Thursday, 31 October 2019

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by Ailish Sinclair @AilishSinclair #RBRT

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads
On BookBub



How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: 16th Century Scottish Historical (Romance)

I chose this book from the review team list because I've loved looking at the author's marvellous photos of Scotland on her website for some years now; I hoped that anyone so artistic and with such a love for the area in which this story is set would be a fine writer too, though this doesn't necessarily follow, of course—but I'm pleased to say that I was not disappointed.

The Mermaid and The Bear is listed as a historical romance, but it's much more than that.  At first, after protagonist Isobell escaped her London betrothal to 'Wicked Richard' and headed for a Scottish castle to work as a kitchen maid, I wondered if the book would be too 'twee' for me; beautifully written and a good example of its type, but I thought it would follow the well-trodden romance novel path of misunderstandings and awkward situations before the lovers come together, and that would be that.  I was so wrong! Although the relationship is an important part of the story arc, it is not the sole focus.

Ailish Sinclair's portrayal of 16th century, wild rural Scotland is quite magical.  On one recent evening I was curled up in bed, head on cushions and lights dimmed, and I found that I was revelling in every description of the countryside, the day-to-day life at the castle (particularly the Christmas revellry; this made me long to be in the book myself!), the suggestion of ancient spirituality, and the hopes and dreams of the characters.  Suddenly I realised that I'd gone from thinking 'yes, this is a pleasant enough, easy-read' to 'I'm loving this'.  

From about half-way through, the book becomes very dark indeed, as the witch-hunts of the time rear their gruesome head; there is a strong sense of good versus evil.  This is where, for me, it became even more interesting.

Much of the locals' dialogue is written in the Scottish dialect, but this is not overdone, so it didn't become irritating to read at all—it just added authenticity.  I liked how Isobell's inner thoughts and conversation took on the Scottish words and phraseology gradually, over time, as would be the case.  Her development over the course of the story is so realistic, and the Laird of the castle is the sort of character you can't help falling a little bit in love with.  The notes at the back add interest to the whole novel, too.

If you adore historical fiction, especially set in the 16th century, I'd recommend this book without hesitation.  If you're a bit 'hmm' about historical romance, I would still recommend it, without a doubt—and this is coming from someone who usually runs a mile from any variation on the romance genre.  Go buy it.  Now.


Sunday, 20 October 2019

Little Known Gems Part #2: Historical Fiction

Why do some books do well on Amazon and some don't?

After 8 years of being involved in the self-pub world, I've come to the conclusion that Amazon sales can (but not always) have little to do with the book's quality, exposure on social media, the cover, the blurb, the genre, whatever.  It might be simply that it never got enough initial, regular sales and reviews to click the Amazon algorithms into 'start recommending and making generally visible to readers' mode.   

And if your book doesn't hit that wave, it can become all but invisible on the site where most people buy their ebooks.  The less it sells, the less it will continue to sell.  If Amazon was a physical library, it would be tucked away on the bottom of a dusty shelf at the back.


I decided to start a short (and probably irregular) series of recommendations for books that really ought to sell brilliantly, because they're exceptionally good.  

This isn't just me giving a shout-out for some writer friends, or saying, 'this is alright, you might like it'.  I'm saying this: 

If this is your genre, you'll love it, 
because it's seriously good

I've chosen books that an Amazon robot has either misfiled on a back shelf or left in the stockroom by mistake—today, though, they're where they should be: on one of those cool little display things at the front, near the counters :)


#2: Historical Fiction
Click the book's title for my review, and Amazon buy links


The Tudor Enigma Trilogy  by April Taylor
16th century - Alternative History 



Back Home by Tom Williams
Victorian London - Crime



The Planter's Daughter by Jo Carroll
19th Century - Ireland - Australia - New Zealand


 
Long Shadows by Thorne Moore
11th, 14th and early 20th Century - Wales 



The Worst Journey in the World by John R McKay
WW2 Naval - Liverpool - Russia



New York 1609 by Harald Johnson
17th Century - New York










Monday, 14 October 2019

THIS WILL BREAK EVERY BONE IN YOUR HEART by Keith Anthony Baird @kabauthor

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads




How I discovered this book: Twitter

In a Nutshell: Long novelette/short novella, dark psychological fiction/horror: mind control.

This is a clever, short book about a boy called Zachary who is placed in an institute at a very early age, where he has contact with no humans apart from his carers for some years.  He is found 'parents' at around the age of 5, and from then on every aspect of his life is monitored and controlled by a shadow organisation.  His family, friends, the ups and mostly downs throughout his life—none of it happens by accident.  His formative years are damaging enough, but as the tragedies and losses pile up, he becomes increasingly paranoid and sociopathic.

The story is very well written, and a real page turner; I couldn't work out why any of it was happening or what the outcome was going to be.  In the last third of the book there is a massive twist, completely unexpected—and the purpose of the whole 'experiment' is revealed at last.  I'm usually pretty good at predicting stuff like this, but I didn't guess it.

It's a dark and distressing story, not for the faint of heart, but for anyone who likes low-key, psychological horror, and has an interest in behind the scenes mind control (that's me with both hands up), I'd most certainly recommend it.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Little Known Gems: Part #1: Post Apocalyptic/Dystopian/SciFi/Military


Why do some books do well on Amazon and some don't?

After 8 years of being involved in the self-pub world, I've come to the conclusion that Amazon sales can (but not always) have little to do with the book's quality, exposure on social media, the cover, the blurb, the genre, whatever.  It might be simply that it never got enough initial, regular sales and reviews to click the Amazon algorithms into 'start recommending and making generally visible to readers' mode.   

And if your book doesn't hit that wave, it can become all but invisible on the site where most people buy their ebooks.  The less it sells, the less it will continue to sell.  If Amazon was a physical library, it would be tucked away on the bottom of a dusty shelf at the back.


I decided to start a short (and probably irregular) series of recommendations for books that really ought to sell brilliantly, because they're exceptionally good.  

This isn't just me giving a shout-out for some writer friends, or saying, 'this is quite good, you might like it'.  I'm saying this: 

If this is your genre, you'll love it, 
because it's seriously terrific

I've chosen books that an Amazon robot must have mis-filed on that dusty back shelf, or left in the stockroom by mistake—today, though, they're where they should be: on one of those cool little display things at the front, near the counters :)


Click the book's title for my review, and Amazon buy links


The Last Feast by Zeb Haradon (novella)
SciFi - Post Apocalyptic - Space


Farm Land: Sentience by G Lawrence
Dystopian - SciFi - Horror


The Bledbrooke Works by John F Leonard
Horror


The Morning Star by C W Hawes
Post Apocalyptic 


Jonah by Carl Rackman 
Military - Paranormal - Thriller


October Rain by Dylan Morgan (novella)
SciFi - Post Apocalyptic - Dystopian


Future Perfect by Katrina Mountfort
Sci-Fi - Dystopian - Post apocalyptic


By The Feet Of Men by Grant Price
Dystopian - Post Apocalyptic - Climate Change



The Turning of the World by John Privilege
Post Apocalyptic 


X by Jack Croxall (short story)
Post Apocalyptic


Next time: Historical Fiction





Friday, 11 October 2019

THE CONFESSOR'S WIFE by Kelly Evans #RBRT

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads



How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: 11th century historical fiction

As more and more historical novels hit the virtual shelves, authors of the genre are digging deeper to find the lesser known characters to write about.  Edith was, as the title suggests, the wife of Edward the Confessor, one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England.  Edward was succeeded by Harold Godwinson, who was famously defeated by William of Normandy in 1066.

I enjoyed this - it's a light sort of historical fiction that flows well, an 'easy read'.  I don't know much about the factual details of this time, but I did have a brief look online and it appears to be well-researched.  Also, the domestic details are presented well, with just enough information—I liked that there was none of the endless descriptive passages straight from the research notes that is present in some histfic; I never felt that I was reading the author's research at all, which is always a plus.

On the slight downside there were times when I felt the dialogue was too modern, with the odd mild Americanism such as 'snuck' instead of 'sneaked', though they weren't bad enough to make me stop reading.  My only other negative was problems with punctuation; either the author or her proofreader, or preferably both, need to learn about run-on sentences/comma splices; there were quite a lot of these, and the odd missing comma.  But, again, this was only mildly irritating.

This isn't a book for the historical fiction purist or buff, but for those who are after an enjoyable, light novel with some well-drawn characters and an interesting look back in time, I'd say it's just the thing.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

TRIBE OF DAUGHTERS by Kate L Mary @kmary0622

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads
On BookBub



How I discovered this book: in my Kindle library; I've read lots of this author's books before, and downloaded this some time ago.

In a Nutshell: In a post-apocalyptic world, a village exists up a mountain which is ruled by women

The novel is set 70 years after a plague wiped out most of the population, and takes place in a strange village up a mountainside - a matriarchal society, in which the men do as they're told, and women choose husbands to make more daughters from the 'yieldlings' within the village (men who have grown up there), or 'foundlings' - men from outside, who are kidnapped.

The story starts when Jameson is abducted along with 4 other members of a working party.  He is chosen as a husband by Wilderness, the daughter of the village Elder.  The story is told in the alternate POV chapters of Jameson and Wilderness.

When I first started reading this, I thought, oh, this is fun - a society in which women make men feel as unimportant as the men of the past used to make women feel; some of the parallels amused me, as I saw the foundlings' outrage about aspects of their new lives that the women of history put up with, without question, for hundreds of years.  But as the story when on, I saw how sinister it was, and how it was no better than any patriarchal society of the past.  Really, it's a story about control, and its evils.  Jameson decides to stick with it, as his life back in the post-apocalyptic city wasn't so great, either, and he tries to teach Wilderness that this way of living is far from utopian.

I liked the story a lot; it's original, and Kate Mary's books are always so readable.  At first I was a bit unsure about aspects of the world left behind, which is only talked about in vague retrospect, though we do see more evidence later, and of course all post-apocalyptic writers see the effects of disaster differently; no one knows how it actually would be.  I was also unsure about the way the villagers talked - in just 70 years they had gone back to talking like something out of a Jane Austen novel, at times, saying things like 'Good morrow' to each other, but later on I understood that this was all part of the initial control by the woman who started the community; when Wilderness meets men from the 'outside', she thinks how strange it is that they 'run their words together'.

Yes, it's good.  Recommended!


Saturday, 21 September 2019

INTRIGUE & INFAMY by Carol Hedges @caroljhedges

5 GOLD stars

On Amazon UK
On Amazon.com
On Goodreads

 
How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member, but I would have bought it anyway because I adore this series!

In a Nutshell:  Mid-Victorian murder mystery, set in London.  Book 7 of a series of stand-alones.

Loved it, loved it.  When I got to 80% I found myself slowing down because I didn't want to read it too quickly.  In this 7th book of the series, racism rears its ugly head, showing that it is far from being just a 20th and 21st century problem.  Stride and Cully must deal with a series of arson attacks on businesses, and the brutal murder of an old Italian man.

Elsewhere, socialite Juliana Silverton is thoroughly enjoying the attention received since her engagement to hedonistic rich boy Henry Haddon, her delight marred only by a secret from the past ... and the appearance of Henry's younger half-brother's new tutor.

This book is as expertly structured as the rest of the series, and includes similarly colourful characters and the ever-present chasm between rich and poor, so much a theme in all the books - and in certain areas of life nothing has changed; young aristocrats with powerful connections are able to get away with the most heinous of crimes, just as they always have been and are now.  

Although illustrating society's problems in the most deft way, Ms Hedges does not fall into the cliché of making all the privileged characters the 'bad guys'; I was pleased to see a happy outcome for one, in particular.  I guessed the perpetrators of the crimes quite early on, but this didn't matter a jot; the joy of reading these books is the writing itself, the vivid pictures of 1860s London, and the slow unfolding of sub-plots.

I can't help but think of what star rating I will give a book while I am reading it, and this was a solid 5* all the way through, but what earned it my extra 'gold' star was the end twist that I never saw coming.  It was beautifully executed, and made me smile as I realised how other aspects were explained by it.  

If you haven't read any of these books, I recommend you start now - and I hope this is not the end of the series....