Tuesday 31 January 2023

A MOTHER'S LAMENT by @NikkiRodwell #Poetry #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

4.5 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: Poems about the trials and joys of motherhood.

I've never considered myself one who appreciates poetry, but lately I've found myself liking the type featured in this book - short pictures of an emotion, many of them free verse.  A Mother's Lament is a raw look at some of the realities of the state of motherhood, straight from the heart.  I've read a couple of Nikki Rodwell's poems on social media, and think she has a definite talent for encapsulating a situation and plumbing its joys and depths, in just a few words.  'The Swamp' so articulately describes the pain of deep family rifts, with the end verse telling the child that behind all the difficulty, the mother's love still remains. 'Peace', which comes next, is like a sequel to this.

Other favourites:  'Overboard', three short verses about the carrying of and giving birth to a child, alienation as the child grows ('Mid voyage your compass went awry' - love that), and an image of the mother treading water, 'hands clutching to driftwood' as she waits for the child's return.  I think this was my favourite of all of them.  'Broken Pieces' is in a similar vein.  I smiled at 'I love you but I don't like you' - I heard my own mother say similar about my sister and me on more than one occasion!

Then there is 'Brave' - a real gem; motherly advice about not following the crowd.  I also like 'Mirage' - sad and beautiful.  The collection ends with 'A Mother's Prayer for her Children' - but what is 'the golden rule'?!

Most of the verses are topped by a small, relevant graphic, which adds so much to them - these little pictures somehow give them all more meaning, and I think the cover is perfect.  It's a fine collection; Nikki Rodwell, you are a poet!

Monday 30 January 2023

MY LADY SPY by Gemma Lawrence @TudorTweep #TuesdayBookBlog

5 GOLD stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: a favourite author, a great series, I was looking forward to it rather than discovering it!  Originally discovered Gemma Lawrence via Twitter; first read her work on Wattpad.

In a Nutshell: Book 5 of the Armillary Sphere series, about Lady Jane Rochford.

Easily my favourite book in this series so far, My Lady Spy is set during Lady Jane's time at court during the reign of three wives of Henry VIII: Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard.  

Jane Seymour

The slight psychic abilities that Ms Lawrence has given Jane are beautifully written in this book; the one that sticks in my head, in particular, is her momentary vision of how Catherine's life might have been had the King died during their marriage.  In another writer's hand this somewhat supernatural element could have seemed out of place in a novel with such factual credibility, but Gemma Lawrence gets it just right.

Anne of Cleves

When Jane is coaching the ladies in her charge, as preparation for the arrival of Anne of Cleves, much is explained about the protocol of the court and the day to day life of those who lived there; I enjoyed reading this very much, and also the way in which life in London is portrayed.  I also loved the way in which Jane's own inner story develops in this book, as she deftly controls her obligations to Cromwell while dealing with her own loneliness and sadness, and her loyalty to her true masters: all three queens.  All hail Anne of Cleves, perhaps the most clever of all six, and certainly the most fortunate.

The story of Jane's close friendship with Catherine Howard is heartbreaking to read, knowing as we do how it must end.  I was glad it brought them both some happiness for a while, however short-lived.

Tamzin Merchant as Catherine Howard in The Tudors

This novel gives much grim detail about the ruthless, evil dissolution of the monasteries, and makes all too clear the daily tension of living in a world where one never knew what the tyrant King would do next; on several occasions I saw certain parallels with our world now.  History repeats itself in many ways!

'Common people, noble too, did not welcome all that had happened over the past three years.  Elements of life left unchanged, stable for generations, for all time as far as the collective memory of the people understood, had altered beyond recognition in a matter of months.  The world, once stable under our feet, was trembling, and the people did not like it.'

'If those in ultimate control of us are evil then there is no hope for us, so we blame others.  We make our masters, these tyrants, innocent so we remain safe in their power.  Fictions control more of the world than we realise.'

'When tragedy comes for one, it comes for all.  Evil does not affect but one of us, not just a few, but permitting evil, standing aside as it rides towards us, allows it into our world, and all our world it poisons, a little at a time.'

This episode ends as Catherine Howard marries the King, and as Cromwell gets his just deserts (head removed from body).  I loved everything about this novel, and only wish Book 6 was already available!


Sunday 22 January 2023

SISTERS by Judith Barrow #TuesdayBookBlog @JudithBarrow77

 4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: have enjoyed a few by the author in the past, and saw her talking about it on Twitter :)

In a Nutshell: Family drama set in northern England and Wales in the 70s.

I was immediately engrossed in the premise of this book - in 1970, sisters Mandy and Angela are forever torn apart by a tragic event that changes the entire dynamic of their family life forever, and for which there is no fix.  The question of fault and blame encircles all of them - a tangle of smoke and mirrors, deals made, emotions never voiced, that will imprison the players in anguish for many years; the truths are as painful as any of the lies told.  Angela decides on a course of action that she will regret deeply in years to come, while Mandy takes a safer path.

The first part of this book, in particular, is so well drawn, and illustrates the time in which it was set so well.  It's not the music or the mentions of platform shoes, but the attitudes of the working people, their prejudices and delight in pointing a finger.  I thought Mandy's experiences at school were so realistic.

As the story carries on the true antagonist emerges; the plot is skillfully put together, with developments I did not foresee, as the two young women move forward in their vastly different lives. I felt that a lot of emotion went into the writing of this story and it weeps out of the pages, it really does.

On occasion I would have liked a bit more detail about some areas/periods that were covered quickly, but on the whole it's a very well-structured novel.  If you like down-to-earth family dramas, you will love this!

Sunday 8 January 2023

THE FORTUNE KEEPER by Deborah Swift @swiftstory

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: A favourite author, I've read the other two in the series.

In a Nutshell: Murder and astrology in Renaissance Italy.

Delightful book!  The Fortune Keeper is the story of Mia Caiozzi, an aspiring astrologer in 17th century Venice (I was interested to read in the notes at the back that female Venetian astrologers were quite the thing at this time!).  Mia is the step-daughter of the much talked about Giulia Tofana from the first two books of the series.

It's also the story of accomplished fraudster Imbroglio (definitely the most interesting character), revenge, secrets, spies, masks and murder, fear of the Inquisition, love and loss ... for me, though, it was, possibly more than anything, the story of Renaissance Venice.  Not a place or a time I know much about at all, I just loved the intricate day to day detail that showed how people lived then.  I'd swear Deborah Swift has her very own Tardis; her books are always written as though she has actually experienced that time and place.

The novel is a 'stand-alone' so it's not absolutely necessary to read Book #2, The Silkworm Keeper, before this one, though I would recommend doing so, not least of all because it's outstanding!  I read it 18 months ago and was glad I did because it provides the backstory for this book.  Or you could just start at Book #1, The Poison Keeper.  That's the best idea!  An immaculate series.