Rosie’s book review team

‘Inside of Me’ by Hazel McHaffie #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #RBRT

#RBRT Review Team

I read ‘Inside of Me’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

inside

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India Grayson is a happy 8-year-old girl, adored by her father, cherished by her mother. She’s devastated when her beloved father, Victor, suddenly disappears, leaving nothing but a neatly folded pile of clothes on a windy beach in Scotland. She bargains with God: no more chocolate … roast potatoes … packed lunch … if you send my daddy back.
Now 15 and in the grip of anorexia, she’s convinced she heard his voice on a crowded London station and is determined to find him.
Isolated and overwhelmed, her mother, Tonya, succumbs to gnawing doubts about the man she thought she knew. Where was he on the night two teenage girls went missing? What was he really doing when he was away for two days and nights without explanation? Who exactly was he? What dark secrets were haunting him?
A third teenager goes missing in London in the same week India thinks she heard his voice. Can he be involved? Should Tonya share her secret suspicions with the police? Will India ever forgive her if she does? And how far will India go to be reunited with him?
The revelation when it comes is much more challenging than Tonya ever dreamed of.
Body image issues and identity crises trouble us all at times; this gripping story reaches to the core of what makes us ourselves and how we live with our doubts and conflicts.

This is a very interesting novel, with an intelligent and thoughtful storyline and some well-crafted and believable characters. The subject matter covers many areas of body image, identity, gender and family relationships, in a very sympathetic way. The dynamics of family are well-portrayed and the prejudices, preconceptions and misconceptions we have about others, even those we are closest to, are well-drawn and feel authentic.

India has many of the attributes of a typical teenage girl, by turns angry, confused, needing her parents but needing her independence too. There were times however, when I wanted to feel more sympathy for her, but found this difficult because of the way she treated her mother. And while I appreciate that many girls of this age have conflicts like this with their mothers, there seemed to be no connection at all, which spoiled things a little for me.

Victor was drawn very well and in a very non-judgemental way, which was refreshing and valuable in the current climate. I found his storyline to be the most interesting of all the characters.

I felt very sorry for Tonya and felt she was treated rather unfairly. I would have liked things to have gone better for her – she seemed to have been left with all the issues, all the conflict, all the drama and difficulty and was expected to get on with it – which she did. There wasn’t a lot of sympathy here for her, or for the mistakes she made (which we all do). However, this portrayal was probably more realistic in the circumstances, and the author has stayed true to her story, and to her characters.

There were a few little details in the plot that I felt were a little too contrived, a little too coincidental, but on the whole this is a well-written, well-researched and enjoyable novel.

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‘Never Coming Back’ by @DLPalmer_Writer #fridayreads #RBRT #BookReview

#RBRT Review Team

I read ‘Never Coming Back’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

never-coming-back-deirdre-palmer

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Your best friend dies. All because of you. How do you go on?
Layla is struggling to come to terms with the death of her best friend, Danni, at a student party almost a year ago. Perhaps she never will – because only Layla knows the truth about what happened that night.
Danni’s parents, Melody and Reece, invite Layla for weekend visits to their Sussex farmhouse home, and she’s happy to accept – until Melody’s increasing dependence on her sends out warning signals. Although she knows it’s time to break away, for all their sakes, Layla’s guilt over Danni’s death has her returning, time and again.
When Layla meets Morgan, the connection between them is unmistakable. But until she confronts the past, she can’t face the future, let alone allow herself to fall in love.
There is only one way out: Layla must confess her secret to Danni’s parents. But can she risk breaking their hearts all over again? And will Morgan still love her, once he discovers the kind of person she really is?
It’s the hardest decision. And time is running out…

The topic of guilt and grief and how different people deal with loss and tragedy is at the heart of this extremely thoughtful and well-written novel. The characters are beautifully drawn and three-dimensional. Layla, in particular, is compelling; her mixed emotions, her grief, her guilt, vividly and realistically portrayed.

Her relationship with Melody and Reece is heart-breaking to read. I was so sorry for Melody, and at the same time frustrated because I so wanted her to move on, to find peace – to write a character that pulls on the emotions like that is a real skill.

Layla’s relationship with Morgan avoids the stereotypical romance that would have, for me, ruined the story. Layla is pulled, by the past and by her potential future too, but the connection between her and Morgan isn’t used as a cure all or a neat conclusion. This was really refreshing.

This is a slow-paced book, but that suits the mood and the subject matter perfectly. My only criticism would be that on occasion things are a little too drawn out. I would also like to have known more about Kate, Morgan’s girlfriend, and why she behaved as she did. The multiple viewpoints work well on the whole, and we do have some of the narrative from Kate’s point of view. Because of this, I did want her to be more complete as a character.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely book and will certainly look out for more by the author.

4 stars

‘Flesh’ by @dylanjmorgan #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

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I reviewed’Flesh’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

20793203

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It feeds. It grows. 

The small town of Vacant harbors a secret so terrifying that the local lawmen will do anything to keep it hidden—including murder. Something sinister stalks the surrounding woods, a horrifying creature thought to be only a mystical legend. It hunts at night, killing with ravenous voracity. Deputies Carson Manning and Kyle Brady are the harvesters: they find the victims, tie them to the baiting post. Sheriff Andrew Keller and Deputy Matthew Nielsen are the cleaners: they dispose of the corpses. But when Vacant’s townsfolk take matters into their own hands, nothing can contain the slaughter.

The deadly entity isn’t the only menace Sheriff Keller has to face. He has his own dark secret, a past he tries to hide behind frequent alcohol binges. Now that past has come back to haunt him and will throw him headlong into a traumatic situation that could mean life or death for him and those he holds dear.

I love a good horror story. I grew up devouring Stephen King books and I’ve never found another author that does small town spooky oppressive atmosphere, flawed but sympathetic characters and downright ‘bump in the night’ scares so well. So Dylan J. Morgan had a lot to live up to.

He has the small town atmosphere down perfectly. Vacant and its flawed inhabitants are compellingly drawn and easy to picture. I was torn between sympathy and frustration at Sheriff Keller and despised the deputies and the town mayor. Keller in particular was a complex character – beautifully done, he is the epitome of a man struggling to come to terms with his past, a man who knows his life has been a waste, who knows that he is weak, and yet still has that shred of humanity that has you rooting for him and wanting things to be alright.

The threat that the town faces is well -portrayed and satisfyingly scary, and the opening of the book is a real hook, paving the way for the gruesome secret at the heart of Vacant. The writing itself is technically flawless. The pacing is perfect, the dialogue authentic and the amount of gore pitched perfectly.

The only sticking point for me is the motivation of the ordinary townspeople. I didn’t quite buy that they would agree so whole-heartedly with how the police, preacher and major choose to deal with the threat to their town. These are nice, normal people. I’m not saying they can’t agree to it, only that I wanted to know more clearly why they had – why they were so convinced that this was the only option. There is scope perhaps for the religious element to be played up a bit more here. What Stephen King always does so well is make you believe that ordinary people can do dreadful things. And while this book was a compelling, competent and really enjoyable read, I didn’t completely believe it.

4 stars

‘Jasper – Book Two of the Tudor Trilogy’ by ‘tonyriches #bookreview #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

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I reviewed ‘Jasper – Book Two of the Tudor Trilogy’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Riches 2

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England 1461: The young King Edward of York has taken the country by force from King Henry VI of Lancaster. Sir Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, flees the massacre of his Welsh army at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross and plans a rebellion to return his half-brother King Henry to the throne. 
When King Henry is imprisoned by Edward in the Tower of London and murdered, Jasper escapes to Brittany with his young nephew, Henry Tudor. Then after the sudden death of King Edward and the mysterious disappearance of his sons, a new king, Edward’s brother Richard III takes the English Throne. With nothing but his wits and charm, Jasper sees his chance to make young Henry Tudor king with a daring and reckless invasion of England.
Set in the often brutal world of fifteenth century England, Wales, Scotland, France, Burgundy and Brittany, during the Wars of the Roses, this fast-paced story is one of courage and adventure, love and belief in the destiny of the Tudors. 

I love well-written fiction that’s based on actual historical events and people. Bringing these characters to life in an interesting and entertaining way while still maintaining historical accuracy is a difficult balance, but Tony Riches does this brilliantly. It’s no mean feat to research as thoroughly as Riches obviously has for this book, and then to turn that research into a gripping and engaging tale. The past is really brought to life.

I very much enjoyed the first in this trilogy, so was really looking forward to this novel. It doesn’t disappoint. The characterisation works really well, the writing is skilful and, for the most part, technically flawless (a few issues with tense at times, but nothing that really spoiled the reading experience), and the passion the author has for history comes across in the way that history is portrayed.

My only issue was that, as I don’t know a great deal about this period, I was sometimes a bit confused as to who was who and what their relationships to each other were. To be honest though, I’m not really sure what Riches could do to make this clearer, and possibly in a book that covers so much intrigue and differing alliances and allegiances, this is just how it has to be. These were complicated times, and Riches can’t change history! He does a very good job of writing it though.

4 stars

‘Beltane’by Alys West #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT @AlysWestYork

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I reviewed ‘Beltane’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team

beltane

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This is a very well-written, entertaining and enjoyable read. Alys West certainly knows how to tell a story.

Artist Zoe Rose is struggling to come up with the illustrations she needs to seal a lucrative contract and get her career on track. Her subject matter is King Arthur, so she heads to Glastonbury for inspiration as this is where Arthur is believed to have lived and where legend has it he is buried. Her friend Anna suggests she stays at a healing retreat, Anam Cara, run by Maeve, who Anna raves about, but who makes Zoe feel uncomfortable and unnerved.

In the garden of Anam Cara is a tree bearing a carving of a ‘Green Man’. Zoe is fascinated by the carving, and unwittingly releases a spell that begins a host of unsettling and dangerous events centred around handsome stranger Finn, who Zoe is instantly attracted to.

Finn and Zoe are great characters, easy to like and very believable, quite a feat considering they both have ‘gifts’. And Maeve is a well-crafted antagonist, a suitable foe for Finn and Zoe.

The author obviously knows Glastonbury well – the town is brought to life and it is easy to picture its streets and alleys, full of alternative shops and centres, and the wonderful Tor. It’s a fantastic setting for this kind of tale.

There were parts of the story that I felt went on a little too long and didn’t hold my interest, but on the whole this was a thoroughly engaging read and I look forward to more from this author.

4 stars

‘Redemption Song’ by Laura Wilkinson #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT @ScorpioScribble

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I reviewed ‘Redemption Song’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

redemption song

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Saffron and her mother Rain have moved to North Wales to start again after a tragedy that has caused them heartbreak, guilt, and confusion. Joe is also running, trying to escape a past that haunts him while simultaneously bent on revenge.

The story is told from three different points of view – Saffron, Rain and Joe. In many novels, this can be confusing, but Laura Wilkinson is a skilful writer and the point of view changes are seamless, with each character having their own distinct voice. The different points of view give a fresh perspective on many of the issues facing the characters and the conflicts between them.

The author has a real ability to give a sense of time and place. Small town North Wales was authentically portrayed and the other characters – Saffy’s new friend Ceri and her father in particular- are a joy to read, honestly portrayed and entertaining. The oppression and depression of a Welsh winter, the drabness of a seaside town off-season are beautifully contrasted with descriptions of the beauty of the countryside in sunshine and snow.

This isn’t a fast-paced drama. The histories of the characters come out slowly, the reader discovering things along with Saffy, Rain and Joe. This works well for the most part, but was a little frustrating at times.

The characters are, for the most part, easy to sympathise with. Rain is lovely, kind and caring if a little OTT at times, but her love for her daughter is clear. Joe too, while mysterious, is genuine and honest, and you know that whatever has happened in the past, there must be a good reason for it! Saffy, however, left me feeling conflicted. She seems very selfish, and is quite horrible to her lovely mum. This would be more understandable if Saffy was a teenager, but she is in her twenties and is studying to be a doctor. The stroppy, selfish, tantrum-throwing side of her character doesn’t seem to fit and I wondered why it didn’t put Joe off.

I also feel that the back stories aren’t developed enough. I don’t want to give too much away but Joe’s issues are dealt with a little too neatly and conveniently for me. This aspect of the plot could have been given more depth and detail.

The writing is solid, however, and it’s a well-crafted and enjoyable read.

4 stars

#RBRT ‘The Promise of Provence’ by Patricia Sands #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

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I read ‘The Promise of Provence’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

provence

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I’m not really a romance fan, but I was drawn to this book because I love France. But I admit I was a bit wary.

The beginning of this book really draws you in. Katherine goes home after a long day at work hoping to celebrate her anniversary but instead finds her life falling apart. Her husband has left her for a younger woman. Katherine is devastated, and her reaction is portrayed sympathetically and authentically. In too many books these scenarios are treated in a rather cavalier way – the feisty (god, I hate that word) protagonist seems to bounce back and quickly finds love or strength or whatever – but here Katherine suffers, questions herself and definitely hits those lows.

Her mother, an absolutely wonderful character, offers warmth, sympathy and love, and, along with cousin Andrea and friend Molly, helps Katherine to slowly come back to life. But there is more trouble and grief in store, and Katherine decides to go to Provence, a place that holds happy memories from her past.

The descriptions of Provence are wonderful; the detail is engaging and entertaining, especially if, like me, you love France. I can see, however, that it might be too much for some people and I do think readers need to be aware that this book is definitely part travelogue. For me though, that was the interesting bit and I really enjoyed reading about the countryside, the people, the food and the weather.

The book details two trips to France along with more about Katherine’s life back in Canada. This details her relationship with Molly and Molly’s problems. For me, this was part of the book that I really didn’t get along with. I like Katherine; I’m interested in her story. I didn’t like Molly at all, and I wondered why her trials and tribulations were part of the narrative. For me, they detracted from the main story and weren’t necessary. This is about Katherine and I think that the author has gone too far in bringing so much of Molly’s story into the novel.

Leaving out this side plot would also make the book shorter. It is a very long read and there were definitely lots of bits that I thought could have been cut. In all honesty, it could have been half the length.

That said, I surprised myself by enjoying this novel very much. There is something very warm about it, very engaging, and the author’s love of France comes across very clearly.

4 stars

The RBRT Golden Rose Awards

I am incredibly pleased that my dark historical novel ‘The Black Hours’ is one of the contenders for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team’s Golden Rose Awards.

Plain Golden Rose

Writers often tweet (or even email) me to ask me to vote for their books in various competition. More often than not I’ve never even read their book. Needless to say, I don’t vote for them unless I have read and enjoyed the book in question. So this isn’t a request for a vote. It’s just to let you know that voting for the awards is open until Sunday 6th December, and if you have read and genuinely enjoyed ‘The Black Hours’ then I would be delighted if you could find the time to pop along to Rosie’s blog and vote. There are plenty of other books nominated too, so do vote and support your favourite.

The nominations were made by the book review team from books reviewed between January and October 2015

Voting will be open for one week only from November 30th to December 6th

You may vote for TWO books per category.

Please only vote for a book that you believe deserves an award.  We value everyone’s contribution and you are not required to vote in each category; it may be that you will vote for just one book if there is only one that you a) have read and b) deem worthy of the accolade of the virtual

 Golden or Silver Rose!  

Obviously, authors are asked not to vote for their own books.

Winners and runners -up will be announced on December 15th.

Thank you.

#BookReview ‘Rosetta’ by Simon Cornish #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

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I read and reviewed ‘Rosetta’ as part of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

rosetta

Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com

This is a novella that is packed full of potential. The author can write and write really well, and the idea behind the story is intriguing.

When his former professor dies, Dr Graham Chandlers is asked to read a eulogy at the funeral. He is shocked when the professor’s adopted daughter, the enigmatic Rosetta of the title, performs an ancient ritual over the coffin in a language that only a handful of experts would understand.

Chandlers becomes intrigued by the events that led to the adoption of Rosetta and by what happened on the professor’s final dig. His investigations lead him to develop feeling for Rosetta, and also to uncover the mystery surrounding her and the dig.

The writing is beautifully crafted at times but there are places where it felt a little overdone, as if the author was trying too hard. There were places also where there was too much unnecessary detail. Conversely, I also felt that there was so much here that could have been developed. It was all over far too quickly and far too easily. The investigation could have, and should have, taken longer, and Graham and Rosetta’s relationship deserved far more time to develop. I also found it hard to believe that Graham accepted what had happened quite so easily – without giving too much away, an academic would not be so easily convinced. The answers seemed to fall into his lap.

With a little more depth and development, the plot could be thicker and more involved. Having said that, the characters and the situation are really interesting and the writing is wonderful in places. This deserves to be developed into a full-length novel.

3.5 stars

ROSIE’S BOOK REVIEW TEAM #RBRT ‘Back to Creative Writing School’ by Bridget Whelan #BOOKREVIEW @agoodconfession @rosieamber1

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I read and reviewed Bridget Whelan’s ‘Back to Creative Writing School’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Creative writing school

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The advent of self-publishing means that everyone can be a writer. Everyone can publish a book. But does that mean that everyone should? And is writing a skill that can be taught?

I don’t think it can. I think that an ability to write is a bit like an ability to paint. Or to sing. Anyone can (and probably should) have a go, but it doesn’t mean that, by following rules and conventions and going to classes, you can learn to do it well.

So if writing is a talent rather than a skill that can be learned, then is there a place for a book like this?

I think that there is. If writing is a talent, it can still be honed. And it should be honed. And the exercises in this upbeat, entertaining and easy to read book will certainly help to do that. There is so much wonderful advice here on aspects like planning, characterisation, plot, writing humour, writing horror, point of view; the list goes on. And the exercises are easy to follow and interesting and fun to do.

If you’re someone who thinks they can write and wants to have a go, then this book is a great place to start. And if you’re a writer who wants to brush up on their skills, or if you are having trouble with a particular aspect of your writing, then there are plenty of exercises in this book to help you.

There are a few things that I don’t necessarily subscribe to – for example, I’ve never felt the need or the inclination to go into my characters’ back stories , likes and dislikes etc. to the extent that is recommended here. But I know that a lot of writers find that helpful. That aside, this book is a great buy for aspiring and established writers alike.

4 stars