the events of the early twentieth century – the impact and horrors of WW1, the financial crisis and the rapid social and political changes that took place.

All that remains of Rosie now is a quartet of paintings in an art gallery. The artist, now famous but the model, unnamed and forgotten; nobody of consequence.

But everybody has a life story. Everybody leaves some kind of mark on this world.

Everybody’s somebody.

My Review:

 I was really looking forward to reading Everybody’s Somebody. This is my kind of book, set in an era I have read and researched. I wasn’t disappointed; the story has  a true sense of the time, the place, the people. Told with great attention to period detail, there are some lovely passages of descriptive writing, particularly in relation to the interior scenes of buildings and houses.

The characters are well drawn: Rosie Goodison, the protagonist, has many layers; loyalty, love, pride, independence, and holds a great sense of self-preservation. I empathised with her from the word go. I had reservations sometimes with Jim, Though sensitive to a point with Rosie, I found him to be slightly self-centred and self-indulgent. But, for me, this was a sign of good writing, he is brilliantly  rounded. As is his sister, Kitty. And I liked the friendship and solidarity the two women are shown to share.

One of the themes running throughout the book is that of these two women, as well as others, fighting to asserting themselves, both within relationships and in society. This struggle is carried out before a backdrop of patriarchy,  poverty, unemployment and the devastation of the First World War. It is obvious that the author has researched both the social, economical and political backgrounds and changes: the book covers the Suffragette movement, WW1,the London floods of 1928,.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and the few problems I had with Everybody’s Somebody are slight and two of the reasons are purely personal. But to balance the review, I will mention them here.

The first is with the dialogue. I found the overuse of dialect a bit irritating and, for me, there was little to distinguish the voice of one character from another,especially between Rosie and Kitty. This wasn’t helped by the ‘head-hopping ‘ between them; in the middle of one character’s point of view, the voice of one of the other character would pop in.

And, for me, the dropping in of so many names of famous people in real life at that time felt contrived. One or two would have worked. As far as I was concerned so many were not needed; it’s blatantly obvious the author knows this era like the back of her own hand.

And, also, sometimes I felt as if time was skimmed over; I was just settling into a certain scene or set of circumstances and  the story moved on. However this is a personal thing; I so love this era I just wanted to read more about particular scenes or circumstances. I do realise that this could have made the book impossibly long,.. though it did cross my mind that Everybody’s Somebody could have stretched to a sequel… even a trilogy. 

But, as I’ve said, I’m only adding the above to balance the review.  I really liked this book, the plot is excellent with many twists and turns and Beryl Kingston has an easy to read writing style.

I would recommend Everybody’s Somebody to any reader who is interested in history, feminism and family sagas with a hint of mystery.

 Links;
 Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2y0a3v4
Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2wUVgmW
About the author
 
beryl

I was born in 1931 in Tooting, and when I was four was enrolled at a local dancing school run by a lady called Madam Hadley, which I attended until I was eight when the war began. Because of the war my school career was – shall we say – varied. I was evacuated twice, the first time to Felpham which is near Bognor Regis and the second to Harpenden in Hertfordshire, and consequently went to ten different schools. I ended up at Streatham Secondary School, an LCC grammar run on the Dalton system, which offered a few lessons as sparking points and then required pupils to be responsible for their own learning, either in study rooms with their teachers on hand to help and advise, or on their own in the library or the school hall. It suited me to a T. Then to King’s College London, where I read English and enjoyed myself a lot, but wasn’t particularly distinguished, having other things on my mind by then.

I am proud of the fact that I was in Tooting for the first four months of the blitz, and only left it to be evacuated again when our road was bombed and our house was uninhabitable. I spent the middle part of the war in Harpenden and returned to live in London again at the end of the war at the time of the V2’s, this time without my family.

When I was just sixteen I met the love of my life, who arrived on my doorstep in Air Force blue one February evening in the coldest winter on record. Despite heavy opposition from my parents, we married three years later during my first year at King’s and spent the next 53 years 11 months and 6 days living more and more happily together. We had three much loved children and five much loved grandchildren and once I’d embarked on my career as a novelist, researched all the books together, which was great fun. We finished work on ‘Gates of Paradise’ six weeks before he died. So this publication is special to me.

I have enjoyed two careers in my life – as a teacher from 1952 to 1985 (with ten years off to bring up my family, which some might consider a third career) and as a published writer from 1980 to date. I am also, although it sounds immodest to say it, an easy and charismatic public speaker, usually unfazed by any audience no matter how big or how small or what questions they might throw at me.

In the two schools where I was head of the English department, I deliberately covered the full range of age and ability, believing that as I was paid the largest salary I should carry the heaviest responsibility. My work was filmed by KCL Education Department for use in their PGCE course and I have given talks at various colleges and schools on a variety of educational subjects, from teaching poetry to ‘tackling’ sex education. I have never subscribed to the Gradgrind theory of education which is current now, but always believed that the job of a teacher is to enable her students to learn.

I have always been a political animal, taking part in street demonstrations, walking from Aldermaston to London, involved in the 1945 election despite the fact that I was only fourteen, taking to the streets again, along with a million others, to protest against the Iraq war when I was 72.

And as a last and rather lighter touch, I was a beauty queen in 1947. It wasn’t all protests!