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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE NEW SHORE (Little Sister Island Book 3) by Caren J. Werlinger. The magic of Little Island is back, stronger than ever #RBRT #LGBT

Hi all:

I bring you a book by an author I discovered thanks to Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team and one that has become a firm favourite. And I love this series, so… how could I resist? I want to live in Little Sister!

The New Shore (Little Sister Island Book 3) by Caren J. Werlinger

The New Shore (Little Sister Island Book 3) by Caren J. Werlinger

Life on Little Sister Island is idyllic. Until it isn’t.

Now that the island will have its own teacher for the first time in decades, Rebecca Ahearn is tasked with making financial arrangements to build a new school room. While on the mainland, she barges straight into her first—and only—love, a woman she hasn’t seen in over forty years. Suddenly, the choices she has made for her life seem empty, and she begins to wonder if it was worth the sacrifice.

For Kathleen Halloran, distance and limited communication have been the keys to maintaining a tolerable relationship with her parents. She’d like to keep it that way, but when her father needs her help to take care of her mother—the woman she knows never loved her—she’s forced to confront the pain and resentment she can’t seem to let go of.

Kathleen’s mate, Molly Cooper, galvanizes the islanders to pitch in and help Kathleen and Rebecca weather the stormy seas ahead. The question is, can wounds that deep ever truly heal? Perhaps the magic of Little Sister Island can do what humans cannot—and make the impossible possible after all.

The New Shore is the third book in the Little Sister Island series.


https://www.amazon.com/Shore-Little-Sister-Island-Book-ebook/dp/B0BCR3YQLV/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shore-Little-Sister-Island-Book-ebook/dp/B0BCR3YQLV

https://www.amazon.es/Shore-Little-Sister-Island-English-ebook/dp/B0BCR3YQLV/

Author Caren J. Werlinger
Author Caren J. Werlinger

About the author:

Bestselling author Caren Werlinger published her first award-winning novel, Looking Through Windows, in 2008. Since then, she has published seventeen more novels, winning several more awards, including the 2021 Alice B medal. Influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather and the Brontë sisters, Caren writes literary fiction that features the struggles and joys of characters readers can identify with. Her stories cover a wide range of genres: historical fiction, contemporary drama, and fantasy, including the award-winning Dragonmage Saga, a fantasy trilogy set in ancient Ireland. She has lived in Virginia for thirty years where she practices physical therapy, teaches anatomy, and lives with her wife and their canine fur-children.

Check out her blog: http://cjwerlinger.wordpress.com

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

I only have to tell you that this is the seventh novel I read by Caren Werlinger for you to guess that I like her writing and her stories. This is also the third novel in the Little Island series, and I discovered the author thanks to the first novel in this series, When the Stars Sang, which introduced me to the special world of Little Sister and its inhabitants.

Little Sister is an island only connected to a bigger island —Big Sister, of course— through a ferry that only runs once a month in the winter, although much more often in the summer, with no mobile phone connectivity, which relies mostly on renewable energies for its everyday needs, and where only members of the original families and their descendants can own property and become permanent residents. They are furiously independent and treasure and preserve their traditions, a combination of old Irish (Celtic) customs and those of the original Native American inhabitants. Their ceremonies (and there are many for all kinds of occasions) are described lovingly, as are the lives and adventures of the inhabitants of the island. And those of us who have been following this choral story are always happy to catch up with them again.

One of the things I like best about this series is the fact that the author keeps adding onto the previous stories, and not just coming up with a new set of characters and leaving the old ones to make a small appearance as a secondary characters in somebody else’s book. Although we do not know the ins and outs of the lives of all of the characters of the island in detail, over these three volumes we have got to learn a lot of things about many of the people living there. Among them: the owner of the shop, the owner of the hotel and her husband, the retired teacher, and her sister, as well as the characters who played major parts in the previous two stories, Kathleen and Molly, who met and fell in love in the first book, and the new arrivals on the second novel, Meredith, and her parents, Irene and Roy. We also know Molly’s parents, her brothers, and her aunt, Rebecca, who is the Keeper and librarian (two tasks that go well together), tasked with keeping the records and the story of the community living in Little Sister. And a few more things.

This time we get to learn more details about Rebecca’s past and some more secrets about her role; Kathleen has to face the difficult relationship with her parents, discovers that there is more to her family than she realised, and her connection to the island is put to the test; and Meredith and her parents, who are happy to live in Little Island, are confronted with some unexpected challenges. All of those characters have to face questions about themselves, their identities, and their priorities. How important is life in Little Island and how much are they prepared to sacrifice or give up to continue living there?

I have mentioned the choral and community elements of this series, and that means that there are many themes explored in this book. The close connection of the island with the natural world and the seasons is reflected in the way the story is structured and how it follows a chronological order, with the passing of time and the changes in weather marking and dictating what life is like. Much can happen in a year. We have a variety of ceremonies and events (marriages, bondings), deaths and births, we have new projects coming to fruition, we have health scares, we have secrets uncovered and secrets kept, we have people moving away and others coming back, and although all the characters have their role, the women’s connection to the island and the bonds and mutual support is what keeps the community alive and full of positive energy.

As usual, the writing is gorgeous. There are some beautiful descriptions of the landscape, the weather, and the ceremonies that have something magical about them. The third-person narrative alternates between quite a few of the characters, and that gives more depth and closeness to the story, as we get to understand how the different individuals feel, and also see what the people around them think and what worries them. The changes in perspective are clearly signalled, and each one of the characters is so different in outlook from the rest that it is impossible to get them confused. There are very touching and moving moments, some tough and hurtful ones that would test anybody’s goodness and kindness (because not all the characters are likeable, and some are anything but), some funny events, but also some sad ones. We might agree or disagree with some of the decisions taken, but the author makes sure we get to follow the mental process of the people involved, and we even experience the struggle and doubts they have to face. As is the case in real life, there are no easy answers, and that is one of the things that make us love the island and its people even more because nobody on it is perfect, but they all work hard, help each other, and try to keep their community alive, and these days, that is something most of us can only dream of.

As a warning, I would mention, as I have done in the past, that there are some sex scenes in the book. These are not many, and they are not excessively detailed or over the top (and that is coming from somebody who doesn’t enjoy these kinds of scenes), but I know that is something down to personal taste, so I thought I’d mention it.

On the other hand, those who enjoy diversity in literature will find plenty here. One of the many joys of the book is to see a community steeped in tradition but open to all kinds of roles for all kinds of people, happy to have a woman as a sheriff, to embrace LGBT relationships, to accept behaviours that seem, at the very least, peculiar and eccentric, to welcome with open arms strangers (as long as they don’t try to impose on them or change their way of life) and willing to accept supernatural and magic events without blinking an eye. And those who love dogs (and cats) have some stars to make them smile as well. I so love Blossom!

The ending is as it should be, in my opinion. Life goes on, and we are not left with a cliffhanger, although there are many more stories to tell, and much more to come. If there will be or not, will depend on the author. Fingers crossed!

So, yes, of course, I recommend this novel. Please, make sure to read the other two novels in the series first. If you have, you don’t need to worry if it’s been a while since you read them, though, because there are enough hints and references to previous events to refresh your memory, and I had no difficulty recalling all the relevant information. In fact, after reading a few pages, I felt perfectly at home, as if I was visiting some old friends. And that is what Little Sister and its characters have become for the readers of the series: a refuge, a magical place we can visit when we need a break from our everyday lives, and one where we are all welcome, no matter where we come from or what our issues might be. I enjoyed it enormously, I recommend it to readers of the previous two novels and to anybody who enjoys beautiful language, great characters, a magical setting, and needs a bit of a boost. Don’t ask me which of the three novels is my favourite, because they all make up an organic whole, and one I hope the author will keep adding to.

For those of you who enjoy writing samples, here I leave you a post by the author where she announces the publication of this novel, and she shares the first chapter of it. That will give you a chance to see what you think about her style of writing and to get a taster or the story.

https://cjwerlinger.wordpress.com/2022/08/11/the-new-shore/

Thanks to Rosie and the members of her team for their support, thanks to the author for her wonderful book (and I hope she keeps writing more in this series), and thanks to all of you for reading my reviews, for reading books, and for sharing your opinions with others.  Keep smiling and keep hopeful! ♥

Oh, and before you leave, I promised you last week that I would share a link to the article about the miniatures, and here it is. It is in Catalan, but you can check the pictures. There are a few. 

https://www.el3.cat/noticia/78208/les-cotxeres-de-sants-acullen-la-20a-fira-dartesans-miniaturistes-i-exposicio-de-cases-de-

 

 

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview DEAD OF WINTER: Journey 7, Revenant Pass and Journey 8, The Lost Library by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene (@teagangeneviene) Powers, new and old, connections, and a quest.

Hi all: Today I bring you the review of two more of the Journeys that comprise Dead of Winter. Hold on to your seats, because things are getting wild!

I am a fan of multi-talented Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, follow her blog (where she creates wonderful serials, with the participation of her readers), and have read several of her novels and novellas. She writes in a variety of genres (and she likes to experiment and combine those, rather than stick to the rules), but there are always elements of fancy, wonder, and magic weaved into her stories. Although I don’t usually read fantasy, I have no hesitation reading or recommending this series, even to people who aren’t that keen on the genre. I love the way she combines some unlikely and beautifully described settings with wonderful characters, playful dialogues (her love of research is legendary, and she always finds historically accurate words and long-forgotten expressions that delight readers), and highly imaginative storylines. No matter how many of her books you read, you’re bound to be surprised by her stories.

Author Teagan Geneviene

About the author:

Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene lives in a “high desert” town in the Southwest of the USA.

Teagan had always devoured fantasy novels of every type. Then one day there was no new book readily at hand for reading — so she decided to write one. And she hasn’t stopped writing since.

Her work is colored by her experiences from living in the southern states and the desert southwest. Teagan most often writes in the fantasy genre, but she also writes cozy mysteries. Whether it’s a 1920s mystery, a steampunk adventure, or urban fantasy, her stories have a strong element of whimsy.

Founder of the Three Things method of storytelling, her blog “Teagan’s Books” contains serial stories written according to “things” from viewers. Http://www.teagansbooks.com


Major influences include Agatha Christie, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, and Charlaine Harris.

See book trailer videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoM-z7_iH5t2_7aNpy3vG-Q?

https://www.amazon.com/Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/e/B00HHDXHVM/

Dead of Winter Journey 7. Revenant Pass by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Dead of Winter: Journey 7, Revenant Pass by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene 

Dead of Winter: Journey 7, Revenant Pass begins with the ancient watcher’s memory of the Library of the Society of Deae Matres — and its fall. We also get a look into the thought process of treacherous Arawn. Then the story picks up where we left Emlyn and company, trapped in the Realm of the Dead.
This Journey is shorter than some, but adventure abounds. Some characters go missing. You’ll have to read to learn more.
Come, be a part of the Journeys.

Kindle:  relinks.me/B098MS8P48

Paperback:  relinks.me/B098GV1G5V

 

My review:

I was provided an early ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I am a fan of the author, I have read all the journeys in Dead of Winter so far and think the serial format suits the story well, because it builds up the characters, and the connections between them are revealed slowly, without overwhelming the readers. People who don’t have a lot of time to read don’t need to worry about getting too caught up in the story and not being able to stop. The author has chosen the length of the episodes and the perfect point to split up the novel, and we come to the end of each journey both satisfied with what happens and left wanting more.

This episode, although short, is very important, as we get to understand who Haldis —whom we knew as the Watcher in the early journeys— is (although we might have had our suspicions), and how her story links to that of the Deae Matres. It hints at what is to come, and it drags us even deeper into the story. Some of the connections and the links that we might have suspected are coming to the fore, and some of the questions we might have had are slowly getting answered.

We see things from the perspective of several characters (even the baddy), and we also get deeper into Emlyn’s thoughts, her doubts, her sensations, and that makes us empathise even more with her. She is quickly getting out of her shell and learning about other cultures and lifestyles, although she still doubts herself at times and wonders what her right place is and what the future holds in stock for her.

This journey includes some wonderful descriptions, as usual, and action scenes and scary moments aplenty. We are getting closer than ever to learning what happened in the past and discovering how that history is linked to the protagonists and the present. The warnings and the threats feel more urgent as well, and events seem to be speeding up. Characters disappear, mysteries abound, and there are many questions left answered.

I loved this journey, and I felt as if things were falling into place. I am in awe at the way everything is interconnected, and I can’t wait to learn what happens next. Thankfully, I won’t have to wait long.

Just a reminder that this is a complete story split up into journeys, and readers need to read them in order to be able to follow the plot and fully appreciate its complexity. The author includes a list of characters and locations at the end, so even if it’s been some time since you read the previous journey, you can easily refresh your memory and pick up the story where you left off.

Recommended to anybody who loves great characters, beautiful writing (whatever their thoughts on fantasy), and imaginative stories, especially to those who appreciate shorter reads but like the idea of a serial.

Dead of Winter Journey 8. The Lost Library by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Dead of Winter: Journey 8, The Lost Library by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Throughout the previous volumes the fantasy aspect of this epic has gradually built. In Journey 8, that fantastical element comes to the fore.
Emlyn and her companions search for the fabled Lost Library. The entire world is at risk, so they hope answers will be there. However, a new complication arises and the fate of one Deae Matres hangs in the balance.
Meanwhile Arawn, who tore the Veil between the worlds of the living and dead, tries to make an evil alliance with a long dead king who was known for his ruthlessness.
Remove the limits from your imagination and join Emlyn and company on this extraordinary adventure.
 

Kindle:  relinks.me/B09C6MPTYT

Paperback:  relinks.me/B09C34XR7P

My review:

Journey 8 is a gripping one, as there are plenty of adventures, and we gain some fascinating insights into some of the characters’ backgrounds (already hinted at in Journey 7) and learn more about the history of the Deae Matres and the lost library of the title.

As the author tells us in her preface, this journey is slightly different in structure, as Haldis, the Watcher, has now become part of the action, and she is intriguing, to say the least. She becomes a guide to the rest of the characters, but she is unreliable, partly because she is old, and her memory is far from perfect, and partly, perhaps, because there are things she is keeping to herself.

Arawn, the baddiest of the bad, makes an appearance that puts an even darker spin on things, and although the Deae Matres are together again, things are not as they were before. Haldis promises there is a solution, but not everybody is convinced by her suggestion.

Three of the protagonists of the story embark on a quest, becoming seekers (I’m trying to avoid any spoilers), and what they find reminded me of some of the most imaginative and wonderful stories the author has come up with in her blog and in previous novels. She definitely delivers in her promise of fantastic elements. Her descriptions are eye-poppingly incredible and beautiful, and I can’t wait to see what else the trio will find.

Just a quick reminder that you need to read all the journeys in order, and it is easy to catch up on previous adventures as the author includes a list of characters and settings at the end that is updated with each installment, as relevant.

A magical read that is becoming more intense and intriguing as it goes. Unmissable.

Thanks to the author for keeping the story coming (it has become something to look forward to, and reliable as well), thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep reading, and about all, take care and stay safe. 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog No Woman is an Island: Inspiring and Empowering International Women (Pandora’s Boxed Set) by Liza Perrat (@LizaPerrat), Linda Gillard, Lorna Fergusson, Clare Flynn, Helena Halme A highly recommended set of stories #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you the review of a boxed set today, 5 full-length novels, so, as you can imagine, it’s going to be long, so you’ve been warned. It’s a fantastic collection though, so you might want to read on.

No Woman Is an Island boxed set

No Woman is an Island: Inspiring and Empowering International Women (Pandora’s Boxed Set) by Liza Perrat (@LizaPerrat)Linda GillardLorna FergussonClare FlynnHelena Halme 

Together for the first time: award-winners and trail-blazers. Five international women authors showcase five unforgettable novels.

Blood Rose Angel, by Liza Perrat
1348, France. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it––heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.
Despite her bastardy, Héloïse has earned respect in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for her midwifery and healing skills. Then the Black Death sweeps into France.

Hidden, by Linda Gillard
A birth. A death. Hidden for a hundred years.
1917.“Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the war.” When Miranda Norton inherits Myddleton Mote and its art collection she is haunted by the dark secrets of a woman imprisoned in a reckless marriage.

The Chase, by Lorna Fergusson
The past will hunt you down.
Gerald Feldwick tells his wife Netty that in France they can put the past behind them. Alone in an old house, deep in the woods of the Dordogne, Netty is not so sure.
Netty is right.

The Chalky Sea, by Clare Flynn
July 1940. When bombs fall, the world changes for two troubled people.
Gwen knows her husband might die in the field but thought her sleepy English seaside town was safe. Amid horror and loss, she meets Jim Armstrong, a soldier far from the cosy life of his Ontario farm. Can war also bring salvation?

Coffee and Vodka, by Helena Halme
Eeva doesn’t want to remember, but in Finland she must face her past.
‘In Stockholm, everything is bigger and better.’ Her Pappa’s hopes for a better life in another country adjust to the harsh reality but one night, Eeva’s world falls apart. Thirty years later, Eeva needs to know what happened.
 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B094473R67/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B094473R67/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B094473R67/

About the authors:

Author Liza Perrat

Liza Perrat

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.
When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist.
Several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the historical “The Bone Angel” series set against a backdrop of rural France during the French Revolution. The second in the series, Wolfsangel, set during the WWII German Occupation of France, was published in October, 2013. The third in the series, Blood Rose Angel, set during the 14th century Black Plague years was published in November, 2015.

The Silent Kookaburra, a domestic noir, psychological suspense novel set in 1970s Australia, was published in November, 2016. The second in this Australian family drama series, The Swooping Magpie, was published in October, 2018. The third in this series, The Lost Blackbird, was published in August, 2020.

Friends & Other Strangers is a collection of award-winning short stories from Downunder.

Liza is available for virtual book club visits (via Skype) upon request.

https://www.amazon.com/Liza-Perrat/e/B008385OF2/

 

Linda Gillard

Linda Gillard lives in North Lanarkshire, Scotland. She’s the author of nine novels, including STAR GAZING (Piatkus), shortlisted in 2009 for Romantic Novel of the Year and The Robin Jenkins Literary Award for writing that promotes the Scottish landscape.

Linda’s fourth novel, HOUSE OF SILENCE became a Kindle bestseller. It was selected by Amazon as one of their Top Ten Best of 2011 in the Indie Author category.

In 2019 Amazon’s Lake Union imprint re-published THE TRYSTING TREE as THE MEMORY TREE and it became a #1 Kindle bestseller.

https://www.amazon.com/Linda-Gillard/e/B0034PV6ZQ/

Author Lorna Fergusson

Lorna Fergusson

Lorna Fergusson was born in Scotland and lives in Oxford with her husband and two sons. She runs Fictionfire Literary Consultancy and for many years has also taught creative writing, including at the University of Winchester’s Writers’ Festival and for Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education’s various writing programmes. Her novel ‘The Chase’ was originally published by Bloomsbury and is now republished by Fictionfire Press on Kindle and as a paperback. Her stories have won an Ian St James Award, been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and longlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize. Her chapter on Pre-writing appears in ‘Studying Creative Writing’, published by The Professional and Higher Partnership. Her story, ‘Reputation’, a finalist in the Historical Novel Society’s short story prize 2012, appears in the e-anthology ‘The Beggar at the Gate’. She is working on a collection of historical stories and a novel, the opening of which won Words with Jam Magazine’s First Page competition in 2014. Also in 2014, she won the Historical Novel Society’s London 2014 Short Story Award with her story ‘Salt’, which now appears in the Historical Novel Society’s anthology ‘Distant Echoes’.

https://www.amazon.com/Lorna-Fergusson/e/B0034PRAP6/

Author Clare Flynn

 

Clare Flynn

Historical novelist Clare Flynn is a former global marketing director and business owner. She now lives in Eastbourne on the south coast of England and most of her time these days is spent writing her novels – when she’s not gazing out of her windows at the sea.

Clare is the author of twelve novels and a short story collection. Her books deal with displacement – her characters are wrenched away from their comfortable existences and forced to face new challenges – often in outposts of an empire which largely disappeared after WW2.

Her latest novel, A Painter in Penang, was published on 6th October 2020. It is set in Malaysia in 1948 during the Malayan Emergency.

Clare’s novels often feature places she knows well and she does extensive research to build the period and geographic flavour of her books. A Greater World – 1920s Australia; Kurinji Flowers – pre-Independence India; Letters from a Patchwork Quilt – nineteenth century industrial England and the USA; The Green Ribbons – the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century in rural England, The Chalky Sea – World War II England (and Canada) and its sequels The Alien Corn and The Frozen River – post WW2 Canada. She has also published a collection of short stories – both historical and contemporary, A Fine Pair of Shoes and Other Stories.

Fluent in Italian, she loves spending time in Italy. In her spare time she likes to quilt, paint and travel as often and as widely as possible. She is an active member of the Historical Novel Society, the Romantic Novelists Association, The Society of Authors, and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

Get a free copy of Clare’s exclusive short story collection, A Fine Pair of Shoes, at www.clareflynn.co.uk

https://www.amazon.com/Clare-Flynn/e/B008O4T2LC/

Author Helena Halme

Helena Halme

Helena writes Nordic fiction with a hint of both Romance and Noir. Her latest series, Love on the Island, is set on the quirky and serenely beautiful Åland Islands filled with tourists in the summer and covered by snow and ice in winter.

Prize-winning author, former BBC journalist, bookseller, and magazine editor, Helena Halme holds an MSc in Marketing and an MA in Creative Writing. Full-time author and self-publishing coach, Helena also acts as Nordic Ambassador for The Alliance of Independent Authors and has published twelve Nordic fiction titles and three nonfiction books.

Apart from writing stories, Helena is addicted to Nordic Noir and dances to Abba songs when nobody’s watching.

You can find more about Helena and her books on www.helenahalme.com, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/HelenaHalmeAuthor/), Twitter (@helenahalme) and Instagram (@helenahalme) 

https://www.amazon.com/Helena-Halme/e/B009C8N4W2/

My review:

 I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the authors for this opportunity.

I am known for my long reviews, but I’ll try to provide brief reviews for each one of the novels that compose the boxed set, which comes with my highest recommendation.

Blood Rose Angel, by Liza Perrat.

I read and reviewed this novel in full a while back, and you can read my original review, here.

For the sake of briefness, I include few paragraphs below:

This is the third novel in the series The Bone Angel. We are in Lucie-sur-Vionne, France, 1348. The whole series is set in the same location and follows the characters of the female line of a family who are linked by their midwifery skills (or wish to care for others) and by the passing of a talisman, the bone angel of the title. All the women of the series feel a strange connection to this angel (whose story/legend we hear, first- hand, in this book) and to each other, although this novel is, so far, the one set further back in the past, and at a very momentous time (like all the others). The Black Death decimated a large part of the world population and this novel offers us the perspective of the people who lived through it and survived to tell the tale.

 Midwife Héloïse is the main character, a strong woman, dedicated and caring, who has had a troubled and difficult childhood, and whose vocation gets her into plenty of difficulties.

The novel’s plot is fascinating and as good as any historical fiction I have read. History and fiction blend seamlessly to create a story that is gripping, emotionally satisfying, and informative. Even when we might guess some of the twists and turns, they are well-resolved, and the ending is satisfying. The life of the villagers is well observed, as is the relationship between the different classes, the politics of the era, the role of religion, the power held by nobles and the church, the hypocrisy, superstition, and prejudice, and the social mores and roles of the different genders. The descriptions of the houses, clothing, medical and midwifery procedures, and the everyday life are detailed enough to make us feel immersed in the era without slowing down the plot, that is a page turner in its own right. I particularly enjoyed the sense of community (strongly dominated by women) and the optimism that permeates the novel, showing the strength of the human spirit even in the hardest of circumstances. The author includes a glossary at the end that explains the words no longer in use that appear in the novel and also provides background information on the Black Death and the historical figures that grace its pages. Although it is evident that the book involved a great deal of research, this is flawlessly weaved into the story and adds to the feeling of authenticity.

Although part of a series, the novel can be read as a stand alone (although I recommend the rest as well).

Another great novel by Liza Perrat and one of my favourites. I will not forget it in a hurry and I hope to keep reading more novels by the author. I recommend it to readers of historical fiction, especially those interested in the era, the Black Death, and medical techniques of the time, readers of women’s fiction, and anybody looking for great characters and a writer to follow.

Hidden, by Linda Gillard

This is the first novel I read by Linda Gillard, and, to save you time, in case you’re in a hurry, I can tell you I’ve added her name to my list of authors to watch out for.

This historical novel is also a dual-time story, combining a contemporary chronological timeline (set in 2018) following Miranda Norton, a woman who inherits a beautiful building from a famous father she never knew, and decides to move in with her whole family (her mother, her adult pregnant daughter and son-in-law and her twin teenage sons) to make ends meet, and the story of a previous owner, Esme Howard, a painter whose family had lived in the house for generations, who after several losses during the Great War, makes a decision that will have drastic consequences for all involved. Her story takes place from 1917 until the very end of the war, and there are all kinds of links and connections between the two stories, and even a touch of the paranormal.

Myddleton Mote, the property that links both time periods and sets of characters, becomes a protagonist in its own right, and there is something of the Gothic romance in the story, with multitudes of secrets, forbidden love stories, people being kept prisoner, losses and bereavements, hidden rooms, mysterious findings, rumours and disappearances, heroes and villains, some unexplained events (a ghost, perhaps), and even a moat. These are not the only themes touched upon by the novel. Women in abusive relationships take a central role in both stories, but there is also plenty of information about life during WWI, shell shock and the experience of returning soldiers, the world of art, especially for female painters, and also the feelings of grief, guilt, and sacrifice. It is a grand melodrama, and there are moments that are very sad and emotional, although the novel also contains its light and happy moments.

The story is divided up in three parts: the first and the third one are told in the first person by Miranda, and the second one narrates the story of Esme in the third person, although the narration moves between the different characters, giving readers a chance to become better acquainted not only with what happens, but also with the feelings and state of mind of the main characters (Esme; Guy, her husband; and Dr Brodie; although we also get to follow some of the others, like wonderful Hanna, the maid who plays a fundamental part in the story). Part one and two also contain fragments of Esme’s narrative, in the first person, of her own story. That means that when we read part 2, we already have some inklings as to what has been going on, but we get the whole story ahead of Miranda, and everything fits into place.

I don’t want to go on and on, so I’ll just try and summarise. I loved the story. Some of the high points for me were: the relationships in Miranda’s extended family, and how well the different generations get on; the way the author handles the experience of domestic abuse/violence, including fascinating comparisons and parallels between the circumstances of two women separated by 100 years; the descriptions of London and the UK during WWI and the experiences of the people in the home front; shell-shock and how it affected soldiers during the war; I loved the descriptions of Esme’s creative process, her inspiration, and her paintings (which I could see in my mind’s eye), and also the true story of Baroque Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi (which I am fascinated by), a woman deserving of much more attention than she has been given so far. I also enjoyed the mystery side of things and trying to piece the details of the story together, although, for me, Esme’s story, the house, and Miranda’s family were the winners.

I have mentioned the abuse the female characters suffer, and although this is mostly mental, it should come with a warning, as it is horrifying at times. Some of the descriptions of the experiences during the war are harrowing as well, and there is also illness to contend with. Notwithstanding that, I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. Any readers who love historical fiction set in the early XX century, particularly during WWI, in the UK, who are keen on mysterious houses, a good love story, and prefer stories told (mostly) from a female perspective, should check this one. Oh, and the ending is… as close to perfect as anyone could wish.

The Chase, by Lorna Fergusson

As was the case with the previous novel, Fergusson is a new author to me, although she is well known, especially for her short stories, and, in fact, this novel had been published by Bloomsbury years ago. That goes some way to explain why, although the structure of the book seemed to alternate between chapters set in different historical periods (from prehistory until WWII), and those telling the chronological story of a couple of Brits expats who move to France (to the Dordogne, the Périgord) trying to leave their tragic past behind, the main story is set in 1989 and at times it gives one pause to think how different things are today from that near past (many of the events and some of the storylines would be completely changed by the simple introduction of a mobile phone or the internet).

This novel will delight readers who love detailed descriptions of places, local culture, and food and drink, especially those who know or are thinking of visiting la Dordogne. Fergusson has a beautiful turn of phrase and manages to seamlessly incorporate some buildings and locations fruit of her imagination into the real landscape of the region, so effectively that I am sure those who have visited will wonder if they have missed some of the attractions as they read the book. Le Sanglier, the house Gerald Feldwick falls in love with and buys, in particular, is a great creation, and as we see the house mostly from (Annette) Netty’s point of view, we get a very strong sense of claustrophobia, of hidden and dark secrets that can blow-up at any minute, and of a malignant force at work, undermining her efforts to settle and forget (although she does not really want to forget, only to remember with less pain).

The author also manages to create a totally plausible community in the area, consisting mostly of expats, but also of some local farmers and even an aristocrat, and their interactions and the complex relationship between them add depth to the novel. Although the newcomers, the Feldwick, might appear ill-suited to the area, and we don’t get to know their reasons for the move until the story is quite advanced, the network of relationships established since their arrival has a profound impact on their lives.

This is a novel where the historical aspect is less evident than in the previous two, and it might not appear evident at first, although, eventually, the historical fragments (narrated in the third-person —like the rest of the novel— from the point of view of a big variety of characters from the various eras) fall into place and readers discover what links them to the story. Secrets from the present and the past coalesce and the influence of the region and its past inhabitants on the present come full circle.

The psychological portrayal of the main characters is powerful as well. Although I didn’t particularly warm up to any of them (it’s impossible not to feel for Netty, whose tragic loss and unresolved bereavement make her easy to sympathise with, but her behaviour and prejudices didn’t do much to endear her to me, personally. Gerald is less likeable, especially as we see him, most of the time, from Netty’s perspective, but the fragments narrated from his point of view make him more understandable, if not truly nice or appealing; and we only get to see the rest of character’s from the main protagonists’ perspectives), the fact that they all had positive and negative aspects to their personalities, the way they behaved and reacted to each other and to their plight (sometimes in a selfish way, sometimes irrationally, sometimes totally blinded to the world around them, sometimes obsessed, overbearing, and/or abusive…), gave them humanity and made them more rounded. These were not superheroes or insightful and virtuous individuals, perfect in every way, and although by the end of the story they’ve suffered heartbreak, disappointments, and have been forced to confront their worst fears, this is not a story where, as if by magic, they are totally enlightened and all their problems have disappeared. The ending is left quite open, and although some aspects of the story are resolved (in a brilliant way, in my opinion), others are left to our imagination.

I want to avoid spoilers, but I wanted to include any warnings and extra comments. The main storyline is likely to upset readers, especially those who have suffered tragic family losses recently, and I know the death of very young characters is a particularly difficult topic for many. There are also some scenes of violence and death of animals (it is not called The Chase for nothing), battles and death of adults as well (in the historical chapters), and an off-the-page rape scene. There are other sex scenes, but these are not very explicit either. There are some elements that might fall into the paranormal category, although other interpretations are also possible. On the other hand, I have mentioned the interest the novel has for people who have visited the Dordogne or would like to visit in the future; readers who are interested in embroidery, mythology, and history of the region will also have a field day; its treatment of bereavement is interesting and compelling; and I think all those elements would make it ideal for book clubs, as there is plenty to discuss and think about.

A complex and beautifully written story that is likely to get everybody siding with one of the main characters, and a great option for those who love to travel without leaving their armchairs.

The Chalky Sea, by Clare Flynn

Clare Flynn is a favourite author of many readers, and although this was the first of her novels I’ve read and reviewed, I am not surprised, as she is a fine writer, who combines a strong sense of place and historical detail (WWII, especially the home front experience in the UK, particularly in Eastbourne, East Sussex, a seaside resort in the South of England that was heavily bombed during the war), with characters who undergo many trials and challenges, remain strongly anchored in the era, and whose innermost thoughts and motivations we get to understand (even when we might have very little in common with them or their opinions and feelings).

The two main protagonists, Gwen and Jim, are totally different: Gwen is an upper-middle-class British woman, well-educated, married, who enjoys volunteering and helping out, but whose life is far from fulfilled, as she never had children, her husband spends long periods of time away, and that gets even worse when the war starts. Jim is a young Canadian farmer, engaged to be married and happy with his lot when we meet him (although feeling somewhat guilty for not enlisting), whose life takes a sudden turn for the worse, and ends up enlisting and being sent to England. Although initially their stories only seem to have in common the fact that the action takes place during WWII, most readers will suspect that the characters are meant to meet at some point. I don’t want to spoil the reading experience for anybody, but let’s say both of them meet in Eastbourne in the latter part of the war, and they help each other understand their experiences, and be ready for life after the war. Gwen has experienced many losses from a very young age and has never been encouraged to express herself or talk about her feelings, afraid that her love could be a curse to anybody she met. Jim is presented as kind and patient (sometimes unbelievably so), but despite his good qualities he is betrayed and abandoned repeatedly and doesn’t trust his own feelings anymore. There are many secondary characters that add a touch of realism and variety to the novel (some good, some bad, some mean, some somewhere in-between), and I particularly enjoyed the details about the home front realities during WWII, the tasks women engaged in (Gwen gets to play a bigger part in the war effort than she expected), and the descriptions of Eastbourne, as I lived there for a while and the level of detail made the story feel much closer and realistic.

The story is narrated in the third person, from the points of view of the two main characters, and the author writes beautifully about places and emotions, without getting lost in overdrawn descriptions or sidetracked by titbits of real information. The novel touches on many subjects beyond WWII: there are several love stories, legally sanctioned and not; the nature of family relationships; morality and what was considered ‘proper’ behaviour and the changes those concepts underwent due to the war; women’s work opportunities, their roles, and how they broadened during the war; prejudice and social class; the Canadian contribution to the UK war effort; miscarriages/abortions and their effects on women; childless marriages; the loss of a sibling; was destruction and loss of human lives… Some of them are dealt with in more detail than others, but I am sure most readers will find plenty of food for thought in these pages.

Although this is the first novel in a series, I found the ending extremely fitting and satisfying (quite neat, but I’m not complaining)! And, of course, those who want to know more will be happy to hear that there are two more books to deep into as soon as they’ve finished reading this one.

A great option for lovers of historical fiction set during WWII in the UK, particularly those with a keen interest in the home front. A novel that reminded me of Brief Encounter, with some touches of Graham Greene as well. Also recommended to Flynn’s many fans.

Coffee and Vodka, by Helena Halme

Both the author and the setting of part of the story were completely new to me. Nordic crime novels have become quite popular, and I have read some, and also watched some series set in the area (mostly Sweden and Denmark), but had never come across any Finnish literature, so I was quite intrigued by the last novel in the boxset.

This is another story set in the recent past, but in contrast with many of the other texts in this volume, it is a pretty personal one. The story is told in the first person by Evva, and the timeline is split up into two. One half of the story takes place in 1974, when Evva is only a teenager and her family migrates from Finland to Sweden; and the other half takes place thirty years later, in 2004, when she is in her early forties and has to go back to Finland (not having been there even for a visit in the meantime) because her beloved grandmother is dying. The chapters in the two timelines alternate (although sometimes we might read several chapters from the same era without interruption), building up to create a clear picture of what life was like before, and how things have moved on. This is another one of those novels that I sometimes call an adult coming-of-age story, although in this case, we have both. We see Evva as a young child having to face a traumatic move, leaving her friends and her grandmother behind and having to start again in a new country, having to learn a new language, and having to face a degree of prejudice, although that is far from the worse of her experience, as things at home are not good either, and the situation keeps getting worse. And then, in 2004, Evva discovers that some of her beliefs and her version of events might not be accurate, and that much information about her family has been kept hidden from her. Everybody seems to have tried to protect her from the truth, although she realises she has also contributed to this by refusing to face up to things and continuing to behave like a naive teenager, both with her close family and in her personal life.

The author captures well the era and the teenager’s feelings and voice, and although I have never visited Finland or Sweden, I got a strong sense of how living there might be. She also manages to structure the novel in such a way that we get to know and understand Evva (young Evva is much easier to empathise with than older Evva, although I liked the way she develops and grows during the novel) whilst getting a strong suspicion that she is missing a lot of the facts, and the two timelines converge to provide us a reveal that is not surprising for this kind of stories, but it is well done and beautifully observed and written. I particularly appreciated the understated tone of the funeral and the conversations between the family members, and the fact that despite their emotions, they all behaved like the grown-ups they are.

There are harsh moments, and although those take place mostly off the page, readers who prefer to totally avoid the subject of domestic violence should be warned.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy a well-written family drama, especially those interested in new settings and Nordic literature, those who love stories set in the 1970s, and anybody who enjoys dual timelines, coming-of-age stories, and beautifully observed characters.

 Thanks to Rosie and the authors for this wonderful collection, thanks to all of you for reading (especially today!), keep reading, reviewing, smiling, and above all, keep safe.

 

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview Dead of Winter, Journey 4, The Old Road by Teagan Riordain Geneviene (@teagangeneviene) Adventures, scares, legends, and stories. A monthly appointment I always look forward to #fantasy

Hi all:

I bring a big favourite of all my readers. We’ve reached Journey 4 in Teagan Geneviene’s Dead of Winter Serial.

Dead of Winter. Journey 4. The Old Road by Teagan Geneviene

Dead of Winter. Journey 4. The Old Road by Teagan Geneviene

Previously, Journey 3, The Fever Field left Emlyn on the run. Will the Society of Deae Matres be willing to help? After all, in Journey 1, they rejected her father’s plea to take her away. Journey 4, The Old Road features Boabhan, the Society’s most enigmatic adherent. Emlyn finds herself in another kind of danger when the archvillain from the prologue of Journey 1, Forlorn Peak returns to the story in this installment. Plus, she still has not outrun the Brethren. Meanwhile, Emlyn isn’t the only one at risk. This Journey finds many of our friends in harm’s way. This Journey is notably longer than the others. Some parts of the story needed to be told together, in one volume. Come, be a part of the Journeys of Dead of Winter.

https://www.amazon.com/Dead-Winter-Journey-Old-Road-ebook/dp/B092G5LB7R/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Winter-Journey-Old-Road-ebook/dp/B092G5LB7R/

https://www.amazon.es/Dead-Winter-Journey-Old-Road-ebook/dp/B092G5LB7R/

Author Teagan Geneviene

About the author:
Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene lives in a “high desert” town in the Southwest of the USA.

Teagan had always devoured fantasy novels of every type. Then one day there was no new book readily at hand for reading — so she decided to write one. And she hasn’t stopped writing since.

Her work is colored by her experiences from living in the southern states and the desert southwest. Teagan most often writes in the fantasy genre, but she also writes cozy mysteries. Whether it’s a 1920s mystery, a steampunk adventure, or urban fantasy, her stories have a strong element of whimsy.

Founder of the Three Things method of storytelling, her blog “Teagan’s Books” contains serial stories written according to “things” from viewers. www.teagansbooks.com

Major influences include Agatha Christie, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, Robert Jordan, and Charlaine Harris.

See book trailer videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoM-z7_iH5t2_7aNpy3vG-Q?
My review:
I’ve read all the previous journeys in the Dead of Winter serial and loved them (check my latest review here), as I have all the novels I’ve read by Teagan Riordáin Geneviene and also her blog. I’m always amazed by her imagination and her ability to bring to life all kinds of whimsical and wonderful characters and make the readers not only believe in them, but also care deeply for them. That is definitely my case with this story and its characters, and that is despite not being a big fan of fantasy. I usually don’t have the patience for high fantasy, because I like to jump straight into a story rather than have to spend a lot of time getting to understand the rules of the world the author has built. This serial obviates those problems. Not only we get bite-size instalments of the story once a month, but the author has created characters and situations we feel comfortable and familiar with from the start, while he keeps pulling us into an increasingly complex world.
Emlyn, the young protagonist, has a gift (although at first, it seems a curse to her, as it puts her in immediate danger and causes her to be the butt of abuse and prejudice), but despite the help of her friend and mentor, Osabide, there are many things about the world (the worlds) she doesn’t know about because knowledge is frown upon by the religious leaders in her town. Knowledge gives you freedom, and freedom is something they abhor. Following her adventures gives readers a great opportunity to learn about many wonders and to experience the excitement and the risk of the larger world through her eyes.
In the fourth journey, Emlyn gets a taste of what life is like travelling with the Society of Deae Matres, makes some new friends, and realises that many of her intuitions were right. She goes through a terrifying experience that introduces a dark character (that we’ll hear more about in the future, it seems), Arawn, one of the nightwalkers. We also learn about some of the stories and legends (or perhaps true stories?) of heroes, the binding (that seems intrinsically linked to Emlyn’s family), old goddesses, and I have to admit to being fascinated by the new information we gain about Boabhan, who although is one of the Deae Matres, is quite unique (no spoilers) and much older than all of them (it seems).
This is a journey full of adventures, very dynamic, with several lucky escapes and scrapes, unexplained and inexplicable moments, signs of things to come, rumours and questions, gathering of new information, and we also catch up with Emlyn’s trusted teacher, Osabide, whose safety is put to the test. And, Haldis, the watcher, opens the chapter with more and more memories that feed some new information into the story but leave us with more doubts and questions than before.
As has been the case throughout the serial, I enjoyed the beautiful descriptions of places, people, animals, clothes, and especially the way the author brings in songs, objects, nature, animals, and even smells into the story, creating a tapestry of characters and setting that crystallise into a three-dimensional story. If I’d liked Emlyn and Osabide from the very beginning, I’m quickly becoming fond of many of the more recent characters, no matter how different from the norm they are.
Although we can’t help feeling frustrated by the end of the journey, as we’d like to keep reading, the author again chooses what feels like a natural pausing point to stop her narration and keep us eager for more.
Her introduction to the new journey gives us enough to keep us thinking, and I am signed into this journey until the very end, I can assure you that.
I can’t recommend this serial highly enough. Even if you’re not a reader of high-fantasy, as long as you enjoy great characters, plenty of imagination, and are a fan of stories that keep getting wilder, more creative, and fantastic as they go along, you can’t go wrong with it. And it will become a monthly appointment on your diary you’ll be eager to keep.

Thanks to Teagan for the new installment (and I can’t wait to read the next), thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and especially, to keep safe and keep smiling. 

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