Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog OUTERBOROUGH BLUES. A BROOKLYN MYSTERY by Andrew Cotto (@andrewcotto) Brooklyn, noir, cooking: a winning recipe #noirnovel

Hi all:

I revisit an author whose book intrigued me a great deal, as he manages to combine very different elements and make them function incredibly well somehow.

Outerborough Blues. A Brooklyn Mystery by Andrew Cotto

Outerborough Blues: A Brooklyn Mystery by Andrew Cotto 

A beautiful young French girl walks into a bar, nervously lights a cigarette, and begs the bartender for help in finding her missing artist brother. In a moment of weakness, the bartender—a lone wolf named Caesar Stiles with a chip on his shoulder and a Sicilian family curse hanging over him—agrees. What follows is a stylish literary mystery set in Brooklyn on the dawn of gentrification.

While Caesar is initially trying to earn an honest living at the neighborhood watering hole, his world quickly unravels. In addition to being haunted by his past, including a brother who is intent on settling an old family score, Caesar is being hunted down by a mysterious nemesis known as The Orange Man. Adding to this combustible mix, Caesar is a white man living in a deep-rooted African American community with decidedly mixed feelings about his presence. In the course of his search for the French girl’s missing brother, Caesar tumbles headlong into the shadowy depths of his newly adopted neighborhood, where he ultimately uncovers some of its most sinister secrets.

Taking place over the course of a single week, Outerborough Blues is a tightly paced and gritty urban noir saturated with the rough and tumble atmosphere of early 1990s Brooklyn.

Andrew Cotto has written for numerous publications, including The New York TimesMen’s Journal, Salon.com, Teachers & Writers magazine and The Good Men Project. He has an MFA in creative writing from The New School. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

https://www.amazon.com/Outerborough-Blues-Brooklyn-Andrew-Cotto-ebook/dp/B00915UQGI/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outerborough-Blues-Brooklyn-Andrew-Cotto-ebook/dp/B00915UQGI/

https://www.amazon.es/Outerborough-Blues-Brooklyn-Andrew-Cotto-ebook/dp/B00915UQGI/

Author Andrew Cotto

About the author:

 Andrew Cotto is an award-winning author and a regular contributor to The New York Times. He has written for Parade, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, La Cucina Italiana, AARP, Rachael Ray In Season, Maxim, The Huffington Post, the Good Men Project, Salon, Conde Nast Traveler, Italy magazine and more. Andrew has an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

https://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Cotto/e/B006SHJK4Q/

 My review:

I discovered Andrew Cotto through Rosie’s Book Review Team a few months ago, when I read and reviewed his novel Black Irish Blues. A Caesar Stiles Mystery, which I loved even (or because) I found it difficult to pin down to a specific genre. Although it was stylistically a noir mystery/thriller, I thought it also shared some of the characteristics of the cozy mysteries: pretty special/peculiar/singular characters; a main protagonist that is not your standard cool, slick, and tough guy (Caesar Styles is pretty cool and fairly tough, but he tries to go unnoticed rather than advertise those characteristics); and a sizeable part of the novel being dedicated to a hobby/job/talent… of the protagonist that sometimes might be related to the mystery, although mostly marginally. In this case, the protagonist works as a cook, and he seems to be pretty talented at it as well, and he regales us with mouth-watering descriptions of meals and dishes throughout the novel. I was fascinated by this unusual combination of seemingly diverse parts and how the author managed to bring them together. And I was intrigued as well because although the story could be read independently, I became aware that a previous novel with the same protagonist had been published years back, and there were a few enticing references to what had happened before that left me wanting more. Unfortunately, at that time, the first novel was only available as a paperback, and it was not easy to get hold of.

However, the author informed me that the first novel in the series would be available in e-book format and kindly sent me an ARC copy, which I freely chose to review.

So, this is how I came to read the first novel in this series after the second. This has happened to me more than once, and although I might have got hints of what had happened before, in general, I have enjoyed checking if I was right and filling all the gaps. And yes, this is one of those occasions.

 I went through a detailed summary of my thoughts about Black Irish Blues, not only because being concise is not my forte, but also because much of what I thought and said about that novel applies here as well.

Although the novel is set in the 1990s, there are clear indicators of the social era, and the author manages to convey a very strong sense of the Brooklyn of that period, warts and all, there is also something atemporal about the novel. The descriptions of the traumatic events of Caesar’s childhood are, unfortunately, universal and timeless (bullying and domestic violence, a father who leaves the home and a mother bringing up her sons on her own, a tragedy and a life-changing decision), but there are also details reminiscent of the Depression: runaways (a boy in this case) hopping on trains, living in the streets, a wanderer learning as he goes and living off-the-grid, and others much more modern (drug wars, property speculation, a neighbourhood whose social make-up is changing and where racial tensions reflect a wider state of affairs, changes in the notions of family, loyalty, tradition…).

 And despite the noir vibe and set-up (down to the mystery that gets Caesar into all kinds of troubles: a foreign [French] young girl enters the bar where he works and asks for his help in finding her missing brother. He is an artist who came to New York to study and has now disappeared) reminiscent of classical noir novels and films of the 1940s and 50s, there is also something very modern in the way the story is told. In noir films, flashbacks and a rather dry, witty, and knowing voice-over were typical narrative devices and a sparkling and sharp dialogue was a trademark of the genre in writing as well. Here, Caesar tells his story in the first person, but this is not a straightforward narrative. The story is divided up into seven days and told in real-time, but the protagonist spends much of the novel remembering the past, reflecting upon things that had happened to him before, and we even witness some of his dreams (hopeful ones, but also those that rehearse the past), so anybody expecting a fast-paced, no spare-details-allowed kind of narrative, will be disappointed. For me, the way the story is told is one of its strengths, and there are incredibly beautiful moments in the book (Caesar is a poet at heart), although there are also some pretty violent and ugly things going on, and Caesar is the worse for wear by the end of the story. (And no, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the ending). There is something pretty intimate and personal about the way the story is told, and we get privileged access to the protagonist’s subjectivity, thoughts, and feelings, that is not typical of the classic noir genre (dark things in the past might be hinted at, but they are hardly ever looked at in detail or studied in depth. The answer to most questions can be found in the barrel of a gun).

I was looking for some information in E. Ann Kaplan’s Women in Film Noir (somewhat old now, but excellent) and a comment she made about Klute and Chinatown (some later films that fit into the noir category) rang true for me. She mentioned that both of these films seemed to show a “European” sensibility and style different to that o many of the other American crime films of the same era, and that got me thinking, as Chinatown kept popping in my head as I read this book (although Chinatown is far more classically noir than this novel), perhaps because of the subject of property speculation, of the amount of violence visited upon and endured by the protagonist, of the intricate maze of clues, illegal acts, false identities, hidden interests and influences, and secrets that fill its pages… And, considering the protagonist’s Italian origin, and the fact that the story of his grandmother opens the novel, it all seemed to fit. Although the sins of the father might be visited upon the son as well, here, the sins are those from previous generations and keep being revisited upon the members of the family left alive.

In some ways, the mystery (or mysteries, as others come to light once Caesar starts investigating and unravelling the story strand) is not the most important part of the book. At first, I thought Jean-Baptist played a part somewhat akin to Hitchcock’s concept of a MacGuffin, an excuse to get the story going, to set our character off on a quest, we learn very little about him throughout the book, and he is never given a voice or an opportunity to explain himself (we only hear other people’s opinions about him), but later I decided he was a kind of doppelgänger, a double or a mirror image of Caesar, somebody also trying to run away to find himself and to find a place where he can fit in, although, of course, this can only be achieved when one is at peace with oneself, and the protagonist reaches the same conclusion. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about the ending, but let’s say that Caesar manages to put to good use his connections and to trade off good information in exchange for settling some family issues that had been hanging over him for a long time. He is not overly ambitious and although he has a sense of right and wrong and morality, he does not play the superhero and knows that some things will only be sorted out by time, and others perhaps never. But he had to attune and reach his internal peace, and that, he does.

Rather than a review, this seems to be a mash-up of a few somewhat interconnected thoughts, but I hope it gives you an idea of why I enjoyed the novel. There is plenty of wit, great descriptions, a tour-de-force banquet towards the end of the book, fabulous dialogue, and beautifully contemplative moments. I will share a few snippets, but I recommend checking a sample if you want to get a better idea of if you’d like his style or not.

At the entrance stood a large security guard who looked like he had swallowed a smaller security guard.

I was in the Mediterranean, floating in the warm water of my ancestors. I rose and fell in the hard green sea, salt in my nose and sun on my face, my fanned hair like a cape behind me. Fishing boats were moored to a nearby jetty, and brilliant white birds circled in the swimming pool sky.

Oh, and, the beginning of the book has joined my list of the best openings of a novel:

My mother’s mother came to this country in the usual way —she got on a boat with other immigrants and sailed from Sicily. She wasn’t one of them, however: neither tired nor poor or part of any huddled mass. Instead, she traveled alone, with her money in one sock and a knife in the other, coming to the new world with an old world motive— to murder the man that had left her for America.

 Don’t worry. We get to know what happened, but, if you need more of a recommendation, this is it: the rest of the novel lives up to its beginning. So, go on, read it, and I’m sure you’ll read Black Irish Blues next. Enjoy.

Thanks to the author for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and especially, keep safe and keep smiling. ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog A RAINBOW LIKE YOU by Andréa Fehsenfeld (@acfcreative) A wonderful character and a feel-good story, with some heartache #RBRT

Hi all:

Here I bring you my latest review, something pretty different for me, but one more discovery from Rosie’s Books Review Team.

A Rainbow Like You by Andréa Fehsenfeld

A Rainbow Like You by Andréa Fehsenfeld

BEST BC BOOKS of 2020—Grant Lawrence, Award-winning author & CBC personality

ONE OF THE GREAT ROCK & ROLL STORIES—Eric Alper, Sirius XM host and music critic

A rock star. A runaway. The most unexpected journey.

Adrian ‘Jazzer’ Johnson’s gilded rock and roll career is the stuff of legend. From out of the dive bars of Long Beach, this high school dropout rocketed his band to the pinnacle of success. But after a whirlwind decade ended with him broken and questioning, Adrian disappeared.

Now back on tour after a year in exile, Adrian’s still struggling and under pressure to deliver his next hit. The last thing he needs is to find a teen runaway hiding in his tour bus. As it turns out, Hastings Sinclair is a synesthete who can see music in color. But her offer to help color-blind Adrian unpack his creative block upends their lives in ways they never imagined.

Because Adrian’s troubles run deep—beyond what any song can fix—and Hastings hasn’t been upfront about hers. When calamity strikes, a perfect storm of fates unleashes and caught in the crossfire are Adrian’s band mates, a fame-shy beauty he falls hard for, and a scheming journalist with a vendetta. With everything he values suddenly on the line, can Adrian reconcile his own brash history? Or will he be forced to face the music in a way he never has before?

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08GYM1YZH/

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B08GYM1YZH/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08GYM1YZH/

Author Andréa Fehsenfeld

About the author:

Join Andréa’s mailing list for giveaways and exclusive content: https://bit.ly/2tePpGc

Join Andréa’s FB group: https://bit.ly/2mbh5M5

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/acf_creative/

Andréa is an author and award-winning TV producer who has delivered more than 200 commercials, series and movies for Fortune 500 companies, global networks and the world’s biggest brands.

Her debut novel COMPLETION is being adapted for television.

A RAINBOW LIKE YOU is her second novel. Five weeks after publication, it was named a Best BC Book of 2020 and has been featured on NPR, Sirius XM, Hawaii News, CBC, The Vancouver Sun, The Province and many more.

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I was provided an ARC copy of the novel, which I freely chose to review.

This is my first experience reading this author’s work, although it is evident that she is no newcomer to the world of writing, even if this is only her second published novel.

This is not a mystery novel, so I’m not sure spoilers, as such, apply, but I still think the official description includes sufficient information to give prospective readers a good sense of what it is about. I’m not a big reader of pop, rock, or music fiction in general (I read Daisy Jones & The Six some time ago and loved it, but the setting and the narrative style are very different), and it is not a world I’m particularly close to. I’m not a big reader of romance either, and yes, there is a romantic story as well (or more than one: Adrian, the protagonist, is trying to recover from a breakup, a pretty devastating one, and during the novel he meets somebody) and one that is pretty close to insta-love (not a favourite of mine either), but despite all that, I enjoyed this novel, perhaps because it is about more than that, although both elements play a big part in the book. For me, the novel falls under what I’ve come to think of as “adult coming-of-age” stories, or perhaps “growing-up” stories, those where characters —who are grown-up when it comes to their chronological age but perhaps don’t act accordingly— usually get confronted by something (a personal tragedy and/or a person they come across) that makes them take a good look at themselves, and they come out of it a different (and usually better) person. In this case, Adrian was driven by music from a very early age, left high school and focused all his efforts on that, becoming the leader of an incredibly successful rock band. He also married young and seemed to have everything, but that is not the whole picture. When we meet him, he is far from happy, and although he is touring with the band, there are many problems brewing, both in his personal and his professional life: with members of the band demanding more of a saying in what happens; divorced from his wife after a pretty traumatic even; he recently and suddenly lost his mother also and hasn’t recovered from that; his relationship with his father seems broken beyond repair; he got into trouble with alcohol during a twelve month period in Mexico (and he doesn’t seem to be over that yet); and he seems to be at a creative standstill, totally unable to write new songs. And then, he finds Hastings, a teenage girl who has run away from her foster parents’ home and is hiding in his bus. And yes, you’ve guessed it, this encounter (and a woman she meets later on) will change his life.

I have talked about Adrian, who is not only the protagonist but also the narrator of the story, which is written in the first-person (so people who dislike first-person narration have been warned). Apart from what I’ve mentioned, he comes with other quirks: he is colour blind (that makes for a great contrast with Hastings, who has synaesthesia, or, to be more precise, chromaesthesia, whereby she perceives colours, in her case when she hears music), has some obsessive personality traits and a fear of contamination (he talks about his OCD, but it’s never clear that he has seen anybody or been given a formal diagnosis, and as a psychiatrist, the description of his behaviours would not warrant it), and can be totally lacking in insight as to his own behaviour and motivations. He drinks too much; he doesn’t listen to anything that he perceives as criticism and gets very defensive when taken to task, and seems unable to let go, forgive, or forget. He is an interesting character, because he is flawed and is forever trying not to be the typical rock star who misbehaves constantly, although he doesn’t always manage, and he is far from consistent. The other members of the band are quite diverse, and are like a family to him, friends and brothers, as most of the people he knows and connects with seem to belong to the same world or be part of his entourage (the security man, his agent, the owners of the music company, the bus driver…). We only get to meet the rest of the people from his perspective, and he is not always a good judge of character. They add to the background of the story, but I wasn’t sure any of them came to life as individuals for me, apart from Hasting (and Sasha-Rae, although less so). Hastings, though, is wonderful, a unique creation, and one of those characters that you read about and you wish were real and you could meet. She is very special, and I won’t say a lot more about her not to ruin the novel, as she hides quite a few things that help make her who she is (and affect the novel’s course as well). There is a pretty nasty reporter as well, but you’ll be happy to hear that she gets her comeuppance (in one of my favourite scenes from the book).

I’m not always convinced by first-person narratives, although I’m not against them per-se, and in this case, I think it works pretty well, because we need to understand the character and see things from his perspective, even if we have nothing in common with him and might never have done the things he does —he has a talent for making the wrong decision—, and although I have talked about his lack of insight, he is not an unreliable narrator. He calls things as he sees them, and we can make our own minds up about them, without tricks. I enjoyed the style of writing, and the use of similes and metaphors work very well to give readers a quick insight into Adrian’s opinion of people and places. The protagonist is not called ‘Jazzer’ for nothing, and his voice comes across quite clearly, with very funny moments, and some very touching ones as well (yes, be prepared for tears).

Here, a few random examples of my highlights:

“Ex was the equivalent of eight elephants when it came to not forgetting.”

“With the door peeled open, she cowered deeper into the closet, like a vampire avoiding the sun… if vampires were black girls … who wore headbands and jeans.”

“The real estate of her features reminded me of Nina Simone: the nose of a boxer, swollen from one too many hits; a generous mouth better suited to a larger face.”

“Sven, our tour manager, arrived with breakfast. Imagine a Swedish version of The Rock, minus any charisma, and that’s our Svennie.”

I’ve referred to the ending before (yes, a bad character gets her comeuppance), and the romance part of the story ends up like a romance should. I’ve also referred to this as a growing-up story, so you probably guess that the character learns a lot about himself. That’s also true. But be warned that the lesson is a hard one. Although it is an inspiring story and feel-good story overall, there are sad moments, and I’ve pre-warned you that there might be tears (or moments pretty close to).

Any warnings? I’ve mentioned use of alcohol, and there are plenty of references to drug use, some violence, sex (there is more talk than anything, and there is nothing too explicit, but yes, there is some, and at least one of the scenes and a minor plot-point I felt didn’t add much to the story, but that’s my personal opinion), also upsetting events referred to, and chronic illness that also features (the author does a good job in her acknowledgements at providing extra information and resources to people who might want to know more about some of the topics). Although I felt the story might be suited to new adult readers as well, they need to be aware of those issues, as should the rest of readers.

In summary, this is not one of my usual genres, but I’d recommend it to people who enjoy reading about the music business (rock bands in particular. The author explains in her acknowledgements her process of research, and she definitely did a good job), who like first-person narratives, who enjoy unique characters, and/or are looking for a story of growing-up, redemption, and a hopeful and feel-good read. There is fun, laughter, tears, and heartache, but there’s a rainbow at the end. (The book includes quite a lot of extra materials, like the covers of the band records, illustrations/pics of the members of the band, and even a link to listen to the song that shares its title with the book. They are all worth a look and a listen).

Oh, in case you want to listen to the song…

Thanks to Rosie and all the members of her team, thanks to the author for her book, and thanks to all of you for reading. Remember to keep smiling, keep reading, comment if you like, and please, please, keep safe.

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE SURVIVORS: A Novel by Jane Harper (@LittleBrownUK) (@GraceEVincent) (@janeharperautho) If you haven’t read a Jane Harper novel, now is the time #bookreview

Hi all:

I bring you the review of the newest book by an author I’ve become a big fan of. Just a word of warning: the book isn’t available everywhere and in all the formats yet, but should be coming out in the next week or so everywhere (if there are no delays).

The Survivors by Jane Harper

The Survivors: A Novel by Jane Harper

Coming home dredges up deeply buried secrets in The Survivors, a thrilling mystery by New York Times bestselling author Jane Harper

Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran’s parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away…

https://www.amazon.com/Survivors-Novel-Jane-Harper-ebook/dp/B087ZY8NXX/

https://www.amazon.es/Survivors-Novel-Jane-Harper-ebook/dp/B087ZY8NXX/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1408711982/

Author Jane Harper
Author Jane Harper

About the author:

Jane Harper is the author of the international bestsellers The Dry, Force of Nature and The Lost Man. Her books are published in more than 40 territories worldwide, and The Dry is being made into a major film starring Eric Bana. Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year, the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year and the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and now lives in Melbourne.

https://www.amazon.com/Jane-Harper/e/B001KI8MCE

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Little, Brown UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although I discovered Jane Harper’s talent in her second novel, Force of Nature, I have been hooked ever since, and I have read all of her books till now (you can check my review of her third novel, The Lost Man, here). I have no hesitation in recommending her books to any readers who appreciate great writing, complex characters, a good plot, and a talent for bringing to life the landscape and the setting of her stories (all located in Australia, so far) and turning them into an integral part of the novel. In The Survivors, Harper takes us to Tasmania, and although the specific location is fictional, I felt as if I was there, looking into the ocean and contemplating the sculpture of the Survivors slowly disappearing under the tide.

The Survivors of the title make reference to a sculpture symbolising, perhaps, the survivors of an ancient wreck off the coast of the little town where the story is set, Evelyn Bay, a place where everybody knows everybody’s name and stories (that is, apart from that of the outsiders who visit during the touristic season), and where a tragedy took place about a decade ago. It seems as if the inhabitants had moved on from it, from the big storm that caused the deaths of two young men and during which a young girl also disappeared, but like the sculpture of the survivors that disappears under the water but always resurfaces again, some things refuse to remain buried (or submerged). When the body of a young woman —an art student who had come to the town looking for inspiration— appears murdered on the beach, memories are stirred and questions are asked anew.

The novel is a mystery, although like all of Harper’s novels, it is not a frantically paced one, and her choice of narrator (the story is told in the third person from the point of view of Kieran, a young man who barely survived the storm, and who’s been trying to deal with his guilt over his older brother’s death ever since) is particularly clever. Kieran is an insider, in so long as he was born in Evelyn Bay and knows (indeed was one of the main participants in the drama) far too well what happened during the big storm. His family was one of the worst affected by it, and they are still trying to get over his brother’s loss, even if his mother insists in putting up a front. (I liked Verity. She is a survivor, and has to be strong for everybody, always coping with everything, and now also having to look after her husband, Brian, who is suffering from dementia, and she never complains). But he has been living in Sidney, has had a child with Mia (another insider/outsider), and has kept away from the place for a long time, so he can also see things from a different perspective, from a certain distance.

Kieran has come back with Mia and their young baby daughter, Audrey (she behaves like a real baby, and I loved the fact that the author thanks her own baby and a niece for providing her ready material for the character) to help her mother pack the house, as she has decided that her husband needs to go into a nursing home, and she will move to an apartment close by. Kieran and Mia take the chance to reconnect with old friends, Ash, Sean, and Olivia, and although the story is told mostly chronologically, Kieran’s mind goes back to the past, to the time when he met Ash, to their youth, to his life as a teenager in Evelyn Bay, and, eventually, to the events of the day that have stayed with him and changed his life and that of many others. I don’t want to go into the plot in too much detail, but as I said before, there is a murder, and when a female detective from the city comes to head the investigation, a lot of unanswered questions resurface again.

I’ve mentioned some of the characters, and they are all interesting, although we only get to see them from Kieran’s point of view (although sometimes we can gather some information from their interaction with the main character, or from the comments made by others, which sometimes make us question his opinion and version of events). Kieran is not an unreliable narrator in the standard sense, although he has somewhat blurry memories of some of the events that happened on the day of the storm and immediately after. He was quite traumatised by the events, and Harper creates a realistic psychological portrayal of the character, somebody trying to cope with his guilty feelings and holding onto the hope provided by his partner and the baby. He struggles to follow the clues and at times he refuses to look into things too deeply, although eventually he comes to a shocking realisation. I felt there could have been more time dedicated to his current life and his relationship with Mia (we get a flashback of their meeting and coming together in Sidney, but I wasn’t sure it created a clear enough picture of his recent life, compared to the power of the depiction of the past), although I think the focus on past events, not only his, but also that of other characters (his mother, who still keeps a shrine for her dead son; Ash, who resents any changes made to his grandmother’s house; Olivia’s mother, who can’t let go of her younger daughter’s death; Sean, who has taken up the role of his brother in the business and with his nephew; even the chief of police, who’ll rather leave the force than move to a new team elsewhere) symbolises the fact that they are all stuck in the past; that they’ve never truly moved on, like the Survivors.

There are twists and turns, and red herrings as well; there is a famous author who has come to live there and who seems to have a lot of questions of his own, and the detective in charge seems to know more than she is letting on, but this is not a mystery for people who merely enjoy the pursuit of the clues and the piecing together of an answer. The book’s rhythm is meandering, and a bit like the tide, it ebbs and flows, and there are too many other threads going on to make this a satisfying novel for people who prefer a more formulaic take on the classic mystery and are after a quick and uncomplicated read. The writing style is precious, as usual, and I loved the sense of place and the ragged beauty of the location, the small town (that feels very real, with its fierce loyalty mixed with pettiness, gossip and resentments), and the cliffs and caves. The thrill of the risk, the cold of the water, the dangers hiding in the darkest corners make it very compelling, but it is not a fast page-turner. On the other hand, those who try to avoid graphic violence and gore can be reassured there isn’t much here. Everything is explained at the end, and although I can’t say I knew who the guilty party was for certain, I was fairly suspicious by then and wasn’t surprised by the revelation. I enjoyed some aspects of the resolution more than others, but overall I think it works, at least in my opinion.

In summary, this is another great Jane Harper novel. It is not my favourite (although I’m not sure that I have “one” favourite), but I am sure the setting and many of the characters and events will stay with me for a long time. There are sad moments, tragic events, realistic depictions of guilt, bereavement, grief, anger, life with a dementia sufferer, and reflections on the nature of memory, friendship, and small-town living. I recommend it to anybody who likes mysteries that go beyond the formula, to Harper’s fans, and also to anybody who hasn’t read her yet, because you are missing a treat.

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for her novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share with anybody who might be interested, keep safe, and keep smiling (from behind the mask). 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog RUNNING HAUNTED: A GREEK ROMANTIC COMEDY WITH A GHOST SET IN NAFPLIO GREECE by Effrosyni Moschoudi (@FrostieMoss) Ghosts, a cute dog, wonderful locations and plenty of love #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you an amusing and touching read that is perfect for those of us who have ended up with no holidays.

Running Haunted: A Greek romantic comedy with a ghost set in Nafplio Greece by Effrosyni Moschoudi

Running Haunted: A Greek romantic comedy with a ghost set in Nafplio Greece by Effrosyni Moschoudi

Kelly ran a marathon… and wound up running a house. With a ghost in it.

Kelly Mellios is a stunning, athletic woman, who has learned–the hard way–to value herself. Having just finished her first marathon in the alluring Greek town of Nafplio, she bumps into Alex, a gorgeous widower with three underage children, who is desperately looking for a housekeeper.

The timing seems perfect, seeing that Kelly aches to start a new life, and Nafplio seems like the ideal place to settle down. She accepts the position on the spot, but little does she know that Alex’s house has an extra inhabitant that not even the family knows about…

The house is haunted by Alex’s late wife, who has unfinished business to tend to. By using the family pet, a quirky pug named Charlie, the ghost is able to communicate with Kelly and asks her for help. She claims she wants to ensure her loved ones are happy before she departs, but offers very little information about her plans.

Kelly freaks out at first, but gradually finds herself itching to help. It is evident there’s room for improvement in this family… Plus, her growing attraction towards Alex is overpowering…

Will Kelly do the ghost’s bidding? How will it affect her? And just how strange is this pug?

“I have read all of Effrosyni’s books, the characters become your friends. Running Haunted is the perfect summer read set in Greece.”
~Just Kay, Amazon UK reviewer

“Another charming book from Effrosyni. Read it, and you’ll be transported to Greece & never look a dog the same way again!”
~Just Me.Mo, Amazon UK reviewer

“A fast-paced original story with attention to detail and engaging dialog. A heartfelt emotional read, with family love, romance and a lovable ghost. I highly recommend it.”
~Sheri Wilkinson, Amazon reviewer

https://www.amazon.com/Running-Haunted-romantic-comedy-Nafplio-ebook/dp/B0853CMP1V/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Running-Haunted-romantic-comedy-Nafplio-ebook/dp/B0853CMP1V/

https://www.amazon.es/Running-Haunted-romantic-comedy-Nafplio-ebook/dp/B0853CMP1V/

Author Effrosyni Moschoudi

About the author:

Effrosyni Moschoudi was born and raised in Athens, Greece. As a child, she loved to sit alone in her garden scribbling rhymes about flowers, butterflies and ants. Today, she writes stories for the romantic at heart. She lives in a quaint seaside town near Athens with her husband Andy. Her mind forever drifts to her beloved Greek island of Corfu.

Her debut novel, The Necklace of Goddess Athena, has won a silver medal in the 2017 book awards of Readers’ Favorite. The Ebb, her romance set in Moraitika, Corfu that’s inspired from her summers there in the 1980s, is an ABNA Q-Finalist.

Her novels are Amazon bestsellers, having hit #1 several times, and are available in kindle and paperback format.

What others say about Effrosyni’s books:

“Effrosyni layers her words on the page like music.”
~Jackie Weger, author of The House on Persimmon Road

“Very few writers have such a gift for realism.”
~Kelly Smith Reviews

Go here to grab FREE books by this author: http://effrosyniwrites.com/free-stuff/

Visit her website for free excerpts, book trailers, her travel guide to Corfu, yummy Greek recipes, and to join her email list for her news and special offers: http://www.effrosyniwrites.com

**Like her on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/authoreffrosyni

**Follow her on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/frostiemoss

**Find her on Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7362780.Effrosyni_Moschoudi

https://www.amazon.com/Effrosyni-Moschoudi/e/B00I5JKMXS

My review:

I purchased a copy of this novel, which I also review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here).

I had read and reviewed a novella by this author before and enjoyed it (you can find my review for The Amulet here). It perfectly combined a lightness of touch, humour, a paranormal element (not in a heavy-handed manner but rather whimsically), and a lovely setting in Greece, with plenty of gorgeous locations and pretty tasty-sounding food. The ideal read for a holiday or for those occasions when we need a holiday but are not in a position to take one (and also perfect for the winter months, when we need a bit of sun, even if it is just coming from a page).  I was therefore well-predisposed toward the writer’s offerings, and when I came across an interview where she explained how personal this novel had become for her, I had to buy it and add it to my list to read. I can confirm that it shares many characteristics with the novella I had read before, down to the wonderful settings, the food, the paranormal element (that becomes quite poignant here, in places), and the light and humorous touches.

The description of the book provides a good summary of the plot. There are some surprises along the way (that I won’t go into), and the book fits in well within the romance genre, down to the gorgeous protagonists (both), some difficulties and hindrances along the way (including old lovers and others), plenty of wish fulfilment, and a great ending which will make readers see things in a new light (and will leave them smiling). I have mentioned the paranormal element, and as the blurb explains, we have a ghost who becomes an important protagonist of the book, as well as quite a few unexplained things (and I’m going to avoid spoilers as usual).

All the characters are easy to like (well, almost all, but I won’t get into that). They are far from perfect, though. We have Kelly, who has transformed her life after an abusive relationship (no physical violence, but her ex-boyfriend always put her down and made her feel insecure) and has turned into a woman who won’t let anybody tell her what she can or can’t do, who will fight to become the person she wants and will help others do the same. On the other hand, she can rush into things without thinking about the consequence; she can be pushy and too direct; and the way she approaches some topics might be one-sided and simplistic (her approach to bullying and to the excess weight of one of the kids, for example), but it’s difficult not to be won over by her enthusiasm and goodwill. Alex is still grieving his wife and finds it difficult to know how best to deal with his children, but he is (as usual in romances) pretty perfect otherwise. The children all have their problems but are good kids and loveable, and what can I say about Charlie, the dog. I adored it! None of the characters are very complex, and this is even more so if we talk about their friends and other secondary characters we see little of. On the other hand, the connection between the members of the family, once the problems have been solved, feels real, and readers are likely to enjoy becoming an ersatz member of the household as much as Kelly does. I really liked Lauren, though, and she is perhaps the one aspect of the novel that feels a little less traditional, as we tend to see women mostly in domestic roles, and there are no particular challenges to the status quo. Lauren’s love for her family is inspiring, and it’s easy to understand why they have all struggled so much to cope without her. She and Kelly seem to have much in common, and I loved her resourcefulness and her wicked sense of humour.

The novel touches upon the different ways people deal with grief, and I found particularly interesting the examples of young children trying to come to terms with the death of their mother. There are very touching moments in the book, and although there is a great deal of humour, the subject is sensitively approached, and I think many people who have suffered losses will feel inspired and comforted by this story.

The writing is fluid and the story is told in the third-person, mostly from the point of view of Kelly, the main protagonist, although there are a few snippets from other characters’ viewpoints, which help readers be a step ahead sometimes but not always (the author keeps a few tricks up her sleeve). There are lovely descriptions of locations and mentions of Greek food, but those do not interfere with the action of the rhythm of the story but rather enhance the enjoyment and help readers immerse themselves in the narrative.

I have mentioned the ending before, and it is a joy. Not only will most readers be left with a smile, but I suspect a few will laugh out loud as well. Well done!

If you are looking for a book that challenges genre and gender conventions, whose characters are diverse, and/or want to avoid triggers related to fat-shaming and bullying, this is not your book. On the other hand, this is a great read for those looking for a sweet romance (no sex or erotica here), in a gorgeous setting, who love the inclusion of humour and paranormal elements. I particularly recommend it to readers who love dogs, Greece, and who can’t go on a real holiday. I enjoyed my time with Kelly and Alex’s family, and I’m sure you’ll do too.

Thanks to the author for her book, to Rosie and the members of the team for their support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, and keep safe!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE STRANGE BOOK OF JACOB BOYCE by Tom Gillespie (@tom_gillespie) A trip into the depths of an obsession #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I bring you a pretty special reading experience. Follow down the rabbit hole if you dare!

The Strange Book of Jacob Boyce by Tom Gillespie

The Strange Book of Jacob Boyce by Tom Gillespie

A spiralling obsession. A missing wife. A terrifying secret. Will he find her before it’s too late?

When Dr Jacob Boyce’s wife goes missing, the police put it down to a simple marital dispute. Jacob, however, fears something darker. Following her trail to Spain, he becomes convinced that Ella’s disappearance is tied to a mysterious painting whose hidden geometric and numerical riddles he’s been obsessively trying to solve for months. Obscure, hallucinogenic clues, and bizarre, larger-than-life characters, guide an increasingly unhinged Jacob through a nightmarish Spanish landscape to an art forger’s studio in Madrid, where he comes face-to-face with a centuries-old horror, and the terrifying, mind-bending, truth about his wife.

https://www.amazon.com/Strange-Book-Jacob-Boyce/dp/1925965341/

https://www.amazon.com/Strange-Book-Jacob-Boyce-ebook/dp/B087NJR1CR/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Strange-Book-Jacob-Boyce-ebook/dp/B087NJR1CR/

https://www.amazon.es/Strange-Book-Jacob-Boyce-ebook/dp/B087NJR1CR/

Author Tom Gillespie

About the author:

Tom Gillespie grew up in a small town just outside Glasgow. After completing a Masters in English at Glasgow University, he spent the next ten years pursuing a musical career as a singer/songwriter, playing, recording and touring the UK and Europe with his band. He now lives in Bath with his wife, daughter and hyper-neurotic cat, where he works at the University as an academic English lecturer.

Tom writes long and short fiction. His stories have been published in a number of anthologies, magazines and e-zines, including Amazon Bestseller FEAR: A Modern Anthology Of Horror And Terror – Volume 2, Emdash Literary Magazine, and www.eastoftheweb.com He is also a regular contributor to fridayflash.org.

Tom’s writing has been described as terse, minimalist, hyper- realistic and ambiguous, where layers of meaning are conveyed using a concise and economical style.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tom-Gillespie/e/B0095R97CQ

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel. By the way, congratulations again on the 6th anniversary of the team! Keep going strong! In this case, I was sent an early paperback ARC copy, and I must say the cover is fantastic and the texture of the book is amazing as well. An experience in its own right.

This is the first novel by the author I’ve read, and I haven’t read any of his stories either, although I intend to check them out in the near future.

This is one of those books where the title truly suits the content. Yes, this is a strange book, a mighty strange book, and it is about Jacob Boyce. I don’t want to discuss the plot in detail (especially because I’m still trying to recover from its effect but also because I don’t want to spoil for everybody else), and I am not sure which genre it fits in. I started reading it and, at first, I thought it would be a book in the style of many recent novels, where there is a current mystery that somehow is linked to either an artwork, a book or another object that sends the main character traipsing along half the world chasing clues that in many cases are linked to the past (and History, in capital letters). The main character, the Jacob Boyce of the title, is a professor in Earth Sciences at Glasgow University who is researching his own theory, which he thinks will help predict earthquakes with more accuracy. So far, not so weird. But as we read, we discover that he has become obsessed by a painting, a baroque Spanish painting of uncertain origin (who the painter is, being the subject of some debate), which he somehow feels is connected to his theory. He becomes convinced that there is something peculiar about this painting, and it is to do with the application of a mathematical formula, which nowadays would be described as related to quantum physics. He becomes so obsessed by trying to find the links and the evidence to support his theory that he neglects everything else in his life: his job at the university, his marriage… And that results in his wife’s disappearance. He ends up in Spain, chasing both his wife and the painting, and there things get more and more bizarre. And I won’t say anything else about the plot. I’ve read some reviews that mention Vanilla Sky (I much rather the original Spanish movie, Abre los ojos [Open Your Eyes] by Alejandro  Amenábar), Sliding Doors, and Shutter Island. Yes, I quite agree, and, if I had to describe it, I’d say that some part of it felt almost surreal and hallucinatory, a bit like if I had found myself falling down the rabbit hole, while in some other parts, the sparse style and factual narrative made it seem perfectly grounded and realistic. An unsettling (even ‘uncanny’ at times) combination. Mindboggling.

If I had to talk about themes, I’d mention: obsession (I know many people who dedicate themselves to research can become sucked in, and suddenly everything starts looking or feeling as if it is related to the topic you are studying and you see connections everywhere), guilt, loss, grief, the permeable and tenuous frontier between sanity and madness, between dedication and obsession, between anxiety and paranoia… And also the tenuous separation between reality and imagination, between real life and our dreams and nightmares.

The main character, as mentioned, is Jacob. Although the book is narrated in the third person, we spend most of the novel inside the protagonist’s head, we see things from his perspective, and he’s a fantastic example of the unreliable narrator. I tend to read mostly ebooks these days, and because this was a paper copy and I couldn’t read it as often as I would an ebook, it took me longer to read than would be the norm, and I confess I had forgotten the brief chapter (a kind of prologue) called ‘Inhale…’ which was from another character’s perspective. I later realised this was Sylvia, the mother of Jacob’s wife, Ella, and she comes back at the end as well (yes, the title of that chapter is ‘Exhale…’). Therefore, Sylvia’s point of view and story somehow frames the whole of the narrative, (a rather long and rarefied breath of air) but, as I said, most of the book is from Jacob’s point of view, and Jacob is the only character we get to know, although how well is subject to debate, but I won’t go into that either. He is not a dislikeable character, but like many protagonists who have become obsessed with a particular topic or search (think of Ahab in Moby Dick), their obsession can make them difficult to fully connect with. You either get entrapped in it and can’t help but follow them down that hole, or you wonder what the fuss is about. In this case, I found myself totally caught in it, and it’s one of those books where you end up having no idea what place is up or down, what is real or not, and don’t know if you can trust or believe in anything at all. There are other characters, but because we see them only (or mostly) through Jacob’s eyes, I didn’t feel as if I had a grasp of what they were like, and sometimes, due to the way the story is told, we get different versions of the same character, so, which one is (or might be) the real one, if any?

I’ve mentioned the third person point of view and the frame around the story as well. There are brief fragments in italics, which seem to be told from an omniscient point of view, between the main parts of the book, but these are short. The book is divided up into three parts. Part 1 and 3 take place in Glasgow, and part 2 in Spain, first in Barcelona and later in Madrid. The chronological order of events appears clear at first (although some of Jacob’s memories intrude into the narration), but… Well, I’ll let you read it to find out by yourselves. I’ve talked about the writer’s style before, and although I’ve marked a lot of the text, as I’m aware the book was due to go through more revisions and corrections before its release, I won’t share any specific quotes. There are parts of the text in Spanish, and I know some readers have wondered about that, worried that they might miss important aspects of the book, but let me tell you that, being Spanish, knowledge of Spanish is not required to understand the book. In my case, it kept sending me down wrong paths and making me question everything, so don’t worry. I’ve also seen people complaining about the use of mathematics and talks of formulae and proportions. Don’t worry about that either. I found the ideas challenging and fascinating, but it’s not necessary to be an expert on the subject to follow the book.

The ending manages to pull everything together, and it left me with the feeling (not uncommon with certain books and films, and I’m sure you know what I mean) that if I read it again, many things I found puzzling at the time would fit into the right place now, and I would be nodding my head all through the second read.

So, would I recommend it? If you enjoy being taken for a wild ride and falling into the depths of a complex mind trying to make sense of his life, then you should read it. This is not a standard mystery, and it has more in common with a psychological puzzle or even one of Freud’s case stories, where what is at stake is not what we might think at first. If you don’t mind experimenting and trying something new and are not looking for a straight and comforting read, I recommend you to dare to try this book. It won’t leave you indifferent.

Thanks to Rosie and her team for their support, thanks to the author for this opportunity, and thanks to all of you for reading, sharing, commenting, clicking, reviewing, and remember to keep safe and always keep smiling!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE BODY IN THE TREES: A BOWMAN OF THE YARD INVESTIGATION by Richard James (@RichardNJames) Recommended to fans of historical mysteries and complex characters #VictorianMystery

Hi all:

I bring you the third book in a series of Victorian mysteries I’ve been following for a while.

The Body In The Trees: A Bowman Of The Yard Investigation by Richard James

The Body In The Trees: A Bowman Of The Yard Investigation by Richard James

Bowman of the Yard: Book Three

‘Wonderfully atmospheric, full of the thrills of Victorian London.’ Adam Croft.

Summer, 1892.

Accompanied by the trusted Sergeant Graves, Detective Inspector George Bowman finds himself in Larton, a sleepy village on the River Thames. A series of supposed suicides has opened up old wounds between the locals and a gypsy camp in the woods.

The detectives are viewed with suspicion as the villagers close ranks against their investigation, even more so when Bowman succumbs to visions of his dead wife. His sanity in the balance, it’s not long before he places Graves himself in danger, risking the wrath of the Commissioner of Scotland Yard.

Is Bowman in full possession of his wits?

As village life continues and a link between the suicides is discovered, Bowman finds himself ensnared in the machinations of a secret society, with a figure at its head who will stop at nothing to escape justice.

Soon, the inspector is embroiled in a case that began on the dusty plains of Africa, and ends at the gates of a lunatic asylum.

Richard James is an actor, playwright and author with many credits to his name. The Bowman Of The Yard series marks his first as an author. Other books in the acclaimed series include Devil in the Dock and The Head in the Ice.

‘A genuinely impressive debut.’ Andrew Cartmel, The Vinyl Detective.

‘Crime fiction with wit and twists.’ Richard Foreman, Raffles: The Complete Innings.

https://www.amazon.com/Body-Trees-Bowman-Yard-Investigation-ebook/dp/B08773VBYX/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Body-Trees-Bowman-Yard-Investigation-ebook/dp/B08773VBYX/

https://www.amazon.es/Body-Trees-Bowman-Yard-Investigation-ebook/dp/B08773VBYX/

Picture of author Richard James
Author Richard James

About the author:

I’ve been telling stories all my life. As an actor, I’ve spent a career telling other people’s, from William Shakespeare to Charles Dickens. As I write, I get to create my own!

I have written almost thirty plays which are produced the world over; from USA to New Zealand and just about everywhere in between. They’re mostly comedies and frequently win awards in competitions and festivals.

In 2014 I wrote a book, Space Precinct Unmasked, detailing my experiences working as an actor on Gerry Anderson’s last live action sci-fi series.

So, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I wrote a novel. I decided it had to be set in a world I would want to spend time in and feature characters I would want to be with. And most importantly, it would have to feature a grisly murder or two! I love the Victorian era. It seems such a rich period of history, populated by some hugely colourful characters, so that’s where I’ve started my novel-writing career. The Head In The Ice is the first in the Bowman Of The Yard series and follows the investigation of Inspector George Bowman of Scotland Yard into the discovery of – well, a head in the ice of the River Thames. Over the course of the book, however, and the series in general, we see he has demons of his own to contend with.

There will be four books in the Bowman Of The Yard series in all (at least, to begin with…), together with some short stories from Bowman’s Casebook. These will fill in the gaps between the novels, giving the reader the chance to follow Bowman’s professional progress and personal battles (he’s a troubled man, as you’ll see) over twelve months of his life. 1892 promises to be quite a year for Inspector Bowman, and I’m sure he would love to have your company!

I really hope you like the books. If you do, you can tweet me your thoughts at @RichardNJames. I hope to hear from you!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Richard-James/e/B00NHSS6H6/

My review

I received an early ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

This is the third novel in the series of A Bowman in the Yard Investigation that I read (you can check my review for book 1 here and for book 2 here) and I’ve become a keen follower of the series, which combines interesting characters and plot with great attention to detail and a compelling style of writing that transport readers right into the heart of Victorian England. While the previous novels were set in London (and we learned much about the changes taking place in the city at the time and the criminal underworld), this novel takes inspector Bowman, Graves, and later Hicks, from Scotland Yard, to the countryside, where they are confronted with a village that is fiercely suspicious of outsiders, and where anybody straying from the established social order is frowned upon. The author proves as adept at depicting this society (with its rigid norms of behaviour, its prejudices and xenophobia, its narrow-mindedness and its cruelty) as he had been at showing us what the big metropolis was like. This is no idyllic English village, but a place full of secrets, envies, one-upmanship, spite, and lack of empathy. It might look pretty from the outside, but as a rotten piece of fruit, its insides are ugly.

Bowman, who had been struggling with his grief and his mental health difficulties from the first book, is quickly becoming unravelled, and that is partly why he is sent away from London to a place where his superiors think he is less likely to cause any damage or come to any serious harm. It is also a way of testing him and seeing how he manages, under the supervision of Graves. As the description explains, things start going wrong quite quickly and Bowman’s mental state puts everybody at risk.

The P.O.V. is the same as in the rest of the series, omniscient, mostly focused on Bowman, but there are parts of the story where we share in the point of view of one of his men, and even of some of the villagers and others involved. I know some readers are not fond of this particular point of view, and although I think it works particularly well in this setting (as the main character becomes an increasingly unreliable narrator) prospective readers might want to check a sample of the writing beforehand.  There are hints and references to events in previous novels in the series, but I think a reader new to the series would be able to enjoy it as well, and I’m convinced he’d be sufficiently intrigued with the events here to want to catch up with the rest of the story.

I particularly liked the depiction of village life, and the social commentary resulting from it (gypsies are suspected of all crimes, there are rigid social norms and people cannot try to move across the divide without causing resentment). I also enjoyed the background of the mystery (but I won’t say anything else to avoid spoilers). There are plenty of red herrings, twists and turns, and cul-de-sacs; although at a personal level I am more interested in Victorian London and its criminal world. I was also intrigued by the baddie, who in some ways seems to understand Bowman perfectly (better than he understands himself, perhaps because they have things in common, although each one of them have dealt with their personal situation in a completely different way), and enjoyed seeing more of Graves and even Hicks (who can be quite effective when he gets going).

What got me hooked into the story most of all was Bowman and his descend into his personal hell. He tries to find some remedy and some help for his condition, but it is not easy, and in his path to self-destruction he gathers a momentum he is unable to control. The ending came as no surprise (I refer to what happens to Bowman, rather than the actual case, although I also guessed the guilty parties, but then I have a suspicious mind. I wouldn’t say it’s easy to guess), and I wonder what will come next.

This is another great novel, and one that explores a different, but not kinder, aspect of life in the Victorian era. There is domestic violence, exploitation, murders, secrets, cowardice, and the full catalogue of human sins. We also get an opportunity to witness the unequal fight of a good man against his grief and his PTSD. The violence and the crimes and not particularly explicit in this book, but this is not a gentle cozy mystery, and readers should be prepared for their emotions to be put to the test. A great combination of historical mystery, social commentary, and psychological study. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the author for his novel, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep safe and keep smiling. Oh, and don’t worry if you check my previous reviews and see different covers now. The series has been given a once over and all the books have new covers. 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog HIGHWAY TWENTY by Michael J Moore (@MichaelJMoore20) #RBRT Creature horror with a nostalgic feel

Hi all:

I bring you a horror novel that made me think of many movies and series I’ve loved over the years.

Cover of Highway Twenty by Michael J Moore
Highway Twenty by Michael J Moore

Highway Twenty by Michael J Moore

An engineer from out of town disappears. Then Conor Mitchell’s girlfriend. Then his parents. The townspeople of Sedrow Woolley, Washington are vanishing at a horrifying rate. But they come back. They all come back days later, and they’re different.  Hungry.  Insectile.  Creatures posing as humans.

Because Conor knows the truth, and because the entire police force has already been changed, and because there’s nowhere to run from an evil that only wants to spread, his sole option is to fight. But they have no intention of letting him leave town.

https://www.amazon.com/Highway-Twenty-Michael-J-Moore/dp/1948318806/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Highway-Twenty-Michael-J-Moore/dp/1948318806/
https://www.amazon.es/Highway-Twenty-Michael-J-Moore/dp/1948318806/

Author Michael J. Moore

About the author:

I have worked as a personal trainer for many years. I live in Washington State. My spare time is spent searching the darkest corners of my mind for whatever horrors, oddities, or fascinations may have found their way in, begging expression in my unique literary voice.

Also, I’ve always been passionate about storytelling and impressed by the influence it has on people and the decisions they make in life. I love engaging with the projects I work on, diving headfirst into the research, investigation, and production of stories I feel are worth writing about. I am a curious and proactive Author.

My other published book is the bestselling, young adult novel, After the Change (MKM Bridge Press) which has been adopted as curriculum at the University of Washington.  My work has received an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, has appeared in Blood Moon Rising Magazine, The Horrorzine Magazine, Schlock Magazine, Terror House Magazine, Siren’s Call Magazine,  Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine, The Electric Press and this year is set to appear in Terror Tales Magazine, Horror Tree – Trembling with Fear, and various anthologies.

Links:
https://michaeljmoorewriti.wixsite.com/website
https://www.facebook.com/michaeljmoorewriting
https://twitter.com/MichaelJMoore20
https://instagram.com/michaeljmoorewriting
https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-moore-28b800178/

https://www.amazon.com/Michael-J-Moore/e/B07N8CS23D/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

This is the first book by this author I’ve read (no, he is not “the” Michael Moore we have all heard about), and I was attracted by the description and the genre. It reminded me of TV series and movies I’d enjoyed, and it delivered on its promise.

I think the description shares enough information for most readers to get a good sense of what the story is about. I guess readers of horror would classify it as “creature” horror, and as I read it, quite a number of titles, mostly of movies and TV series, came to my mind: The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, V, Slither, Star Trek’s The Borg, The Blob, and a novella I read a while back that I thoroughly enjoyed, Broken Shells. Although I love horror, the more I read in this genre, the more I realise I haven’t read yet, and I must admit not having read many in this subgenre, so I am not sure what its usual fans would think, or how original they would find it. As I said, for me it brought to mind some aspects of many movies and TV series I had watched, and it grabbed my attention and kept me reading. Is it scary? It’s creepy, and rather than making one jump or scream, imagining what it would be like to fall victim to these creatures is the stuff of nightmares and it will keep playing in one’s mind.

This book is pretty action driven, with short scenes that keep the story moving, and although like many stories about alien invasion they can be read in a variety of ways, and they seem to pick up on underlying fears (issues of identity, what is true and what is not, what makes us what we are, illnesses and epidemics, the end of the world…), the book does not delve too deep into any of those and it never makes openly acknowledges such connections, or veers into conspiracy theory terrain. It is just what it is, and that’s pretty refreshing.

Although the book follows a number of characters, the two main characters are Conor Mitchell —a man in his early twenties, who loves his car, enjoys his job as a mechanic, has a sort of girlfriend, some family issues, and does not appear to be hero material—, and Percly, the town’s homeless man, who sleeps in a disused train and does not bother anybody. The figure of the reluctant hero is a common trope in literature, and particularly prominent in American Literature, and these two are prime examples of it. They are thrown into a critical situation, and by a fluke of fate, both of them seem to be in a better position than most to fight the creatures. We learn more about them both as the story progresses, and they are fairly likeable, although, as I said, not standard heroes. We get snippets of other characters during the story, but due to the nature of the story, we don’t get a chance to learn much about them, and other than because many of them end up being victims of the events, we hardly have time to feel attached or even sorry for them.

The story is narrated in the third person, from alternating points of view. In fact, this is what most made me think of movies and TV series in this genre when I was reading this novel, because suddenly there would be a chapter where a new character would be introduced, and we would follow them for a while, learning how they feel about things, and perhaps thinking they would become a major player in the story, only for the rug to be pulled from under our feet. Yes, nobody is safe, and like in movies where a murderer picks at characters and kills them one by one, here although some of the characters keep “returning”, and we even peep into the minds of the creatures, we are not allowed to get comfortable in our seats. Readers need to be attentive, as the changes in point of view, although clearly marked, can be quite sudden. Ah, and I must admit the prologue is fantastic. For all the advice on writing books against including a prologue, Moore here clearly demonstrates that when used well, they can drag readers into the story, kicking and screaming, and keep them firmly hooked.

I’ve mentioned the short scenes and the cinematic style of writing. There are no long descriptions, and although there is plenty of creepy moments, and some explicit content, in my opinion the author plays more with the psychological aspects of fear, the fact that we don’t know who anybody is and what is real and what is not, and he is excellent at making readers share in the confusion of the main characters, and in their uncertainty about what to do next. Run, fight, hide? Although there is the odd moment of reflection, that allows readers to catch their breath a bit and also helps fill in some background details about the characters, mostly the book moves at a fast pace, and it will keep lovers of the genre turning the pages.

The ending is particularly interesting. I enjoyed it, and it ends with a bang, as it should, but there is also an epilogue that puts things into perspective, and it works in two ways: on the one hand, it fills in the gaps for readers who prefer a closed ending with everything settled; on the other, it qualifies the ending of the story, putting an ambiguous twist on it. (And yes, I liked the epilogue as well).

All in all, this is an action book, with fairly solid characters who although are not by-the-book heroes are easy to warm to, with a somewhat disorienting and peculiar style of narration that enhances the effect of the story on the reader. I’d recommend it to those who love creature horror, and to people not too squeamish, who enjoy B-series movies, and who love to be kept on their toes. An author to watch.

Thanks to Rosie and all the members of her group, thanks to the author for this novel full of fun and chills, thanks to all of you for reading, writing, commenting, liking, sharing, and never forget to keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog The Earthling’s Brother by Earik Beann(@EarikB) A heart-warming, fun, and light sci-fi novel, with fabulous characters #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a new book by an author who has visited my blog before, and I suspect will come back int he future.

The Earthling’s Brother by Earik Beann

The Earthling’s Brother by Earik Beann

Sam never knew his parents. In fact, he’s never met another human—or seen a sunrise, smelled a flower, or eaten a regular meal. All of that is about to change.

It’s night in the desert, but he doesn’t feel the cold. The sky is clear, and the stars twinkle at him. He has never seen the sky from Earth before. Everything looks so strange. So . . . alien. He shakes his head in wonderment and laughs. He can’t stop smiling. This is Earth!

There is a building ahead. Other people will be inside. His heart skips a beat as he takes a step forward, the rocks crunching under his bare feet. He has dreamed of this moment for as long as he can remember.

But that which can be found can just as easily be lost again. It would have been better had Sam’s arrival gone unnoticed. But the artificial life form known only as the Authority is not one to miss such things. Nearly as old as time, and almost as powerful, the Authority was built by an ancient civilization as both an enforcer and a war machine, the destroyer of worlds. It has been watching Sam his entire life. Watching, and waiting, and judging. And now, it has decided that it’s time to act.

https://www.amazon.com/Earthlings-Brother-Earik-Beann-ebook/dp/B083F74XKL/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Earthlings-Brother-Earik-Beann-ebook/dp/B083F74XKL/

https://www.amazon.es/Earthlings-Brother-Earik-Beann-ebook/dp/B083F74XKL/

Author Earik Beann
Author Earik Beann

About the author:

Over the years I’ve been involved in many small businesses, including software development, an online vitamin store, specialty pet products, a commodity pool, and a publishing house. You could say I’ve got a bad case of serial entrepreneurism. But above and beyond all that, my original love has always been writing and telling stories.

As a teenager, I wrote two fantasy novels during summer break. Neither were published–which is probably for the best!–but I loved working on those books, and learned a lot by writing them. Later, I authored six technical books on very esoteric subjects related to financial markets. Those were meant for an extremely niche audience, and would be insanely boring to anyone outside that specific group of people.

In October 2017, I found myself at ground zero in the middle of the Tubbs Fire. A group of nine of us snuck back into our neighborhood in the middle of a mandatory evacuation zone, formed a vigilante fire fighting force, and saved our block (and an apartment complex!) from certain destruction. Working on my memoir of those experiences brought me back to those summers as a teenager spent working on my fantasy novels, and rekindled a deep love for writing that I had somehow forgotten about. Now it’s all I really want to do anymore.

I live in California with my wife, Laura, and our Doberman and two Tennessee barn cats. When not thinking of stories, I enjoy practicing yoga, riding my bike, and playing the Didgeridoo.

https://www.amazon.com/Earik-Beann/e/B001K8RRKW

My review:

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’re looking for reviews, I recommend you check her amazing site here), and I thank her and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I have read two other books by Beann, one a science-fiction novel and the other a non-fiction book, enjoyed both, and loved the cover and the premise of his new book, and I’m pleased to say that I wholeheartedly recommend it as well.

The book reminded me of yesteryear science-fiction movies, but with a touch of self-awareness, humour, and diversity that made it thoroughly modern. It made me think of The Day the Earth Stood Still, Starman (the movie) and, to a certain extent, Terminator, especially the beginning, although here we have a bit of a twist, and more than one being from outer space (but I’ll try not to spoil the story).

The story is not hard science-fiction, and I suspect lovers of detailed scientific explanations and high-tech might find this book too light, but the setting is very compelling, there are plenty of adventures, and lots of fun to be had. And the characters are all winners.

Maria Rodriguez is a great protagonist. She works hard, loves her sick nephew and tries her best to help him get better, looks after everybody, and she is willing to help, no matter what. She gives “Sam” the benefit of the doubt, even if she thinks he is under the influence of some drug or other and a bit weird, and she ends up being pulled into an adventure that we’d all love to find ourselves in. Sam is another great character, like a grown-up child, and allows us to see ourselves from a completely fresh perspective. What would somebody from another world think about us? Mustafa… Well, I won’t tell you anything about Mustafa, other than he’s amazing, and we also have a proper villain (I’m talking about you, Sanders), and some other not very nice characters, although they don’t get off lightly. I particularly liked “Mother”, which is quite a special character but shows a great deal of insight into the workings of the world, despite her limitations, and Pepe… I think all readers will love Pepe.

The story has a bit of everything: there are some quasi-magical elements about it (be careful what you wish for!); we have police persecutions and interrogations; we have references to migration policies and to asylum hearings (this is priceless!); we have alien civilizations intent on destroying the world as we know it; trips to Las Vegas and big winnings at the casinos; a road-trip; flying secret planes; a stand-off between USA and Canadian soldiers, and even a little bit of romance thrown in.

The writing style is smooth, easy-to-read, and there are plenty of action scenes, humour, suspense, and some pretty scary moments as well. Although there is destruction, mayhem, and violence, it is not very extreme or explicit, and most of it is only referred to in passing. All these elements, and the story, that has an all-around feel-good happy ending, make this book perfect for YA readers, in my opinion, and I think older children might enjoy it as well, although I’d recommend parents to check it out beforehand.

In sum, this is a joy of a book. It can be read as a fun and light sci-fi adventure book, although it does deal in topics that are serious, current, and it has a message that humanity would do well to listen to. It suits all ages, and it leaves readers smiling. What else should we ask for? (Oh, and I especially recommend it to any Canadians out there!)

Thanks to Rosie for her fabulous group and to all its members, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Human Flesh by Nick Clausen (@NickClausen9) A scary novella that asks us some uncomfortable questions #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I bring you a short but scary read, from Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Human Flesh by Nick Clausen
Human Fish by Nick Clausen

Human Flesh by Nick Clausen

THEY NEVER CAUGHT IT …

During the winter of 2017, a series of strange occurrences took place in a small town of northern Maine. A rational explanation for what happened has still not been presented. Now, for the first time, all available evidence is being released to the public from what is commonly known as the Freyston case.

Human Flesh was originally published in Danish to great reviews, and is now available in English. This dark winter horror story will also satisfy crime lovers, as the plot is told through written evidence in a fictitious murder case. For fans of Hannibal Lecter, and those who enjoyed the mood of Pet Sematary and the style of Carrie.

REVIEWS

“Great, mysterious and creepy … I couldn’t put it down”

★★★★★ Adventures of a Book Nerd

“All the planning it must have taken to put the story together is impressive. And the effect is enormous. It gave me chills and I still feel it”

★★★★★ Bookish Love Affair

Author Nick Clausen
Author Nick Clausen

About the author:

Began writing at the age of 18 with a promise of doing 1,000 words a day until he got a book published. Kept that promise 18 months and 13 manuscripts later. Done almost 30 books since then. Lived as a full-time writer since 2017. Began translating his books into English in 2019. Prefer horror, fantasy and sci-fi. Reside in Denmark. Is inspired by the stories of Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Thomas Harris.

https://www.amazon.com/Nick-Clausen/e/B07NC5X94M/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

I am a fan of horror, had read great reviews of one of Clausen’s collections of short stories, and I liked the sound of this one (and the cover is pretty impressive as well).

This is a short horror novella that works at many levels. Its topic is fairly well known (especially to lovers of the genre, and as a psychiatrist I’m also aware of its diagnostic implications, although I won’t elaborate on that), but despite its short length, the author manages to capture the atmosphere of the story, the cold, the darkness, the weirdness and the horror (more psychological than graphic, although it has its moments) in the few pages available, using also a pretty interesting way of telling the story. As mentioned in the description, rather than a standard narration, we have what appears to be a compilation of documents pertaining to a mysterious case, and this will appeal as well to lovers of crime stories and police procedural novels (although if they are sticklers for details, they might be bothered by the supernatural aspects and by some bits and pieces of information that don’t seem to quite fit in, but…). This peculiar way of narrating the story forces readers to do some of the work and fill in the blanks, and that is always a good strategy when it comes to horror (our imagination can come up with pretty scary things, as we all know). It also gives readers a variety of perspectives and some background that would have been trickier to include in a story of this length otherwise. Does it make it more difficult to identify with any of the characters? I didn’t find that to be the case. The story (or the evidence) starts mildly enough. An accident means that a family cannot go skiing as usual for their winter holidays, and the father decides to send his two children (and older girl, Otha, and a younger boy, Hugh) to stay with their grandfather, Fred, in Maine.  Things start getting weird from the beginning, and Otha (who has a successful blog, and whose entries create the backbone of the story, making her the main narrator and the most sympathetic and easier to identify with for readers) is not the only one who worries about her grandfather, as some of the neighbours have also been wondering about the old man’s behaviour. The secret behind their grandmother’s death becomes an important part of the story and there are eerie moments aplenty to come.

The novella manages to combine well not only some legends and traditional Native-American stories with more modern concepts like PTSD, survivor’s guilt, but also the underlying current of grief that has come to dominate the life of the children’s grandfather. It also emphasises how much we have come to rely on technology and creature comforts that give us a false sense of security and cannot protect us again extreme natural conditions and disasters. Because of the age of the main protagonist, there is also a YA feel to the story with elements of the coming-of-age genre —even a possible love interest— and I’ve seen it listed under such category, but those aspects don’t overwhelm the rest of the story, and I don’t think they would reduce the enjoyment of readers who usually avoid that genre.

Is it scary? Well, that is always a personal call. As I said, there are some chilling scenes, but the novella is not too graphic (it relies heavily on what the characters might or might not have seen or heard, and also on our own capacity for autosuggestion and suspension of disbelief). There is something about the topic, which combines a strong moral taboo with plenty of true stories going back hundreds of years, which makes it a very likely scenario and something anybody reading it cannot help what reflect upon. We might all reassure ourselves that we wouldn’t do something like that, no matter how dire the conditions, but how confident are we? For me, that is the scariest part of the story.

In sum, this is a well-written and fairly scary story, with the emphasis on atmosphere and psychological horror rather than on blood and gore (but there is some, I’m warning you), successfully combined with an interesting way of narrating a familiar story. As a straight mystery not all details tie in perfectly, but it’s a good introduction to a new voice (in English) in the horror genre. I’m sure it won’t be the last of Clausen’s stories I’ll read.

 Thanks to Rosie and the members of her team, thanks to the author, and, most of all, thanks to all of you for reading, liking, sharing, commenting, and remember to keep reviewing and smiling!

 

 

 

 

Categories
book promo Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog #BlogTour JACKSON: ETERNITY SPRINGS: THE MCBRIDES OF TEXAS by Emily March (@emilymarchbooks) (@StMartinsPress) A gently inspiring story in a charming Texan setting

Hi all. I am participating in a blog tour for an author I read last year for the first time, and I was keen to read her new one.

JACKSON: ETERNITY SPRINGS: THE MCBRIDES OF TEXAS by Emily March. 

Synopsis:

From New York Times bestselling author Emily March comes Jackson, the newest novel in the critically acclaimed Eternity Springs series.

Sometimes it takes a new beginning
Caroline Carruthers thinks she buried her dreams along with the love of her life…until a stranger named Celeste dares her to chase a dream all on her own. Moving to Redemption, Texas, is chapter one in Caroline’s new life story. Opening a bookstore is the next. Finding love is the last thing on her mind as she settles into this new place called home. But when she meets a handsome, soulful man who’s also starting over, all bets are off.

to reach a happily-ever-after
Jackson McBride came to Redemption looking only to find himself, not someone to love. Ever since his marriage ended, he’s been bitter. Sure, he used to believe in love—he even has the old song lyrics to prove it—but the Jackson of today is all business. That is, until a beautiful young widow who’s moved to town inspires a change of heart. Could it be that the myth of Redemption’s healing magic is true…and Jackson and Caroline can find a second chance at a happy ending after all?

Author Emily March
Author Emily March

 

Author Bio:

Emily March is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the heartwarming Eternity Springs series. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeño relish has made her a tailgating legend.

https://www.amazon.com/Emily-March/e/B004FRHU2A/

Buy-Book Link:

https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250314918

https://www.amazon.com/Jackson-Eternity-Springs-McBrides-Texas-ebook/dp/B07H7CK7KS/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jackson-Eternity-Springs-McBrides-Texas-ebook/dp/B07H7CK7KS/

https://www.amazon.es/Jackson-Eternity-Springs-McBrides-Texas-ebook/dp/B07H7CK7KS/

The author has kindly answered some questions about the book for her readers:

You wrote a book! That’s pretty awesome. Why don’t you tell us a bit about what inspired Jackson and the rest of the books in the Eternity Springs world?

The saying “Write what you know” says it all in my case. I’m a small-town girl and my family and friendships are center to my world. I write about love and family and friendships. I have roots in both the Colorado Rockies and the Texas Hill Country, so it was natural for me to set Eternity Springs and Redemption there. The idea for JACKSON grew out of my interest in the music currently being written and performed in Texas. I’ve always thought singer/songwriters are romantic figures so I was excited to create a hero with this background. Unfortunately, I’m not a musician and I’m definitely not a singer, but I am creative so it was fun for me to explore that aspect of a character.

Introduce us to your main character!

Okay. Well, Americana singer/songwriter Jackson McBride is a bit damaged when the book begins. His famous, talented and wealthy ex has won a custody battle that severely limits his access to his six-year-old daughter, so Jackson goes home to the Texas Hill Country to nurse his broken heart. He finds solace in Enchanted Canyon hiking the trails with the dog he rescues and working to bring a historic dance hall back to life. The last thing he expects is to find love again with a woman whose heart is as battered as his own.

Walk us through a day in the life of Emily March.

Ready to be bored? Now that my daughter’s and niece’s weddings are behind me—they consumed me for months—I’m boring and happy about it. I split my time between Fort Worth where we have a condo downtown in a 1930’s passenger train station and our lake house in the Texas Hill Country. I recently gave up my office in town because I’m spending more and more time at the lake. My husband also offices out of our condo, so on days when we are both working in town, I’ve started riding the new TexRail train that runs from our building to DFW airport. It’s quiet and comfortable and I don’t have Internet to distract me. And at $5 a day, it’s much cheaper than office rent. 🙂 When I’m at the lake I’m either working or doing yard work. My new favorite toy is my power washer.

Lots of aspiring authors out there. Any advice for them?

I’ve always thought that one of the most important things you can do for your writing is to read. And read. And read some more. Read across genres. You absorb so much about pacing and plotting and character development when you read. Plus, you get to READ! 🙂 (I so agree with her!)

How is the Jackson trilogy different from your other series?

I don’t think it’s necessarily different from the rest of the Eternity Springs series. I write about love and family and friendship—that doesn’t change. Readers will still see old friends from Eternity Springs and a few scenes in JACKSON are set in Colorado. What’s new is we get to spend some time in the Texas Hill Country and meet a few new characters—Celeste’s cousin, Angelica, for example.

I know asking someone’s all-time favorite book is a loaded question so what’s your current favorite read?

I’m a big fan of Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series and I’m reading her latest right now, STORM CURSED.

Alright, the ultimate question: why should we read your book?

My goals as a writer are to touch a reader’s heart, to entertain her and make her laugh, to maybe cry a little and sigh with satisfaction upon reaching the end. With JACKSON, I believe I’ve achieved those goals.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Family. Family. Family. 🙂

What is your most embarrassing memory?

Walking out of the junior high school cafeteria in seventh grade, not realizing that my very short dress—it was the 70’s—had gotten hung up in my underwear and I inadvertently flashed my rear end to the entire cafeteria—including the tables where the football players sat. Thinking about it even today gives me the hives.

Favorite quote or scene you wrote in JACKSON?

I love the ending.  Jackson is a songwriter who has lost his music and when he finds it again…the song he sings to Caroline…just makes me melt.

What is one piece of advice you would tell everyone?

Call your mother.

What inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve always loved to read, so that is part of it, but my father was my primary inspiration. He was a fabulous storyteller. I grew up sitting at his feet and listening to him tell stories about his youth and his experiences in Europe during World War II. Listening to him tell his stories was my favorite thing to do. I didn’t inherit his talent for verbal storytelling, but I think I learned from him how to tell a good story on the page.

Do you have any interesting writing quirks or habits?

Like I mentioned before, I’m pretty boring. My perks and habits are always evolving. The train writing thing is new for me. I usually write on a laptop and edit on a desktop. I listen to movie soundtracks when I write and always finish a book with The Last of the Mohicans.

What has been one of the most surprising things you’ve learned as a published author?

I’m always a little surprised and honored that readers are excited to meet me. Like I said…I’m a boring person.

What is your favorite state to visit? Colorado, of course, because I must keep returning to Eternity Springs. 🙂

What are hobbies or interests do you have?

We are lake people, so I love waterskiing and boating and fishing. As I write this we’ve just finished Memorial Day weekend at the lake, so I sort of feel like chief cook and sheet-and-towel washer, too. I love, love, love hosting big holiday gatherings of family and friends at the lake house, but I will admit I do tire of the mountain of laundry in the aftermath.

Can you tell us about what’s coming up next after this for you writing wise?

I’m writing Tucker’s story. Fun fact for this—as part of my research I attended a survivalist training school for a weekend. I searched long and hard to find one where I could return to town to spend the night in a comfy hotel rather than sleep on the ground—I’m only willing to go so far for my art. I did learn to start a friction fire, though, something I’m VERY proud of. 🙂

How can readers connect with you online?

My website is www.emilymarch.com. I’m active on Facebook. My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/emilymarchbooks. You can also reach me by email at emily@emilymarch.com.

I like the sound of her, and writing in a train…

Cover of Jackson, by Emily March.
Jackson. By Emily March

Now, my review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I read and reviewed one of Emily Barr’s novels in the Eternity Springs series, The Christmas Wishing Tree (you can read my review here), last summer and enjoyed it, particularly the lovely town of Eternity Springs, and I could not resist checking what her new story was like.

This novel is a crossover (or a spin-off, I guess) of that other series, as it does include quite a few of the characters of Eternity Springs, and, in fact, Celeste Blessing plays quite a part in getting things started,  but it focuses on three male cousins, the McBrides, who are very close in age and grew up together, share wonderful memories, but have taken very different paths in life. They are left a pretty interesting legacy from their great-aunt, and it gives them an opportunity to start a project together, in Texas.

Jackson McBride, the protagonist of the story (or one of them. Caroline Carruthers plays a very important part in the story, if not the most important), is a musician, a composer of Americana/country music, who’s been unable to compose since his marriage ended, and he lost the custody battle for his little girl, Haley. But his love for music remains unabated, and the project at Last Hope gives him a different avenue to invest it on, one that will allow him to help other performers and recover a historical venue.

We meet Caroline Carruthers at a difficult time in her life. She married a man fifteen years older than her, a professor, when he was quite young, and she seems to have become his wife, first and foremost. She writes articles about Texas for magazines, but her life is turned upside down when her husband is diagnosed with early dementia. Her sister-in-law does not accept her decision of having her husband looked after in a nursing home, and the situation brings home just how dependent Catherine has become on her husband and how limited her personal support network is. A chance encounter with Celeste makes her discover Redemption, Texas, and she gets a second chance.

This novel shares many of the characteristic that made me enjoy the previous one. Redemption is a pretty interesting and welcoming place, Enchanted Canyon Ranch, and Ruin, the ghost town, are great settings, beautiful, magical, and we get to see how Angelica (Celeste’s cousin, another cousin in a book full of them, and my favourite character), Jackson, and Boon transform the place into a haven, the Texan cousin of Celeste’s inn at Eternity Springs. The landscape and descriptions of the natural beauty of the area are vivid and make readers wish they could be there, and the writer captures well the language, customs, and local expressions (even if it some of the situations ring of an adult fairy tale). There are also great secondary characters, some that are likely to play bigger parts in other books in the series, and for those readers who are already familiar with Eternity Springs, there are plenty of familiar faces who make an appearance here (even I, who’ve only read one of the books, recognized quite a few). I also enjoyed the relationships between friends and family members, and the interactions between the cousins had that ease and familiarity that made them ring true. There is plenty of humour, some drama (yes, bad things happen and there’s grief in store for many of the characters), and a fairly gentle story, with bickering and discussions over decorating and sports, music, dogs, food, families and friendships.

The main characters are likeable, have suffered in their personal lives, and deserve a second chance. They are both reluctant to commit to new relationships because they are grieving for their last ones, but… Well, I was going to say this is a romance after all, and it is, but it also has much in common with women’s fiction, despite the male coprotagonist. Caroline grows strong throughout the book, takes control of her own life, and acquires a network of female friends who support her no matter what. Jackson already had his cousins, although they all seem to keep secrets, and his recovery involves helping his ex-wife stand tall and start behaving like an adult. Women are the ones who change and grow the most throughout the novel, and although their roles might appear conventional at first, they prove they are stronger and more determined than they thought. As I said, I found the characters likeable, but I felt about them a bit like I would about a nice couple I’d met and chatted one evening. I have the best wishes for them, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them around every now and then, but I don’t think they’ll leave a lasting impression, and there wasn’t anything particularly distinctive or memorable about them (although I liked the sound of Caroline’s bookshop, The Next Page).

I read some reviews that complained about the references and inclusion of characters not directly related to the stories, and got a bit lost. As I said, I have met some of the characters before, so I was slightly more familiar with them, but I wouldn’t let that scare any possible readers, as it is not a big part of the book, and it does not hinders the understanding of the action. (It involves the chapters around the opening of the new inn, and Boon’s friends from Eternity Springs turn up as guests, and that means a fair amount of new people who suddenly land there). On the other hand, I’m pretty convinced that readers of the series will be delighted to catch up with some of their favourite characters in the new setting.

This is a nice and gentle read, with no violent or sex scenes, in an enchanting Texan setting , likely to appeal to readers of romance, especially that set in the world of the music industry, Americana in particular, women’s fiction, and stories about second chances. The characters don’t break any molds, and it is not a particularly challenging story, but it is a comforting one. Recommended to readers of the Eternity Springs series and to anybody keen on a refreshing and gently inspiring story.

Those of you who know me, know that I tend to suggest that people check a sample of the book to make sure the writing style is a good fit. Here, the publishers have kindly send me an excerpt of the book that I share with you.

Chapter One Excerpt 

Nashville, Tennessee

Bang. The judge’s gavel fell and officially crushed Jackson McBride’s heart. He closed his eyes. Bleak despair washed over him. Up until this very moment, he hadn’t believed she’d take it this far.

He’d thought she’d come to her senses. He’d thought she would recognize that this proposal was not only nonsense, but truly insane. He’d believed that somewhere deep inside of her, she still had a spark of humanity. That she wouldn’t do this to him. To them. He’d been wrong.

Damn her. Damn her and the yes-men she surrounded herself with. Damn them all to hell and back.

The enormity of what had just happened washed over him. Oh, God, how will

I survive this?

On the heels of his anguish came the rage. It erupted hot as lava, and it fired his blood and blurred his vision with a red haze of fury. He’d never hit a woman in his life. Never come close, despite plenty of provocation from her direction. In that moment had she been within reach, he might have lived up her accusations.

It scared the crap out of him. That’s what she’s brought me to.

Abruptly, he shoved back his chair so hard that it teetered, almost falling over. He strode toward the courtroom exit. “Jackson? Jackson, wait!” his attorney called, hurrying after him.

Jackson waved her off and didn’t stop. There was nothing left to be said. Nothing left to be done. No place left to go.

No little girl waiting at home to hug and cuddle and kiss good night.

The tap on the toes of Jackson’s boots clacked against the tile floor of the courthouse as his long-legged strides ate up the hallway. He shunned the elevator for the stairs and descended three flights at a rapid pace, then headed for the building’s exit. In a foolish bit of positive thinking, he’d driven his SUV to the courthouse this morning. Now the sight of the safety booster seat in the back seat made him want to kick a rock into next week.

He didn’t want to go home to a quiet, empty house. He shouldn’t go to a bar. Alcohol on top of his current mood could be a dangerous combination. Somebody probably would get hurt.

He got into the car and started the engine. For a long moment he sat unmoving, staring blindly through the windshield, his hands squeezing the steering wheel so hard that it should have cracked. When his phone rang, he ignored it.

A couple of minutes later, it rang a second time. Again, he ignored it. When it happened a third time, he finally glanced at the display to see who was calling. His cousin. Okay, maybe he would answer it.

“Hello, Boone.”

“How did the hearing go?”

Jackson couldn’t speak past the lump in his throat, so he said nothing.

Following a moment’s silence, Boone got the message. He muttered a curse, and then said, “I’m sorry, man. So damn sorry.”

“Well, it is what it is.”

“You can take another run at it.”

“Yeah.” In three years. Three years. Might as well be three decades. He cleared his throat and changed the subject. “So, how are things in Eternity Springs?”

“Good. They’re good. My friend Celeste Blessing visited my office a few minutes ago and spoke of her granite-headed cousin. Naturally, I thought of you.”

“Naturally,” Jackson dryly replied. But he felt a little less alone.

“Do you have plans this weekend? I could use your help with something.”

Pretty convenient timing. Knowing Boone, he had a spy in the courtroom. But Jackson wasn’t in the position to ignore the bone he’d been thrown. “I’m free. Whatcha got?”

“I’d like you to meet me at home.”

Jackson straightened in surprise. “You’re going back to the ranch?”

“No. Not there. I’m never going back there. However, I am talking about Texas. The Hill Country in particular. A little town west of Austin called Redemption.”

“Redemption, Texas?” Jackson repeated. For some weird reason, his heart gave a little skip. “Why there?”

“It’s a long story. Too long for a phone call. I’ll give you the entire skinny when I see you. When can you get there?”

After today’s debacle, Jackson had absolutely no reason to remain in Nashville. “When do you want me there?”

“I’ll be in later today. I’m in Austin now. I’ve been helping a friend with a project. I have a flight back to Colorado Sunday evening. The earlier you can get here the better, but I’ll make anything work.”

Jackson figured the distance and the drive time. “I’ll meet you tomorrow afternoon. Where?”

“Great. I’ll text you the info when we hang up. Bring camping gear.”

When a sound behind him had Jackson glancing up into the rearview mirror and the booster seat caught his notice, he made an instant decision. “Can’t. I’ll be on my bike.”

“You’re gonna ride your motorcycle all the way from Nashville?”

“Yes, I think I am.”

“Okay. I’ll bring stuff for both of us.” Boone hesitated a moment and added, “Hang in there,

Jackson. It’ll get better.”

No, I don’t think it will. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Jackson ended the call and finally put his SUV in gear and backed out of the parking place. With the distraction of the call behind him, fury returned, and by the time he reached home, he felt like a volcano about to explode.

He threw a handful of things into his tail bag, filled his wallet with cash from his stash, and ten minutes after his arrival, he fired up his bike and took his broken heart and headed out of Nashville. He left behind his home, his work, and his one reason for living, his six-year-old daughter, Haley.

From Jackson. Copyright © 2019 by Emily March and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

Thanks to NetGalley, to St. Martin’s Press and the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always, always keep smiling!

 

GET MY FREE BOOKS
%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security