Saturday 25 June 2022

THE FOREVER HOUSE by Linda Acaster @LindaAcaster #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member, though I had actually bought it before that - seen on Twitter.

In a Nutshell: A bereaved woman uncovers an age-old mystery in her new house.

Carrie and husband Jason spent their time buying, renovating and selling houses - but this one Carrie wanted to make their 'forever house'.  Alas, Jason died shortly after work began, leaving her in an emotional wasteland, unsure how she felt about anything at all.  Their only son lives in Australia; she Skypes with Dominic and his family, but it's not enough.  Then there is Louise, Jason's magazine-perfect, high-flying sister, who is suffering too ... but she and Carrie are worlds apart.

The plot unfolds when Carrie finds drawings beneath the plaster in one of the bedrooms, that make her want to find out more about the house's owners of possibly a hundred years ago.  Her obsessive interest in them is surely a means of filling the gap in her life, though she doesn't see this.

I did enjoy this book, and read it in just three days.  It's so well-written; for a while at the beginning it moves slowly, with much detail about Carrie's uncovering of the clues to the family long departed, but I was still engrossed.  The story did not develop as I was expecting it to - it turned out to be something completely different to what I thought I was reading.

This is a nicely rounded-out novel with complex relationship dynamics; the character of Louise I found particularly interesting (though her life depressed me!).  I would recommend it to older readers who like to read about a main character of a 'certain age' representative of older women in the 21st century, and who enjoy a decent mystery and solid, absorbing storytelling.

Sunday 19 June 2022

THE MUD MAN by Donna Marie West #RBRT

3.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
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:  Anthropologist Veronica finds prehistoric man frozen but still alive in a thawing bog.

An interesting book!

What I liked:
  • The story idea; it was the blurb that attracted me.  What a great premise!  Wanting to know what would happen kept me reading all the way through.  I thought the gradual, slow way in which the man's recovery was described was very well thought-out.
  • The fact that the author made something that sounds crazy unrealistic come across as totally feasible.  I was impressed by this from the beginning.
  • The amount of research that has clearly been done, into every aspect of this story, and the way it was woven seamlessly into the text; I never felt as though I was reading Ms West's research notes, as one sometimes does.  Every part of the Mud Man's recovery and development felt authentic.
  • The 'easy read' quality of the book; the scientific aspects are explained so that anyone can understand them - and learn something.  I found some of the explanations most interesting.
  • The ending: it was fitting, and I'm so glad the author didn't make it schmaltzy.

What I was unsure about:
  • The tone of the book, which is a little twee at times and I felt would be more suited to light 'women's fiction' or even a sweet romance.  The writing style didn't seem right for a book about this subject matter; Veronica didn't come across as a respected academic, to me.  
  • There was too much mundane detail.  If a character is having a day at home, we don't need to know what she did unless it is plot relevant, or pertinent to her character development.  Lists of information telling us what she ate for breakfast, that she rang her mother, cuddled her 'kitties', then ate such-and-such for lunch, etc., come across as superfluous.  There was too much needless detail about what people ate and drank, throughout.
  • Mud Man Dom's way of speaking.  Surely the amount of time he spent with people educating him would have resulted in him able to speak in more than childlike monosyllables, which became monotonous to read after a while.
  • How some characters are described as 'African-American'.  It seems odd, if you're not also pointing out every time someone is of Asian or Caucasian origin.
  • The way in which Veronica (and others) looked on Dom as subject matter to make her rich and respected in her field, even down to exposing him to the hell of TV and chat shows.  
Having said all that, I did want to keep reading, all the way through, because of the storyline itself.  It's not a bad book at all; I just think it needs a firmer hand!

Monday 6 June 2022

THE LAST PRINCESS by Shelley Wilson @ShelleyWilson72 #TuesdayBookBlog

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book:  Disclaimer: I know the author and was excited about reading this book, but this has in no way affected the content of the review; if I had not liked it, I would not have reviewed.

In a Nutshell:  YA historical, Vikings and Saxons.

I'm mad for anything about Vikings and Saxon history, and some of this book is set in an area near where I live, so I was looking forward to it.  From the way Shelley Wilson talked about it on social media as she was researching and writing, I had a feeling it would be good, and it is.

First of all, I am aware that I am decades older than the target market; I would say it's quite young YA, as it would be the sort of book I'd have loved when I was 12 or 13, and if I had a young teenage daughter I would be happy for her to read it.  I tried at all times to read it with this in mind, though it's a cracking story whatever age you are, and I very much enjoyed it.  There is one scene that is a bit more sexually explicit than I expected, but no more so than some books available in children's libraries today.

(I mention reading it with its target market in mind, because some reviews on Goodreads appear to assess it as if it were an adults' book, which must be so frustrating for both author and publisher.)

The Last Princess is loosely based on the 9th century taking of the Northumbrian throne by Aelle, starting with the murder of King Osberht, his brother.  Whether or not Shelley Wilson's Edith, the daughter of Osberht, existed, I don't know; little is definite about that period.  This novel is about her life as a Northumbrian princess, the loss of her family, and the many adventures that took her from a slave ship to Viking battlefields.   It's got the lot: fear,brutality, love, hardship, betrayal, loss - I would actually like to read a longer version for AA (actual adults!), because I  enjoyed it so much.

Edith's growth and change throughout the story is believable, and my favourite character was Jarl Aaric, the Viking leader who becomes an important part of her life.  One aspect about it that I loved was how it didn't talk down to the reader, or try to push forward certain narratives, like so much in YA-orientated fiction (written word and TV) these days.  Ms Wilson has not shied away from the brutality of the time, or given her characters present-day attitudes.  In the 9th Century, people were far more close to death than we are now, and this is reflected.

Any negatives?  Only the occasional use of the word 'gifted' where 'given' or 'gave' would have done just fine; it's an Americanism that should have been pounced on by the editor.  However, apart from wincing each time I read this (and do bear in mind that it's a pet hate of mine - you may not mind it!), I wholeheartedly recommend this book - if you have a teenage daughter, buy it for her now - she will love Edith!

Sunday 5 June 2022

PRIDE'S CHILDREN: Purgatory by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon
On Goodreads

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

Kary is a writer with more than her share of emotional baggage.  Andrew is a charismatic leading man, while Hollywood princess Bianca fears that her star might be fading, and hopes to keep it shining alongside the presence of Andrew.

Kary suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and this novel certainly gives the reader an insight into what this debilitating illness involves, and the restrictions it imposes on the life of the sufferer; also, I felt it gave the story an unusual slant.  Kary can't afford, emotionally, to fall in love, but she reckoned without meeting Andrew on a New York talk show - and then the New Hampshire town where she lives is chosen as the venue for Bianca's new film; here the three lives become emotionally entangled.

Ms Ehrhardt has such an entertaining writing style, easy and conversational.  The narrative is presented in alternate points of view of Kary, Andrew and Bianca, enabling the reader to immediately connect with each of them - my favourite structure.  Pride's Children: Purgatory is the first of a trilogy, but is complete in itself.

At times I felt the book could have used a tighter edit, to remove some of the detail that slowed the story down, and just to make the narrative more succinct, but it's still well-written and a jolly good story.