My Review of Lyrics for the Loved Ones by Anne Goodwin

I received an Arc of Lyrics for the Loved Ones from the author in return for an honest review, and I gave 4* to the book.

Book Description:

After half a century confined in a psychiatric hospital, Matty has moved to a care home on the Cumbrian coast. Next year, she’ll be a hundred, and she intends to celebrate in style. Yet, before she can make the arrangements, her ‘maid’ goes missing.

Irene, a care assistant, aims to surprise Matty with a birthday visit from the child she gave up for adoption as a young woman. But, when lockdown shuts the care-home doors, all plans are put on hold.

But Matty won’t be beaten. At least not until the Black Lives Matter protests burst her bubble and buried secrets come to light.

Will she survive to a hundred? Will she see her ‘maid’ again? Will she meet her long-lost child?

Rooted in injustice, balanced with humour, this is a bittersweet story of reckoning with hidden histories in cloistered times.

My Review:

As always with Anne Goodwin’s work, Lyrics for the Loved Ones is a good story that is well written. This is the final episode of Matilda Windsor’s story.

I have previously reviewed both the first of Matty’s journey through life: Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home here and the sequel:  Stolen Summers : A heart-breaking tale of betrayal, confinement and dreams of escape (Matilda Windsor)  here. And, as with both of these books I will reiterate my words from these reviews: “I can only say how much I admire this author’s writing style and her ability to draw the reader into the world of the characters.”

None of us live in a vacuum; what goes on within our communities, and in the wider world, affects us. This is the same for Anne Goodwin’s characters. This story is set against the background of the Covid Pandemic and the protests of Black Lives Matter. So there are themes of frustration, anger, prejudices, technical and political and societal changes running through the whole book.

And, as always with Anne Goodwin’s work, every scene that portrays all of these themes, all of the reactions of the characters, are brilliantly shown. As well as the description of the actual physicality of the settings. So we are in the lounge of the care home, the cemeteries where one character goes to talk with those she knew when they were alive, the homes of the characters, and Matty’s bedroom.

The reader is also in Matty’s head; we comprehend and appreciate the confusion of her thoughts of all that is happening around her. And because the author is so expert in showing Matty’s dementia we completely believe her perspective on everything.

But her point of view (told in third person) isn’t the only one; the book alternates with other characters’ perspectives. And the backgrounds change.

And this was my only reservation about how the plot is organised. For me, how these other characters fitted into the story was initially confusing. Many times I needed to read, go back in the narrative, and re-read some chapters, some sections, to understand where and when they fitted in Matilda’s life. And, I must admit, this did slightly spoil my enjoyment of Lyrics for the Loved Ones. Anne Goodwin has a great skilful talent for maintaining a suspension of disbelief – but with some of these characters, it was sometimes a struggle to be truly involved in the story.

And one character’s dialogue is written in dialect; at first in very strong, constant Cumbrian dialect, but which later on in the story, is less so. (For which I was grateful; I felt it was hard enough not knowing how the character fitted in, without having to struggle with understanding what was said) To be fair though, the author did insert a page at the end of the book which is a glossary of terms on the dialect. Perhaps this might be better placed at the front of the book, especially in regards to the eBook? Just a thought.

None of the above takes away from the poignancy of Matilda Windsor’s story. She is a memorable protagonist. Through her life, her situation (which, unfortunately, was once all too true in British society not too long ago) the reader is taken through a whole range of human emotions: happiness and sadness, anger and acceptance, empathy and indignation.

I have to admit I have laughed and I have cried whilst reading each of these books. And, despite the personal reservations I’ve noted above, I have no reservations in thoroughly recommending all three to readers willing to take the journey with Matilda.

About Anne Goodwin:

Anne Goodwin’s drive to understand what makes people tick led to a career in clinical psychology. That same curiosity now powers her fiction.

Anne writes about the darkness that haunts her and is wary of artificial light. She makes stuff up to tell the truth about adversity, creating characters to care about and stories to make you think. She explores identity, mental health and social justice with compassion, humour and hope.

A prize-winning short-story writer, she has published three novels and a short story collection with small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize.

Away from her desk, Anne guides book-loving walkers through the Derbyshire landscape that inspired Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

Subscribers to her newsletter can download a free e-book of award-winning short stories.


My Review of Murder & Mischief (The Victorian Detectives Book 10) by Carol Hedges #crime #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

I received a copy of Murder and Mischief from the author as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, in return for an honest review.

Book Description:

It is January, a time of year when not much crime usually happens. But when Inspector Greig is unexpectedly summoned to the opulent Hampstead residence of Mr. James William Malin Barrowclough, a rich businessman, he embarks upon one of the strangest and most bizarre investigations that he has ever been involved in.

Why has Barrowclough been targeted? What is inside the mysterious parcels that keep arriving at Hill House, and why won’t he cooperate with the police? The case will take the Scotland Yard detectives on a journey out of London and into the victim’s past, to uncover the secrets and lies that haunt his present.

Murder & Mischief is the tenth novel in the series, and in the great tradition of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it entices the reader once again along the teeming streets and dimly gas~lit thoroughfares of Victorian London, where rich and poor, friend and foe alike mix and mingle.

My Review:

I’ve heard a lot about Carol Hedges’ Victorian Detectives series over the years, and been promising myself I will read one of her books. How I wish I hadn’t waited so long!  Murder and Mischief is a brilliant read; I loved both the story and the author’s distinctive writing style. I actually resented having to put the kindle down when other things needed doing.

Murder and Mischief is number ten of this author’s series, but I read it as a standalone book, and that was no problem at all. I’ve since checked some of the others in the series, and even though some of the characters are in the other books, and most of the settings are similar, this is a complete story in itself. There are no loose ends. In fact I should imagine that, for those readers who have followed the series, familiar characters and backgrounds must add to their enjoyment of each story.

The first thing I have to say is how much I enjoyed the voice of the omniscient narrator. Told from the various points of view, in the present tense, and in the first person, I could actually hear him (yes I do think it’s a “him”) in my head. The conversational tone, the way the reader is directly addressed, gives instant imagery to this shared observation. We are encouraged to view the disparate and unfair class divide, and actions of all the characters  in the same way as the narrator does.

The dialogue is skilfully written and adds another layer to each character, their standing in society, and their role in Murder and Mischief. And here the narrator comes into his own again, revealing often that the direct speech doesn’t reflect their internal dialogue.

The descriptions of the settings that the characters move around in are flawless – extremely atmospheric, and adding much to the story. In fact, the sense of place is so redolent that the streets, the houses, the workhouse, the public houses, the Chinese mission house, all almost become characters in their own right.

There are two main plots that intertwine and coalesce, threaded throughout with various themes of honesty and crime, indifference and cruelty, love and hatred. Sometimes the plot leaps from one thread to another in startling speed, and yet it works, reflecting the change of circumstance the characters find themselves in, and, for me, kept me enthralled.

 As I always say, I try not to give spoilers in my reviews, the book descriptions reveal enough of the story. I can only give a subjective appraisal. But, for anyone who likes the crime genre, a book with an utterly compelling plot, and an insight to Victorian London, this is for you. Murder and Mischief is a novel I can thoroughly recommend.

Carol Hedges

Carol Hedges’ writing has received much critical acclaim. Her Victorian Detectives series is set in 1860s London and features Detective Inspector Leo Stride and his side-kick Detective Sergeant Jack Cully. The ten books in the series are: Diamonds & Dust, Honour & Obey. Death & Dominion,Rack & Ruin, Wonders & Wickedness, Fear & Phantoms, Intrigue & Infamy, Fame & Fortune, Desire & Deceit, Murder & Mischief.

A Few Moments with RNA Saga Author Liz Harris #RNA #TuesdayBookBlog

Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts, who you’ll soon be able to read about here.

I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers.

This is the ninth of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m thrilled to be with Liz Harris

Hi Liz, and welcome. Lovely to see you here today.

Pleased to be joining you, Judith

When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one story?

At the outset, I’d intended to write a family saga centred upon the Linford family. There were to be three books, throughout the course of which the reader would follow three main story lines. I’d planned to end the first book in 1938, by which time I expected the novel to be about 120,000 words long.

The first book began at the end of 1919. 118,000 words later, I was still only in 1933, and I realised that I’d have to rethink my original idea. I decided that the reason I’d written so much at that stage was because each of the three story lines at the heart of the novel had so much meat on it that it could, in fact, have carried a novel on its own. And at that moment, I decided to extract each story line and make each into a 90,000 word novel.

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.Because of this change of plan, the three books in the Linford Series are contemporaneous. The challenge to me was to ensure that not one of the novels tells readers what happened to family members who are not central to that novel, and who have a story of their own. I’m delighted that a number of those who’ve reviewed the first two books in the series, The Dark Horizon and The Flame Within, have commented that each book can be read on its own, and that they can be read in any order.

Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

This is difficult to answer. In the case of a series that focuses on a family, as does the Linford Series – Book 1 tells the story of Lily and Robert Linford, Book 2 the story of Alice and Thomas Linford and Book 3 is the story of Dorothy Linford – and where there is a love story at the heart of each novel, it’s hard to divorce the two since the romance involves a member of the Linford family.

But to answer the question as it applies to my novels, it is the love story in each book that drives the story on, but this is ultimately a saga about a family. The relationships between the members of the family are as important in their way as the relationship between the hero and heroine, and they frequently impact upon each other.

Generally, in a novel where the romance is more important than the family story, I imagine that the spotlight would have to be on the hero and heroine throughout most of the novel. That works really well for a vast amount of romantic fiction, but that is not how I see a family saga, which, to my mind, is generational.

How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in.

Extremely important. A saga is an historical novel. An historical novel isn’t a non-fiction account of an historical period or an event. While it’s a novel that shows the reader how people lived at the time during which the novel is set, it goes beyond that – it transports the reader to that period.

People who read sagas want to walk alongside the characters who inhabit that fictional world, and to get to know the central families and what motivates them, and authors can only recreate the world in which their characters move if they have a sound knowledge of every aspect of the history of the relevant period.

How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

I use a huge piece of white card, purchased from the Art department in a local store, in order to keep the family tree in front of me. I draw a chart on part of the card on which I record the ages of the main Linfords in the years that are key to the story.

I keep an online up-to-date chapter plan for every novel, which I fill in at the end of writing every chapter. This enables me to locate very quickly something that I’ve written earlier in the book. On the chapter plan, I record the page at which the chapter begins, the time and place where it’s set, a brief outline of the content, the word count, and notes. The notes’ column is for key points that crop up in that chapter, such as hair colour, eye colour, name of servant, etc.

I have such a plan for each novel, and it’s easy to refer back to the plan when necessary. I find such a plan essential for purposes of continuity, and extremely helpful when it comes to editing the novel.

A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world, How important is the time period to the development of your narrative.

I think it’s very important. Just as we are reflections of the customs and beliefs of our time, so, too, should our characters reflect the mores of their time. Thanks to TV and films, most people today know enough about the 18th century, for example, for it to jar if they read a book with 18th characters who see the world through a 21st century sensibility. Authors should be alert to this.

If readers are to be drawn into a fictional world set in years gone by, a sense of place is vital. One of the ways of achieving this is subtly to introduce aspects of a time period that are different from those today. This will stimulate images of the period in the reader’s mind. These differences can also be used for dramatic effect, and might well even give birth to ideas for the story. A character could, for example, embody an aspect of life that is pertinent to the period in which the novel is set, and this could help to propel a page-turning plot.

Many thanks for having me as your guest, Judith. I’ve very much enjoyed thinking about, and then answering, your questions.

About the Author;

Liz is the author of the historical novels The Road Back (US Coffee Time and Romance Book of the Year), A Bargain Struck (RoNA shortlisted for the Best Historical Novel), The Lost Girl and the novella, A Western Heart. Her almost-contemporary novels are Evie Undercover and The Art of Deception. Liz’s latest two novels, The Dark Horizon and The Flame Within, are the first two books in the Linford Saga, which is set between the wars.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Novel Society, Liz gives talks and workshops at conferences and literary festivals, and regularly speaks to WI and book groups.



Twitter: @lizharrisauthor


Instagram:  liz.harris.52206

A Few Moments With #RNA #Saga Writer Elaine Roberts #TuesdayBookBlog

Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts.

I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers.

This is the eighth of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m thrilled to be with Elaine Roberts, who, alongside Francesca Capaldi Burgess (who I interviewed in the second of this series) is one of the RNA Saga Writers who runs the Write Minds blog .

Welcome, Elaine, and thank you for spending some time with us.

Thank you for inviting me on to your blog Judith, it’s lovely to be here.

  1. When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one story?

When I wrote the Foyles Bookshop Girls it was written as a one off, which was born from a Victorian novel I had written and not published, whereas The West End Girls was always a series. I’ve always wanted to write about families and relationships so that definitely put me in the saga category, even if I didn’t realise it when I started writing.

  • Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

I think most books have romance in them regardless of the genre but I would say my novels are more about relationships, which include family, friends and romance. We all have good and bad relationships, and they all have their ups and downs, that’s what makes them interesting. I believe as a reader you can empathise with what’s going on in a characters life, where you may not be able to with the war as a backdrop. War aside, every generation has had to deal with similar issues, which could be anything from financial hardship, alcohol or family relationship problems. I love writing about families and friendships, it’s the dynamics of it all that interests me, so it’s all in the mix for me.

  • How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in?

Research is a big topic, I would say you can’t write a historical/saga without doing the research. I always look on it as similar to an iceberg, what I put in the books is the tip of it but the amount I actually do is the chunk that sits under the water. I have a tendency to get lost in the information, especially on the internet. It’s a wonderful asset, but it’s always best to check the information is correct. For that reason I prefer to use reference books. I have a numerous amount of books on WW1, including recipe books, theatre shows, cinemas and a book that was written for a child. One of my most precious books details the timeline of when the bombs were actually dropped in London and how many were killed and injured in each case. I purchased several old maps of London, which have enabled me to work out things like routes taken to work and often, to add a complication, I discovered that road names have changed over time. I visited museums, including the Imperial War Museum, and downloaded some of their podcasts. Archive libraries were also valuable, to gain more information. I have pages of old newspapers, so that headlines could be mentioned in my novel. Pinterest is great for images of the time. The BBC Schools website is an excellent place to go, because it’s factual, but written for children, so easy to understand. I looked at the census for popular names at that time, as well as my own family tree. For my first book, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, I also looked at the history of the company and found some fabulous stories. All of it can help form the story line and give the feel for the time. The Foyles Bookshop Girls At War was written because I had seen a photograph of the devastation caused when a munitions factory blew up.

  • How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

Once, I fell into the trap of having a year long pregnancy for one of my characters. Thankfully, that was quite early on in my writing so that taught me  I needed more than my memory to keep on top of these things. I now have spreadsheets and chapter breakdowns, which are colour coded. I also create a family tree to remind me who is related to who, where they live, it also contains the character’s date of birth, when they passed away, and any anniversaries I might need to remember.

  • A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world, How important is the time period to the development of your narrative.

That’s a difficult question because it depends on the story and the event that’s leading it. My novels tend to run over no more than a two year period but everything can change quite quickly in a war setting and dealing with loss.  Showing a character dealing with things outside their normal life, is portraying they have the strength they didn’t know they had is a change. Personally I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule about it, but if there is I’m prepared to be corrected on it.

Thank you for the interesting questions and for having me on your blog, Judith.

It’s been so interesting, Elaine. Thank you

About The West End Girls

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Growing up on a farm in the country, Annie Cradwell has always dreamt of singing on stage. So when she hears her friend Joyce has a room to spare in London, she sets off with best friend Rose for an adventure beyond anything they could have imagined

In London, Annie and Rose stumble into jobs at the Lyceum Theatre. Being a dresser to capricious star Kitty Smythe wasn’t exactly what Annie had in mind. But then the musical director, Matthew Harris, offers her singing lessons. And Annie starts to wonder – could this be her chance? Or is it all too good to be true? 

With the threat of war in the air, everything is uncertain. Is there a place for hopes and dreams when so much is at stake? 

Annie, Rose and Joyce are three girls with very different dreams – but the same great friendship.

Amazon: The West End Girls

Author Bio

Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way again until she picked it up again in 2010. She joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. Elaine is very proud of her debut novel, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, which went on to become a saga trilogy. Her late husband always supported her dream and encouraged her to write. She, and her extended family, live in and around Dartford, Kent and her home is always busy with children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting.

Amazon: Author Page

Amazon Link:    The West End Girls

Facebook Author Page:  Elaine Roberts Facebook Author Page

Twitter:   @RobertsElaine11

My Review of Advent by Jane Fraser #TuesdayBookBub #NetGalley

Book Description:

Winter, 1904, and feisty twenty-one-year old Ellen has been summoned back from her new life in Hoboken, New Jersey, to the family farm on windswept Gower, in a last bid to prevent the impending death of her alcoholic father. 

On her return, she finds the family in disarray.  Ailing William is gambling away large swathes of Thomas land; frustrated Eleanor is mourning the husband she once knew; and Ellen’s younger twin brothers face difficult choices.

Ellen, tasked with putting her family’s lives in order, finds herself battling one impossible decision after another.  Resourceful, passionate, and forthright, can she remain in Gower, where being female still brings with it so many limitations?  Can she endure being so close to her lost love?  Will she choose home and duty, or excitement and opportunity across the Atlantic?

My Review:

I loved this book for so many reasons. Jane Fraser’s writing style is superb; the story is a good one, the characters well rounded, the dialogue immediately summons up each of them, the descriptions evoke instant images.There is not one word wasted.

The protagonist, Ellen, is multi layered, the reader becomes aware of her fragility, both emotionally and physically as the story progresses. She has striven to distance herself from her family’s needs, from a lost love, by going to America – yet still,on her return to the farm, she is drawn in by those needs, by that love.

To paraphrase a sentence in the book, “long days, short time.’ – the story only covers a brief six months, but each day is long, each day needs to be endured, dealt with by Ellen. New decisions have to be made. And all the while we are listening to her internal dialogue: learning her history, of her relationship with those in her life, getting to know them through her eyes; discovering how each fits into the society and era of Wales in the early twentieth century, what is expected of them. How, in the past, through no fault of her own, she didn’t fit in, and now refuses to succumb to others’ expectations.

What I most admire about this author’s writing is the brevity of words in bringing the background, the setting, the weather, to life on the page. A sentence, here and there of poetic prose immediately evokes a sense of place. Wonderful.

Whilst I realise that, for some readers, there may be not enough background fleshed out – and it’s difficult for me not to give spoilers here( i.e. Ellen’s life before America and her life there) – I felt the subtlety of the writing that covers both of these events was enough for me and the absence of that backdrop doesn’t take anything away from the story.

Advent is a book that will stay with me for a long time. I have no hesitation in recommending it to any reader who loves a well written historical family story.

Links to buy:


To read more about Jane, please visit the interview she gave previously on my blog:

My Review of Writedown: Lockdown in the Galloway Glens at the Time of Covid #Anthology #TuesdayBookBlog

Writedown: Lockdown in the Galloway Glens at the Time of Covid by [Margaret Elphinstone et al]

I received a copy of Writedown as member of Rose Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review.

I gave Writedown 4 out of 5*

Book Description:

Writedown provides a unique record of life in Galloway, south west Scotland during lockdown through the work of 22 writers in a collection of lyrical poetry, desperate rants, humour and quiet endurance. They tell the story of a community encountering unprecedented times.

My Review:

At a time when we we are once more in Lockdown/Tier whatever/ or equivalent, it was interesting to read the accounts of the twenty-two writers in the first Covid lockdown earlier this year.

This is a thought provoking collection which instantly recognises the strangeness of 2020 ( and maybe the first few months of 2021!). And yet it also shows how adaptable, as human beings, we are. However much we resent situations. These stories, accounts and poems, (which I viewed as individual diaries), reveal the uncertainty, the stoicism, the fear of unexpectedly losing the life we took for granted, the half-forgotten memories which became precious because of lost loved ones, or because of the anxiety that those times might not be repeated.

There is poignancy, humour, sadness, anger here. But, threaded throughout, there is also, a strange feeling of relief in being able to step away from normality, of not ‘having’ to do something, of not being tied to duty. And being able to look at the world around us, to see nature in all its glory; to appreciate it. In this collection I was glad to see what I saw in those months – an underlying sense of freedom

Writedown reveals a fascinating glimpse of an extraordinary time in our lives and I have no hesitation in recommending this book to any reader, as a reminder of 2020 in the years to come.

Link to buy:

A Few Moments with #RNA #FamilySaga writer Tracy Baines #TuesdayBookBlog

Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts.

I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers.

This is the fourth of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m delighted to be talking to Tracy Baines

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Welcome, Tracy, so happy you’re here today.

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Judith.

When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one story?

It was always going to be a series. My friend, author Margaret Graham had suggested I write a wartime series as they were popular. I’d wanted to set something in my home town of Cleethorpes for a long time. My parents managed a pub, The Pier Hotel opposite  Cleethorpes pier and I lived and breathed entertainment – but only from the safety of the wings. I wanted to set the stories among the people who work at the theatre in a small seaside town. Variety people have to be versatile; they sing, dance and take part in sketches – they have to be able to turn their hand to anything. It gave me a broad canvas to work with and the chance to have some larger than life characters. When the cast of a show come together they form a bond and become a family as such. It gave me lots to play around with – what is family after all?

Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

Not so much a family as a sense of community. I think that’s important – a sense of people coming together and helping each other, especially in wartime – for children would be evacuated and families torn apart. Family became a hotch-potch of people and that’s what interested me most of all. There’s still romance because that’s part and parcel of life but it’s not the only thing.

How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters livein.

Hugely important. I know the area of my story well, but I didn’t know what it was like in 1939. There has been huge change, some things remain but many of the places of entertainment had changed entirely – or disappeared altogether. I could find very little in the way of images of the interiors of the Empire theatre so I made one up based on what would be familiar to readers – what their expectations would be. I used to walk past the back of the theatre and knew there were windows at pavement level so imagined them high up on the wall of the dressing rooms. I had enough knowledge to work a layout. As for reading, I read many biographies of entertainers of the time such as Gracie Fields, Jessie Matthews and Evelyn Laye, as well as text books on World War 2 to fact check. I watched old movies that were filmed late 1939s early 1940s to get a sense of the furnishings and language. I watched a lot of Talking Pictures TV. I also looked for eyewitness accounts on the internet. The BBC site The People’s War was a great resource.

How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

I keep them in a file. I write down characters as they appear – their ages, details such as colour of hair and eyes, height, shape and distinguishing features. I have a chapter grid so I know what happens in each chapter and who appears in it. Each time I edit I add to or delete as necessary. This also helps me work out a time-line. People will have had birthdays even if they aren’t mentioned in the books. It became my ‘bible’.

When I was writing book two I could refer back to it and it helped enormously. It’s amazing how easily you can forget something quite crucial.

A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world. How important is the time period to the development of your narrative?

It’s vital. Everything has to be plausible. It has to fit with the confines and morals of the period. If you don’t get this right you lose the reader, not just for that book but for all your consequent books. It’s a matter of trust between the reader and the author. My Variety Girls inhabit the world of Variety theatre just before WW2. Variety theatre, child of the music hall was frowned upon by many. The attitudes then were not those of today. If you get the time period wrong you break the illusion.

Christmas with the Variety Girls

Will Christmas bring an unexpected reunion?

Frances O’Leary has always dreamed of being a dancer. But after war is declared and the theatres begin to close, Frances and the variety girls must search for work elsewhere.

However, Frances is hiding a secret. As far as her best friend Jessie knows, Frances is a young aunt who adores her niece, Imogen – but what she doesn’t know is that their relationship runs much deeper. Now, with the sweetheart who cruelly abandoned her returning to England, will her secret finally be revealed…?

A heartwarming festive saga for fans of Katie Flynn and Elaine Everest.

About Tracy Baines

Tracy Baines was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. When she was eight her parents took over the management of the pub opposite the pier, The Pier Hotel.  Her father opened one of the rooms as a music venue bringing performers such as Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Billy J Kramer and Billy Fury to start the ball rolling. So began her love of live entertainment.

From the age of sixteen, Tracy worked backstage during summer seasons, pantomimes and everything else in-between on the pier.  She met her husband when he was appearing with the Nolan Sisters and she was Assistant Stage Manager.

The first two books in the Variety Girls series are set in Cleethorpes, in the square mile that was her childhood home.

Tracy lives in Dorset with her husband and springer spaniel, Harry. Her children and grandchildren live close by.





A Few Moments with #RNA #FamilySaga writer Elaine Everest #TuesdayBookBlog

Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts.

I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers.

This is the third of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m delighted to be talking to Elaine Everest.

Welcome, Elaine, lovely to see you here today.

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Judith.

Let me start by asking, When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a family saga – or series of stories rather than one story?

That’s an interesting question as when I was fist contracted by Pan Macmillan it was for ‘The Woolworths Girls and one other book.’ I recall at an early lunch with my then editor I asked about writing series and was told they never commission series. Fast forward a year to publication of The Woolworths Girls, and by then I had submitted book two (The Butlins Girls) and was away on a writing retreat working on The Teashop Girls – a second contract. A phone call from my, editor who was thrilled to tell me the Woolworths book had gone into the bestseller charts. I was told to stop what I was writing and start another Woolies book. A series was born! Readers have been wonderful and still ask for more books set in that iconic store. I also started something of a trend and was named Queen of the Workplace Saga by The Bookseller. Since then I’ve started a series set on the Kent coast in WW2 about the lives of Nippies working in the well-known Lyon’s teashops, which seems to have started a trend for café and teashop novels.
I’m fortunate in that I’m not commissioned to write a series but can move between different books so that if readers enjoy a story I can write a second. My current novel, Christmas with the Teashop Girls is the second in the series and I’d love to return to tell more about the lives of Rose, Lily, Katie, and their extended families but that will be for another year as there are currently two books written for 2021. The first returns to Erith and the girls from Woolworth, but with a twist. It is 1905 and we follow matriarch Ruby Caselton as a young woman when moves into her new home in Alexandra Road

Which do think is more important, the family story or the romance?

It has to be the family story. Sagas contain the trials and tribulations of multi-generational families and although romance does play a part in their lives there is so much more to tell. Social history plays a big part as well as the warmth and frustrations of family life along with good times and bad.  I do love a good romance in my books, but I also enjoy throwing bricks at my girls, so their lives are never straightforward. Let’s face it our lives hardly ever run smoothly so why should a character in a book?

How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era, your characters live in

Research is paramount even before a book is suggested to my publisher. What’s that saying, ‘we live in interesting times?’ Well, so must my characters. Readers want to learn more about the town where our girls live and work. Research also throws up little nuggets of information we can weave a story around. In A Mother Forever (Jan/Mar 2021) I cover munitions workers in the 1920s and knowing my grandmother, Cissie Whiffen, worked in the very factory where my characters earned a living made it extra special. I even gave her a small part in the book. I only learned of her work after her death, so it is very much a fictional part for a real person.

We should never throw too much history into our sagas as the plot is paramount. It is easy to tell when new saga authors have done this – I call it ‘product placement!’ Although I’ve written many books set in WW2, I did venture back to Erith in the early 1900s and it was a joy to attend talks about brickworks, WW1 and hospitals treating the facially wounded in that area. Local history is a gift to a historical novelist.

How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?

Chatting to author friends we all have different methods. For me I like to have a nice new A5 hardback notebook – any excuse to buy stationery! This book has a few pages for each character and I diligently add information about them as I write the book. This becomes my bible, and if the time comes to write another in the seirs I have that book to go back on not only to read but to add to.

I’m just planning a book for 2022 that revisits Woolworths in the 1950s and this time I am writing about the older children and in a way I’ve moved on a generation, although my old characters will still be around. I’m excited about this as not only will it carry on the series, but I can show Erith and the surrounding area after WW2 and how people are still coping in a time where there is still rationing, and for some deprivation. This will mean I’ve covered fifty years of history of the town where I was born. Another one book and I’ll appear as a baby!

A saga demands change, both in its characters and its world, How important is the time period to the development of your narrative?

The time period is very important. For one thing it has to interest my reader and for another it is part of carry the story forward through the years. As my books are set in a real place I do feel an obligation to the families living there to get my story right. It may be that their loved ones lived through a tragedy, or perhaps a happy time, and to have my characters live it to and then be told ‘you got it right’ is truly satisfying. One of the biggest honours I’ve experienced was when I reader write to me to say her daughter had never been interested in history so when she had to take part in a school project her mum gave her a copy of my books and the young lady was hooked and now enjoys the subject. Thinking back, I too learned so much about the love of history from saga authors such as Dee Williams, Carol Rivers, and Iris Gower.
Although my Woolworths series is now moving into the 1950s – and also visited 1905 – I’m not sure if it had started then the books would have been so popular. World War Two is a big draw to readers as it can relates to their own family history with parents and grandparents having played their part in what was a most important time in world history. This is why I feel we authors should do our best to write the truth and not make it up as we go along.

About Elaine:

Elaine Everest hails from North West Kent and she grew up listening to stories of the war years in her hometown of Erith, which features in her bestselling Woolworths Girls series. A former journalist, and author of non-fiction books for dog owners, Elaine has written over one hundred short stories for the women’s magazine market. A winner of major competitions including BBC Radio short story of the year writer, and runner up in the Harry Bowling Prize she enjoys a writing challenge. This includes broadcasting live on radio and having to think on her feet when asked awkward questions while giving talks.

When she isn’t writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Hextable, Kent. She lives with her husband, Michael and Polish Lowland sheepdog, Henry.

Elaine’s next book, A Mother Forever, is available for pre order on all good selling site and available in supermarkets and bookstores from 4th March (hardback January 2021):

1905: Ruby Caselton may only be twenty-five years old but she already has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Heavily pregnant with her second child, penniless and exhausted, she is moving her family into a new home. The Caseltons left their last place when they couldn’t pay the rent, but Ruby’s husband Eddie has promised this will be a fresh start for them all. And Ruby desperately hopes that this time he will keep his word.

With five-year-old George at her feet and her mother having a cross word for everyone and everything, life is never dull at number thirteen Alexandra Road. It doesn’t take long before Eddie loses another job and once again hits the bottle. It’s up to Ruby to hold them all together, through thick and thin. She remembers the kind, caring man Eddie once was and just can’t give up on him entirely. What she doesn’t know is that Eddie has a secret, one so dark that he can’t bear to tell even Ruby . . .

Through Ruby’s grit and determination, she keeps food on the table and finds herself a community of neighbours on Alexandra Road. Stella, the matriarch from across the way, soon becomes a friend and confidante. She even dreams that Ruby will ditch the useless Eddie and take up with her eldest son, Frank. But when war breaks out in 1914, the heartbreaks and losses that follow will fracture their community, driving both Stella and Ruby to breaking point. Will their men ever return to them?

A Mother Forever is the moving story of one woman’s journey through the worst trials of her life – poverty, grief, betrayal – but through it all is the love and comfort she finds in family: the family we’re connected to through blood, but also the family we make for ourselves with neighbours and friends.



Twitter: @elaineeverest

Facebook :Elaine Everest Author

Amazon: (Christmas with the Teashop Girls)

Amazon: (A Mother Forever)

My Review of The Boy and the Lake by Adam Pelzman #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

The Boy and the Lake by [Adam Pelzman]

I received a copy of The Boy and the Lake from the author as member of Rose Amber’s Review Team in return for an honest review.

I gave The Boy and the Lake 4* out of 5*

Book Description:

Set against the backdrop of the Newark riots in 1967, a teenage Benjamin Baum leaves the city to spend the summer at an idyllic lake in northern New Jersey. While fishing from his grandparents’ dock, the dead body of a beloved neighbor floats to the water’s surface—a loss that shakes this Jewish community and reveals cracks in what appeared to be a perfect middle-class existence. Haunted by the sight of the woman’s corpse, Ben stubbornly searches for clues to her death, infuriating friends and family who view his unwelcome investigation as a threat to the comfortable lives they’ve built. As Ben’s suspicions mount, he’s forced to confront the terrifying possibility that his close-knit community is not what it seems to be—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darker forces may be at work.

My Review:

The Boy and the Lake is a coming of age story that was recommended to me. I have to admit it’s the first of this genre I’ve read, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I found it to be a good story well told. It’s a steady read, introspective and very well written; I did like the author’s writing style, especially the descriptive language of the settings, the seasons, the lake.

 And it’s the lake in New Jersey (a summer retreat for the protagonist, Ben, and his family before the riots in the nineteen- sixties made it too difficult to stay in the city) that is the background of the book.

The story is told from the first-person point of view by Ben. The reader learns of his relationship with his parents, Abe and Lillian, his friend, Missy and various members of the closed, committed Jewish community he lives in. And, through his eyes we see the rituals and ceremonies that are celebrated throughout the year. Learn of his attitudes towards them, whilst all the time he is also grappling to solve what he sees as an unexplained drowning of one of the neighbours, Helen.

 The discovery of the body in the lake by Ben and his grandfather is the lynch pin for all the action, for all the contemplation by the protagonist. How Helen drowned takes up quite a lot of the narrative, and of both his internal and spoken dialogue. But there is also the angst of youth: of indecisiveness, self-doubt, infatuation, guilt for thoughtless actions. And a retreat into childhood, where he needs the love and comfort of his mother (two attributes she cannot supply) that vies with an insight to adulthood, when he sees, with pity, the weakness in his father (who refuses to acknowledge the truth of his marriage). But there is also a strong bond between father and son which will be broken when Ben leaves the life he has always known, to go to university. A bond not only broken by distance but by the results of actions of the two of them.

As I said at the beginning, this is the first of this genre I have read. There is a much to enjoy: the descriptions, the many layers and growth of the protagonist, The twist at the end of the story. For readers who enjoy a coming of age story, I have no hesitation in recommending Adam Pelzman’s The Boy and the Lake.

Wildflower Graves: (Detective Ellie Reeves Book 2 by Rita Herron #TuesdayBookBlog

Wildflower Graves: A totally gripping mystery thriller (Detective Ellie Reeves Book 2) by [Rita Herron]

Book Description

The darkness closed around her. She tried to clear her vision, but there was no light, no noise, nothing. Only the emptiness, the echoing sound of being alone. Fear pulsed through her. The man had come out of nowhere. Who was he? Blinking away tears of frustration, in the pitch black she felt the floor and walls surrounding her. Cold. Steel. Bars.

Detective Ellie Reeves heads into the wilds of the Appalachian Mountains when she wants to get lost––to forget the whispers chasing her and the past that keeps her up at night. She’s sick of having to prove herself to her small town.

But hiking in the endless miles of woods isn’t the escape she was hoping for. One night, as dusk falls, a gust of wind blows some petals on to Ellie’s path. Following the trail, she finds a golden-haired young woman dead on a bed of daffodils, with a note: Monday’s child is fair of face.

When Ellie emerges from the forest, there is a message on her phone. Someone has sent her a picture of her colleague, Officer Shondra Eastwood, with the words: Can you find her, Detective Reeves? Ellie is racked with guilt––while she was busy hiding from life a killer was on the loose, and he has taken her beloved friend.

The wilderness, and its shadows, are the perfect hunting ground for a criminal––but what does the sinister nursery rhyme mean? It soon becomes clear when another dead woman, Tuesday’s Child, is found.

Ellie is up against a serial killer who will claim a victim for every day of the week, and in the next twenty-four hours there will be another body. As this ruthless murderer closes in on her, can she save more innocent women––and Shondra––from his clutches? Or will he get to Ellie first?

My Review:

I realised as soon as I was into the first chapter that I was reading the sequel of a previous book. The characters are already formed and interact well with one another, showing previous relationships and a backstory. And this is okay, there is enough spoken dialogue and internal dialogue that explains both the action and the denouement of the first book.

I liked the story, it is a good plot with an even pace, and enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. And I did like the author’s narrative writing style.

There were only a couple of things that disappointed me: the dialogue sometimes (and it is only sometimes) is written in a ‘telling style’, as though as an explanation to the reader. And, although the outdoor settings are evocative, occasionally there is unnecessary repetition. The initial descriptions are excellently written, but then there are extra clauses that aren’t needed and so slow down the action.

However, this doesn’t happen in the sections which describe theCold. Steel. Bars.the last place the victims know. ( I try not to give spoilers in my reviews – it’s a little difficult here) Suffice it to say, these well written settings are both sinister and chilling to read.

I found the explanation of the symbolism of wild flowers and nature fascinating; it’s obvious the author has researched this extensively and has cleverly interwoven them with the story.

All in all, I enjoyed the read and have no reservations in recommending this book to readers of crime fiction.

Many thanks to the author, Bookouture and NetGalley, for the copy of Wildflower Graves, in return for an honest review.

My Review of The Inconvenient Need to Belong by Paula Smedley #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

The Inconvenient Need to Belong by [Paula Smedley]

I received The Inconvenient Need to Belong from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT in return for an honest review.

I gave The Inconvenient Need to Belong 3*out of 5*

Book Description:

In the summer of 1953, twenty-year-old Alfie steals away from his troubled childhood home in London to start a new life in Exeter. His own life. And at first it’s everything he ever dreamed it would be. For the first time in his life Alfie feels like he belongs.

Today, in a care home in the Midlands, eighty-six-year-old Alfie is struggling to come to terms with his dark past.

Alfie’s story is one of regret, the mistakes we make, and the secrets even the most unassuming of us can hold. But it is also a story about family, friendship, the things we should treasure and protect, and how the choices we make can shape our lives and the lives of others.

My Review:

I found this book a difficult one to review.On the one hand there was much to enjoy about the story, it’s an interesting account of a man’s life: the friendships and relationships formed over a lifetime, the honest self realisation of someone nearing the end of his life, living within the controlled regime of a care home. A regime he rebels against in small ways,which emphasis the greater rebellion in his earlier life when he left home and the controlling rigid rules of his father. On the other I think an extra edit would have shortened and tightened the story, making it much stronger.

On the plus side I liked the portrayal of the protagonist, Alfie. Nicely rounded, the internal dialogue adds layers to the character as he recounts his life story. Unfortunately I didn’t get much of an insight to a lot of the other characters and I wonder if this is because there are too many minor ones, whose limited input add little to the story. However, there is another storyline that runs parallel to Alfie’s story, that of Julia. This is a much stronger portrayal and I think this character is worthy of a separate story of her own. But this is only my thought.

On the whole the dialogue is good and differentiates the characters. And there are evocative descriptions to give a few of the settings a good sense of place. And it is a poignant easy read that, I’m sure, will appeal to any reader who enjoys what reads as a fictional memoir.

MY Review of Wasteland (Operation Galton Book 2) by Terry Tyler #TuesdayBookBlog

Book Description:

“Those who escape ‘the system’ are left to survive outside society.  The fortunate find places in off-grid communities; the others disappear into the wasteland.”

The year: 2061. In the new UK megacities, the government watches every move you make.  Speech is no longer free—an ‘offensive’ word reaching the wrong ear means a social demerit and a hefty fine.  One too many demerits?  Job loss and eviction, with free transport to your nearest community for the homeless: the Hope Villages. 

Rae Farrer is the ultimate megacity girl – tech-loving, hard-working, law-abiding and content – until a shocking discovery about her birth forces her to question every aspect of life in UK Megacity 12.

On the other side of the supposedly safe megacity walls, a few wastelanders suspect that their freedom cannot last forever...

Wasteland is the stand-alone sequel to ‘Hope’, the concluding book in the two-part Operation Galton series, and Terry Tyler’s twenty-first publication.

My Review:

Brilliant plot that twists and turns, rounded, multi-layered characters, great dialogue, settings with an evocative sense of place. What else would a reader expect from Terry Tyler?.Ah yes, an excellent writing style. And it’s all here in Wasteland.

 Once upon a time I wouldn’t have read any dystopian novel but, because I have long been an admirer of her work, when I heard Terry Tyler had published a book of this the genre I thought I would give it a go. This is my review from the first of Project Renova Book One; Tipping Point:

 The setting of Wasteland, Terry’s latest book; which one could easily think it eerily suggestive of the future for how we are living at the moment ( well I thought so), is the year 2061 in the UK. The country is divided into megacities,ruled by the Nutricorp organisation and a government headed by a corrupt ( yet also manipulated) female Prime Minister. This is the second book of “Operation Galton”. When I reviewed Hope, the first book of this series, I wrote, “The people in power, whether in business or politics, influence and control the everyday life of the public; through lies and machinations… the depiction of authority and dominance in this future life is blatant in the control over the masses”. In Wasteland there is no subtlety, and the people know it; they are ruled by threats and fear. Yet they are compliant: some because, having been brought up in Hope villages; in government run programmes; in the absence of their biological parents, they know no different life. Others because it is easier to accept the limitations of freedom in return for the sophistication of modern technology, the availability of cosmetic surgery and access to social media.

The protagonist, Rae, is one of these young people. But when she discovers the history of her family, and that they may still be alive even though they, like others, chose to live in the wastelands; to be free, she knows she has to try and find them.

She escapes the confines of the megacity she lives in and faces the truth of the wastelanders’ lives: of ruined villages and towns, of hunger and danger. But she also finds kindness; through the organisation of food banks and the compassionate help of small communities living off the land.

But does she find her family? And is the Nutricorp organisation and Government content to leave the Wastelanders alone?

I’ll leave it at that. Suffice it to say, this latest book of Terry Tyler doesn’t disappoint and I can thoroughly recommend Wasteland to any reader who enjoys the genre… in fact, to any reader who wants to try this author’s work

My Review of You Can’t Go It Alone (Sunflower Book 1)by Jessie Cahalin #TuesdayBookBlog #relationships

Book Description:

Love, music and secrets are woven together in this poignant, heart-warming narrative.

Set in a Welsh village, the story explores the contrast in attitudes and opportunities between different generations of women. As the characters confront their secrets and fears, they discover truths about themselves and their relationships.
The reader is invited to laugh and cry, with the characters, and find joy in the simple things in life. Listen to the music and enjoy the food, as you peek inside the world of the inhabitants of Delfryn.

Let Sophie show you that no one can go it alone. Who knows, you may find some friends with big hearts…

My Review:

I really liked You Can’t Go It Alone, there are so many familiar ‘human life’ threads running throughout the relationships of the characters And there are a lot of up and down real life moments throughout, some poignant, some sad, some joyous, some humorous, some unexpected. All thought provoking. There is one sentence that foreshadows the troubles and upsets that will affect them;”The sun was trying to make an appearance but the clouds were dancing in the sky as if they intended to win the dual.”
The characters are well drawn and multi layered. From the protagonist, Sophie who, with her husband, Jack, has recently moved to the village in the hope of a new life (in more ways than one), to the owners of the cafe, Rosa, the ever optimist, and Matteo, a quick tempered, jealous husband and their daughter, the talented Olivia.  And then there is the delightful young Daisy.
The dialogue is exceptional; the personalities of the characters were instantly revealed to me, as the reader, through both the internal and the spoken speech.
It’s the Olive Tree Café  is where most of the action occurs and there is a strong sense of the cafe’s ambience. Indeed, all of the settings have a good sense of place and it’s almost as if the Delfryn itself is personified as a character in the story, with the interweaving, individual lives it holds at its centre.
Initially the story appears to be a lighthearted look at life in a Welsh village but it is soon revealed that, as the book description says, this really is an exploration of “the contrast in attitudes and opportunities between different generations of women”.
Jessie Cahalin has a lovely light touch with her poetic prose; there are numerous sections which immediately evoke wonderful images and emotions and many sentences that made me stop to reread them just for the sheer beauty of the language.
I recommend Jessie Cahalin’s debut novel; You Can’t Go It Alone is an interesting and thoughtful story
About the author:

Jessie is a bookish blogger, word warrior and intrepid virtual explorer. She loves to entertain with stories, and is never seen without: her camera, phone, notebook and handbag. Fellow authors have deemed her ‘creative and quirky’ and she wears these words like a blogging badge of honour.

Having overcome her fear of self-publishing, she is now living the dream of introducing the characters who have been hassling her for decades. Her debut novel, ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’, is a heart-warming tale about the challenges women still face in society. The novel has light-hearted moments and presents hope. As C. S. Lewis said, ‘We read to know we are not alone.’
Connecting with authors via her Books in my Handbag Blog is a blast. She showcases authors’ books in the popular Handbag Gallery and has fun meeting authors in her virtual world. Communicating with her authors, still gives Jessie a creative buzz.

Jessie Cahalin hails from Yorkshire, but as a book blogger, she has realised that her country of origin is probably The World. She loves to travel the world and collects cultural gems like a magpie. She searches for happy endings, where possible, and needs great coffee, food and music to give her inspiration.

Visit Jessie’s website at
Connect with her at:
Twitter @BooksInHandbag
Contact her at:

My Review of The Usurper King by Zeb Haradon #RBRT # TuesdayBook Blog


The Usurper King by [Haradon, Zeb]

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 The Usurper King 4* out of 5*

Book Description:

The Usurper King takes place in an alternate universe where the serial killer Ted Bundy was never apprehended and is now running for president in 2016.

Jim, a sufferer of a hybrid computer-biological virus that causes premature aging, tries to pay for his treatments by winning money on the game show ‘Guts!’, which has contestants competitively predict the future by reading animal entrails.

As Jim begins to find omens in the entrails of Bundy’s victory, and details of Bundy’s murderous past are uncovered, Jim and another contestant take it upon themselves to stop his ascent to power before it’s too late

 My Review:

For once I’m stuck on how to review a book. Not only because I’m not sure how to describe the genre; The Usurper King crosses both fantasy, humour and political thriller; all mixed up together with some humour that more than borders on satire. The author has a quirky writing style that I admired and there are some brilliant observations on the human condition. Yet parts of the story did make me cringe and skip small sections; those parts were the descriptions on extispicy: (the practice of predicting the future or reading omens by reading the entrails and liver of animals. And yes, it did exist; I looked it up. And yes, I do know I’m a wimp.

But here I’m reviewing the book itself so I’ll break it down. As I said Zeb Haradon can write, it’s a fascinating, slightly convoluted plot told in the protagonists’s first person point of view,  Jim Galesh; a forty year old, divorced alcoholic who has contracted a disease called TAP: Technologically Acquired Progeria, that is ageing him  quicker than normal. This character jumps off the page, he is so rounded and believable, in what is otherwise a fantastical scenario. And, generally, the other characters are multi layered as well.

 The dialogue is good and more than fills out the protagonist’s character.There is a good sense of place throughout. And I found the ending clever and a total surprise,

A couple of problems that occurred in places: the pacing of the plot was slightly erratic, and there are punctuation and syntax errors throughout.

 But, to end on a positive note and to emphasise comments I made earlier; Zeb Haradon is an author to watch out for. I recommend The Usurper King for its originality, its sardonic observations of life and a great writing style

Links to buy:


My Review of The Yellow Bills by Michelle McKenna #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlogs


the yellow bills
This book was submitted to Rosie’s Book Review Team#RBRT  and, as a member of the team I was given a copy of The Yellow Bills in return for an honest review.

 I gave The Yellow Bills  4* out of 5*

Book Description:

Mya loves planes and wants to be a pilot when she grows up. As luck would have it she comes across a flying school run by lieutenant Drake who awards his pupils splendid pilot hats when they graduate. Mya wants to join the class but there’s just one problem. She’s not a duck! Could Goose the little duckling with big flying ambitions be the key to Mya getting her pilot’s hat? Or will Mr Sour the teacher who never quite made the grade have other ideas…Inspired by authors such as Lewis Carroll, Roald Dahl and Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, Michelle weaves a story with the humour and invention of Nick Ward’s ‘Charlie Small’ series meets Dick King Smith’s wonder of the animal world

 My Review:  

This is a children’s book, suitable for around six to nine years. It’s a well written story of perseverance and friendship told with gentle humour, the text interspersed with lovely ink-drawn illustrations.

Mya is a strong well-rounded female protagonist with Goose as a great side-kick. Ill matched in appearance they may be, but bonded together with one aim, they make a good team.

The steadily-paced narrative is easy to follow, with just enough descriptive passages ,and the dialogue is straight-forward.

I really liked the author’s style of writing. I should imagine that many children will as well.

 And I love the brightly coloured, comical cover.

 The Yellow Bills is definitely one book I would recommend.