RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: February 2016

Smoke and Gold by Pauline Suett Barbieri

Smoke & Gold

Did Count St Germain, a European courtier and brilliant alchemist die in 1784 or had he discovered the secret to eternal life? In 1967 a Parisian, named Richard Chanfray appeared on TV apparently changing lead to gold and claiming to be Count St Germain.

This mysterious figure weaves in and out of the life of Rowena, a student of Art, as she returns to Amsterdam in 1976 to research a book on Dutch food through the ages. Four years earlier, she and her mother had met Meneer Surmount, a Frenchman dressed in 18th century style in a café near the red light district and now, her mother has died and her thoughts return to the mysterious stranger.

Juxtaposed with Rowena’s complicated adventures in Amsterdam is an account of her poverty-stricken childhood in Liverpool. Always dressed in hand-me-downs, her first new dress was a vivid memory spoilt by the actions of her best friend Sylvia, who tore the skirt. So enraged was Rowena that she pulled Sylvia’s plait until the roots bled and tied the girl by her hair to the centre of a manhole cover. But within a day they were friends again.

This intriguing book is packed with references to the artists of the city, to poets and philosophers, enriching the images created by the author. The prose is as rich as poetry. For instance, “The chef’s face was glowing from the heat of the cooking flames. Smoke plumed up from the butter he ladled onto the sizzling hobs, beneath copper pans which hung from a rack like Awards of Merit.”

Rowena (or the author) has an artist’s observation skills. Each Dutch scene, every character in Amsterdam is described vividly. She meets a man wearing five layers of pink brocade, velvet and leather. Although he was about 60, “he had the eyes of an enthusiastic teenager; they were ready to take on the world.”

This is a book to savour, to indulge in a vibrant yet mysterious world steeped in the history of the city. It is quite unlike any other novel I have read but I very much enjoyed it.

Teaser Tuesday #TuesdayBookBlog

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two or three “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Smoke & Gold

This week’s teaser passage comes from Smoke and Gold by Pauline Suett Barbieri.

“there were only two books in our house; the rent book and the funeral book. One for the living and one for the dead.”

“there was only one I really loved, one I really wanted to own- the “Wind in the Willows”.  So much so that having no money to buy the book, I copied the whole thing out in longhand.  This endeavour filled three, one-inch thick exercise books, which I stole from “Woolies”.

I will be reviewing this book next week.

 

 

#FridayFiveChallenge

This fun feature is a mini workshop invented by Rosie Amber. We look at book covers just from their thumbnail pictures at online selling book sites and make quick fire buying decisions. We look from a READERS Point of View and this exercise is very EYE OPENING.

To join in with the #FridayFiveChallenge please read the rules at the bottom of the page.

Yesterday I received an email from Goodreads with a list of suggested YA titles.  I am often disappointed that so many of the books are about zombies or fantasy but one cover drew me in.

SaltUS

I will read anything about the sea, fiction or nonfiction, romance or tragedy.  Exploring the book on Goodreads and  Amazon I discovered that this is the third book by American author Ruta Sepetys and the second one to be about the effects of World War Two on the ordinary people of Europe.

Blurb

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

This seems an apt time to be reading about refugees taking hazardous journeys even though it promises to be a traumatic read.

Most readers seem to be very enthusiastic about the book:-

 I really enjoyed Ruta Sepetys’ new book SALT TO THE SEA. I liked the format of short chapters with alternating protagonists, and I liked that each character had a secret to reveal, but most of all, I enjoyed learning about an event of historic significance.

Others, take the opposite viewpoint:-

The story is told in very short chapters of 2-3 pages (sometimes just a few sentences) and the perspective jumps between four different people – Joana, Florian, Emilia and Alfred. Personally, this didn’t work for me. We spent so little time with each character before moving on that I constantly felt distanced from them, never making an emotional connection. In the beginning, the rapid movement between perspectives even made it difficult to follow the story.

But the majority were positive:-

There are very few books that I recommend to every single person, regardless of what genre they like to read or their taste in books. But Salt to the Sea is one of them. From the moment I read the first page, I knew that this book would stick with me for the rest of my life.
Salt to the Sea is incredible. The characters, the writing, the plot. Everything is unparalleled.
It’s shocking and honest. It’s eye opening and emotional.
This book is perfect in every way. I highly recommend it.
SaltUK

 

And then I looked at Amazon.co.uk.

What a disappointing cover.  I can see the point of the barbed wire, but I would never have chosen this book at first glance.

So shall I BUY or will I PASS?

At £4.99 for the kindle version it is a little expensive when I already have so many books in my TBR pile, so I will PASS today but I will keep the book on the back boiler and may BUY in the future.

 

 

What have others chosen this week?

Shelley has found a sweet little kitten

Cathy reveals an electrifying cover

Rosie is going on a road trip on the back of a motorbike!

So now it’s your turn.

cat

Get yourself a cuppa and give yourself 5 minutes.

 

In today’s online shopping age, readers often base their buying decisions from small postage stamp size book covers (Thumb-nails), a quick glance at the book description and the review. How much time do they really spend making that buying decision?

AUTHORS – You often only have seconds to get a reader to buy your book, is your book cover and book bio up to it?

Rosie’s Friday Five Challenge is this….. IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….

1) Go to any online book supplier.

2) Randomly choose a category.

3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which has instantly appeal.

4) Read the book Bio/ Description for this book, and any other details.

5) If there are reviews, check out a couple,

6) Make an instant decision, would you BUY or PASS?

 

The Code for Killing by William Savage #RBRT

Code

 

The Code for Killing opens on a damp miserable day in 18th century Norfolk, where young Dr Adam Bascom is in a foul mood.  Fed up with traipsing through the muddy tracks to visit cantankerous wealthy patients, who are reluctant to pay his bills, he is in need of a change and perhaps some excitement.  But soon his life is taken over by murder investigations and constant travel from his small north Norfolk village to Norwich and also to London.

 

In An Unlamented Death, William Savage’s previous novel about Dr Bascom, Adam discovered a body in a country churchyard, but this time his help is sought by Mr Wicken, an important government official, who sends a King’s Messenger asking him to treat an injured man in Norwich, who has been attacked in suspicious circumstances.  Adam becomes embroiled in investigating the young man’s predicament, partly because he is in a catatonic state but also because he had been employed in secret work for the country.  The murder of a King’s Messenger in the same city adds urgency to his task.  There are further complications when Adam has to testify at the inquest of an unpopular miller who also appears to have been murdered.

 

The investigations do not prevent us from becoming well acquainted with Adam and his friends and family.  Unlike his pleasure seeking friend, the apothecary, Peter Lassimer, Adam is awkward and tactless when engaging with women, even though he appreciates their charms.  His encounters with an actress, a whore and his mother’s educated lady companion are all rich in wit and humour.  Other interesting characters such as the two appropriately named seamen Peg and Dobbin add to the richness of the narrative.

 

All this against the background of Georgian society and historical details of worries about French privateers and food shortages make this novel a fascinating visit into the past, combined with an intriguing mystery solved by an empathetic hero, aided by several lively women.

 

#FridayFiveChallenge

This fun feature is a mini workshop invented by Rosie Amber. We look at book covers just from their thumbnail pictures at online selling book sites and make quick fire buying decisions. We look from a READERS Point of View and this exercise is very EYE OPENING.

To join in with the #FridayFiveChallenge please read the rules at the bottom of the page.

This week I searched for genealogical mystery, a genre which I have enjoyed before. British author Steve Robinson has written a series of novels about Jefferson Tate, an American genealogist who reluctantly flies across the Atlantic to solve mysteries.  Another british author, Nathan Dylan Goodwin, writes about an English forensic genealogist called Morton Farrier.

This time I was drawn to Blood Tied by Wendy Percival.  A thriller based on murder and family secrets.

Blood Tied

Book Description

“A desperate crime, kept secret for 60 years… but time has a way of exposing the truth…”

Esme Quentin is devastated when her sister Elizabeth is beaten unconscious, miles from her home. Two days later Esme discovers that Elizabeth has a secret past. Desperate for answers which the comatose Elizabeth cannot give, Esme enlists the help of her friend Lucy to search for the truth, unaware of the dangerous path she is treading. Together they unravel a tangle of bitterness, blackmail and dubious inheritance, and as the harrowing story is finally revealed, Esme stumbles upon evidence of a pitiful crime.

Realising too late the menace she has unwittingly unleashed, Esme is caught up in a terrifying ordeal. One that will not only test her courage and sanity but force her to confront her perception of birth and family.

28 reviews give an average 4.5 stars and include the following comments:-

Blood-Tied explores the complications that could arise when we find out more than we thought we knew about those nearest to us…
This is a well-crafted and engaging mystery; the pace is steady with a tense ending. The main character, Esme Quentin, is a former investigative journalist with a gentle, but persuasive manner. You feel the shock to the family, especially to Esme as she discovers more, but she keeps her head, her tenacity and her journalist’s nose twitching to the end.
For me there was a too much tea-making (although I do like a cuppa myself!), although this grounds the story in real life and contrasts well to what happens.

Totally engrossing read. Highly recommend. A good summer read to take on holiday! Good storyline very inspirational and well written.

At £2.99 the Kindle is affordable. Shall I BUY or will I PASS?   I’m going to BUY.

What have others chosen this week?

Shelley has found a beautiful cover with an intriguing Blurb.

Rosie has chosen a Spring cookbook.

Cathy has selected the wonderful Costa book award winner

Barb gives us the result of her UK/US cover survey

So now it’s your turn.

read coffee

Get yourself a cuppa and give yourself 5 minutes.

In today’s online shopping age, readers often base their buying decisions from small postage stamp size book covers (Thumb-nails), a quick glance at the book description and the review. How much time do they really spend making that buying decision?

AUTHORS – You often only have seconds to get a reader to buy your book, is your book cover and book bio up to it?

Rosie’s Friday Five Challenge is this….. IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….

1) Go to any online book supplier.

2) Randomly choose a category.

3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which has instantly appeal.

4) Read the book Bio/ Description for this book, and any other details.

5) If there are reviews, check out a couple,

6) Make an instant decision, would you BUY or PASS?

The Virgin of the Wind Rose by Glen Craney

Wind rose

The Virgin of the Wind Rose grips you in its teeth and whirls you through history and around the world. As soon as State Department employee, Jaq Quartermane, is told of the tragic death of her fiancé in Ethiopia she is dragged into a terrifying investigation rooted in the tales of the Knight Templars and the voyages of the explorers sponsored by Prince Henry the Navigator.

Finding herself in peril inside an ancient rock hewn Ethiopian church, does she trust to her deep Christian faith or to Elymas, an agnostic rascal? And it is trust and conspiracy which underline this thrilling adventure, taking Jaq from Rome to France, Portugal and Israel.

Bet-Abba-Libanos-church-Lalibela

While Jaq and Elymas try to solve the SATOR square, an ancient palindrome, their travels are paralleled by the story of three young 15th century Portuguese boys. Meeting in alarming circumstances, Pero, Zarco and Dias form a bond which carries them through their difficult training at the Tomar observatory and sustains them in their navigational test at Prince Henry’s fort in Sagres. Split apart by the different missions they are given, their friendship is maintained and their actions will have repercussions throughout history.

SATOR-AREPO-TENET-OPERA-ROTAS

I was fascinated by the details of early exploration, which has always interested me, and the further involvement of Christopher Columbus add to the intrigue. At the same time, I was anxious to continue following the mysteries and dangerous situations explored by the present day couple.  Glen Craney has made their relationship suitably prickly and intense, given their very different backgrounds, but he has allowed their humanity and understanding to shine through.

I loved Craney’s acerbic wit in comments such as, “The priest was obviously one pew short of a full congregation.” Naturally this novel will be compared to the books of Dan Brown but the quality of writing in The Virgin of the Wind Rose has the edge for me. Almost the best part is the last chapter with so much promise and fascinating clues.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Library thing

And the discussion continues. That has to be good for Libraries

Take Five Authors

A few years ago I wrote a post on another blog reminiscing about joining the library when I was a child and had already read everything on the book shelf we had in our classroom.

I was seven and the librarian informed my father I wasn’t eligible to join until I was ten. Fortunately, my teacher somehow persuaded them it was a good thing for a library to encourage children to read and I was given my first library card. Remember the little cardboard pocket into which went the ticket from the book being borrowed?

A library For the love of your library

My love for the library was born the first time I stood in silent awe (in those days, of course, libraries were silent places – but why would anyone need to chat when faced with the delicious task of choosing books?) in front of the shelves of books, literally…

View original post 438 more words

%d bloggers like this: