Rosie’s Book Review Team ~ 6 years old #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

Book Reviews

2014 was a special year for me. I had started my social history blog and I was a busy volunteer setting up an exhibition in our local Workhouse on its time as a World War One Hospital. We had bought a holiday home in Portugal and travelled to and fro, several times during the year.  I was also an avid reader and liked to follow authors and book bloggers on Twitter for new books to read.  And that was how I found Rosie Amber.

When she challenged some of her followers to review one of the books submitted to her, I couldn’t resist. I believe the book I chose was The Red Canvas Chair, an intriguing American crime thriller by N A Granger. When Rosie then invited some of us to join her team and review many other books of our choice from novels submitted to her, I was thrilled to be included.  Soon I was writing more book reviews than history posts, so I decided it was time to set up my own book blog Lost in a Good Book

Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team receives a wide range of submitted genres, including young adult, fantasy, historical, romance, steam punk, mystery etc.  Not all of the books appeal to me but often I will challenge myself to try a new type of book and frequently discover an exciting new novelist to follow.  Of the 14 books Rosie is featuring this week I have read and enjoyed 8 of them.  In addition, I have to mention other favourites: –

Crazy Amy

Rose Edmunds Crazy Amy series of corporate espionage

Reluctant Detective

Christine Campbell’s Reluctant Detective series set in Scotland

Parish

Mimi Matthews spirited historical romances

Passionate

Passionate Travellers by Trish Nicholson, incredible journeys throughout history

Cunning

The Cunning Woman’s Cup an amazing story by Sue Hewitt

Book Reviews

The Detour: A road trip with my mom, her pug and a 1986 Volvo by Jennifer Ammoscato #BookReview #RBRT

Detour

Michael Garland’s is so good at getting lost that the thirty-year old coder lives an almost virtual life. He works from home, shops exclusively online—and does not drive. The poor man is shocked to discover his mother’s last wish is that he bring her ashes in the old family Volvo from San Francisco to her childhood hometown of Lebanon, New Hampshire. Guilt for reaching his mother’s deathbed too late will fuel the trip—with additional gas supplied by his mother’s Pug, Puddles, he must bring along. Armed with a GPS, a series of ever-more detailed lists, and the support of his best friend, Savannah, he embarks on an emotional side trip that will change his life.

My Review

I started this book expecting a light amusing story, which it certainly is but it is also much deeper. It is about friendship, loyalty and love.  We share Michael’s courageous adventure into the real world departing from his safe organised home. This is something we can all appreciate as we cautiously put out a toe from Lockdown.

Clearly Michael has some form of Asperger’s syndrome. He is highly intelligent and has been brought up by a warm, caring mother, but expressing emotions or trying something new is not part of his life.  As he sets out on his long journey across America, we share Michael’s fears of the traffic and the possibility of bedbugs in the hotel, but we also see that he is growing in confidence and independence. There are many amusing incidents often including Puddles the Pug but everything always works out in the end.

I always enjoy reading about journeys, all the more so at present, and I particularly warmed to Michael’s caring friend, Savannah. I can really recommend this book to put a smile on your face and make you feel good.

The Detour on Amazon UK

Ammoscato

Author Jennifer Ammoscato – solving the world’s problems one cosmo at a time.

Jennifer Ammoscato is a paid, productive member of society. Frankly, it’s not enough. Therefore, May 2015 saw the launch of her debut novel, “Dear Internet: It’s Me, Avery” (The “Avery Fowler 2.0” series, Book I).

During the day, she is an intrepid writer/editor for the public relations department of a Canadian university. By night, she fights crime and the urge to organize closets and stuff herself with salted chocolate caramels.

Dreams do not inspire Jennifer’s books. In fact, they tend to terrify her. In particular, the ever- popular naked-at-school or I-have-a-final-exam-and-didn’t-study dreams. She usually just makes stuff up.

She is married to her husband, Ezio. As opposed to someone else’s husband (insert name here). She is the proud mom of two very tall sons, Dante and Christian.

The Quiet Side of Paradise by Alexander Mccall Smith #FridayReads #BookReview

Quiet Side

I have read most, though not all, of the Isabel Dalhousie books by Alexander McCall Smith.  Isabel is a philosopher living in a beautiful Georgian house in Edinburgh she had inherited from her father.  She is Editor of the Review of Applied Ethics – which addresses such questions as ‘Truth telling in sexual relationships’ and is married to Jamie, a younger man who is “heart-meltingly decent” and “knee-weakeningly dishy” bassoonist.  Jamie was originally the boyfriend of her niece, Cat, which has caused problems, but that does not stop Cat frequently asking Isabel to help out at her delicatessen shop.  Jamie and Isabel have two young sons, toddler Magnus and Charlie who goes to nursery. Luckily, she has sensible, forthright, Grace as housekeeper to help her with her busy life, but she and Jamie decide to employ, Antonia, a vivacious Italian au pair. She is also able to hire Claire, a young Philosophy PhD student, to help her with the Review.

But Isabel seeks out problems to solve. Charlie’s nursery friend Basil has a rather abrasive mother Patricia who begins to take advantage of her, and she decides to investigate Basil’s paternity.  In the most eventful section of the story, Isabel follows a suspicious individual into a dangerous part of the city and narrowly avoids attack. Meanwhile Antonia’s night-time activities cause worry and Claire allows the despicable Professor Lettuce into Isabel’s house.  Through it all there is the close loving relationship between Isabel and Jamie and her innate goodness and willingness to help others. These stories describe a world unfamiliar to the average reader, but the relaxing charm and the philosophical questions considered make them very appealing, at least to me.

The Quiet Side of Passion on Amazon Uk

My Review of The Peppermint Tea Chronicles

McCall

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world’s most prolific and most popular authors. His career has been a varied one: for many years he was a professor of Medical Law and worked in universities in the United Kingdom and abroad. Then, after the publication of his highly successful ‘No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency’ series, which has sold over twenty million copies, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty-six languages and become bestsellers through the world. These include the Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in The Scotsman, the Isabel Dalhousie novels, the Von Igelfeld series, and the Corduroy Mansions series, novels which started life as a delightful (but challenging to write) cross-media serial, written on the website of the Telegraph Media Group. This series won two major cross-media awards – Association of Online Publishers Digital Publishing Award 2009 for a Cross Media Project and the New Media Age award.

 

Different Class by Joanne Harris #BookReview #PsychologicalThriller

Different Class

I chose this book because I had enjoyed Gentlemen and Players many years ago and this sequel takes place a year later in the same location, St Oswald’s Grammar School. Roy Straitley, an old-fashioned Latin Master is teaching his 35th year at the school and he has no desire for any other life.  Nicknamed Quaz (Quasimodo) because of his resemblance to a gargoyle based in a classroom in the bell tower, his intellectual, laissez-faire approach and loyalty to a group of boys he calls his “Brodie  Boys,” has caused boys and staff to be divided between those who detest him and those who have genuine respect and affection for him.

Although current events take place in 2005, alternate chapters take us back to 1981 when a group of 3 boys who join Straitley’s class, fail to fit in.  Of the three, it is Johnny Harrington whom he most disliked. It is therefor a shock that the new Super Head brought in to sort out the school is the same Harrington.  Reading a secret diary written by one of the boys in 1981 we gradually discover horrific events which took place.

Despite the serious nature of the plot there is also delightful humour.  Having taught in a school from the 1980s till this century I empathise with Straitley’s resistance to the new ways of emails and “health and safety”.  He defines his teaching style as “benevolent neglect” and on the whole his pupils respond by acting responsibly.  However the past catches up in appalling consequences and only wit and comradeship can avoid disaster for the school, its staff and its pupils.

Different Class on Amazon UK

 

Foxden Acres (The Dudley Sisters’ Saga Book 1) by Madalyn Morgan #BookReview

Foxden Acres

It is 1939 and Bess is looking forward to completing her teacher training in London.  Then she must decide whether to look for a post in the city or return home to the countryside near Rugby.  Her happy childhood was spent playing and riding on Foxden Acres estate where her father works but her affection for James, son of Lord and Lady Foxden is unlikely to be returned since she is not of his class.  Returning to London, her handbag is stolen, but she is rescued by Natalie Goldman and her husband Anton. They talk to her about the increasingly dangerous situation in Germany for Jewish families and they become good friends.

On the outbreak of war, life is turned upside down for Bess, her family and her friends. When the school where Bess teaches is evacuated out of London, she is asked by James to return to Foxden Acres to help organise the conversion of the estate into arable land with the assistance of a team of Land Army girls. James has joined the RAF as a pilot while her brother Tom has signed up as a soldier.

This novel gives a wonderful picture of wartime life for families and those who served on the Home front.  Long hours of hard work are interspersed with the tragedy of air raids and the loss of dear friends.  The best and the worst of humanity is revealed in the events of the plot.  It is both inspiring and upsetting but is also a tribute to love and friendship.  I can’t wait to read about the other Dudley sisters.

Foxden Acres on Amazon UK

Death by Baguette (Travel Can Be Murder #2) by Jennifer S. Alderson #RBRT #Bookreview

Baguette

Introducing Lana Hansen, tour guide, reluctant amateur sleuth, and star of the Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mystery Series. Join Lana as she leads tourists and readers to fascinating cities around the globe on intriguing adventures that, unfortunately for Lana, often turn deadly.

My Review

Death by Baguette is the second murder mystery involving quick-witted Lana Hansen. A helpful, efficient tour-guide, she takes small groups of wealthy American tourists on organised visits to popular destination.  This is also Lana’s first visit to Paris, but she is well prepared and nothing phases her, except discovering her new boyfriend, Chad, is one of the guests and he’s married! Visiting Paris, the city of love, in time for Valentine’s Day sounds idyllic for the couples she accompanies but most of them have relationship problems, including Lana’s friend Willow and her partner Jane.  Luckily Lana’s new assistant Randy Wright is very helpful, if rather nervous.

The plot is gradually revealed as we travel with the group, viewing the Louvre, the Rodin Museum and the cathedral at Chartres.  Most of these places are familiar to me but I enjoyed the vivid but not over long descriptions of the attractive features.  In fact, the book would be an excellent introduction to anyone planning their first encounter with the city.

As many of the group become increasingly antagonistic towards each other there are plenty of suspects when Chad suddenly collapses, poisoned during a picnic under the Tour Eiffel.  Even Lana and her friends are persons of interest to the French detective.  She turns her mind to investigating everyone in the party, aided by a journalist friend back in Seattle, but in the dramatic denouement Lara depends on the help of others.

Like the first book in the Travel Can Be Murder series this cozy mystery is fast moving, entertaining reading and I am hoping that in future episodes Lana will have more success in finding a successful romantic partner.

Death by Baguette is available as a paperback at Amazon UK 

Or pre-order the Kindle version for delivery on February 7th

and in Kindle form at Amazon US 

The Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mysteries are heartwarming stories about making friends, traveling, and celebrating new experiences. Book One—Death on the Danube—is available now. Coming soon: Books Three (Death by Windmill) and Book Four!

The Ashes of London (James Marwood & Cat Lovett, Book 1) by Andrew Taylor #BookReview

Ashes of London

A CITY IN FLAMES

London, 1666. As the Great Fire consumes everything in its path, the body of a man is found in the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral – stabbed in the neck, thumbs tied behind his back.

A WOMAN ON THE RUN

The son of a traitor, James Marwood is forced to hunt the killer through the city’s devastated streets. There he encounters a determined young woman, who will stop at nothing to secure her freedom.

A KILLER SEEKING REVENGE

When a second murder victim is discovered in the Fleet Ditch, Marwood is drawn into the political and religious intrigue of Westminster – and across the path of a killer with nothing to lose…

My Review

Six years after Charles II regained the throne for the Stuart family, London went up in flames.  No-one feels safe in an environment where former Protestants, government agents and hidden Catholics live cheek by jowl.  We arrive in the city as old St Paul’s burns down, surrounded by onlookers; and there we meet our two protagonists, James Marwood, son of an extremist Puritan and Cat Lovett, the daughter of a renegade Protestant. Marwood narrates the majority of the story, but we also follow Cat’s perils, in the third person, as she is manipulated by her untrustworthy uncle.

In a realistic adventure through the narrow streets and ruins of London we follow Marwood’s attempt to please more than one master, looking for a murderer, seeking Cat and trying to protect his elderly father.  Meanwhile Cat, doomed to suffer the fate of many women in the past, decides to escape her uncle’s home and hides out as a maidservant.  The tortuous plot completely involved me in the Royal court, the rebuilding of St Paul’s and the underbelly of 17th century society.  A thrilling, convincing tale.

Andrew Taylor

A Taylor

Andrew Taylor is a British crime and historical novelist, winner of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger (for lifelong excellence in the genre) and the triple winner of the Historical Dagger. He has published over 45 books.

They include the international bestseller, The American Boy (a Richard and Judy selection); the Roth Trilogy (filmed for TV as Fallen Angel); the Lydmouth detective series set in the 1950s; and The Anatomy of Ghosts, shortlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

His most recent books are the Marwood and Lovett Restoration series. The Ashes of London was a Times/Waterstones number one bestseller. The sequels, The Fire Court, and The King’s Evil, have both been bestsellers. The fourth in the series, The Last Protector, will be published on 4 April 2020

The Ashes of London on Amazon UK

Watery Ways by Valerie Poore #BookReview #Memoir

Watery ways

In this account of her first year of living on a barge in Rotterdam’s Oude Haven, Valerie Poore’s overriding impression is that “one of the first things you learn about living on a barge is that an awful lot of stuff is going to end up in the water”.

The year in question is 2001, and at forty something, the author takes the plunge to exchange her life in the corporate fast lane of Johannesburg, for life on a historic Dutch barge. Every month brings new challenges, obstacles and experiences. She meets a whole world of fascinating people, not least of whom are an endlessly smiling, but absent minded ‘landlord’, an intellectual, but quirky friend and confidante and an old world charmer whose mastery at the helm wins more than just her respect. She also learns how to cope with the sometimes strenuous demands of casting ropes and negotiating locks when acting as skipper’s mate during numerous nail-biting watery adventures.

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to live on a barge, this book may be the bait that hooks you; whatever your reaction, it will certainly give you an off beat and amusing insight into the ways of living on the water.

My Review

Having followed Valerie Poore on Twitter for some time now, I finally got round to buying one of her books.  Watery Ways proved even better than I expected. The amazing characters living on the barges in Rotterdam’s Oude Haven reflect the variety of colour, shape and repair of the barges themselves. Val is a courageous, hard working resident of a barge without washing facilities or modern conveniences and with the help of her friends she soon learns to manoeuvre her barge in the busy, terrifying waterways beyond the Haven.  A budding relationship and her experiences on board convince Val that she wishes to own her own floating home, so we join her quest to find the ideal craft.  At times she has the companionship of dogs and a suicidal cat who add to the excitement of day to day life on board.  I found myself seeking out maps to follow her journeys, but having tried “driving” a boat on the Thames I wouldn’t dare try to navigate the Dutch waterways!

Valerie Poore

Val Poore

Val Poore was born in London, England, and grew up in both north London and the west of Dorset. After completing her degree in English, History and French at Bournemouth, she took a further course in the conservation and restoration of museum artefacts at Lincoln College of Art which qualified her for nothing at all really. She then spent two years doing furniture restoration before going to South Africa in 1981 with her husband and small children.

Valerie left South Africa permanently in 2001 and has settled in the Netherlands, where she shares her time between a liveaboard barge in Rotterdam and a cottage in Zeeland. She teaches academic and business English on a freelance basis and still writes in her spare time, although she admits there’s not enough of that at the moment. In fact, she has been writing since childhood and wrote stories, articles and radio plays for years before embarking on her first book in 2005. Val loves travelling especially when it involves roughing it a bit. She feels that she has better adventures and more interesting experiences that way.

She has written six books altogether: the Skipper’s Child (teen/kidult fiction), How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics (sort of grown-up, humorous fiction), Watery Ways and Harbour Ways (memoirs of her first years of living on a barge in Holland), Walloon Ways (three years as a weekend Belgian) and African Ways (a memoir her life on a farm in South Africa). Her seventh book (another novel) is in progress but is taking rather longer than she had hoped. This is simply due to real life getting in the way

To find out more about Val Poore’s life see her blog

Watery Ways on Amazon UK

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman #YA #BookReview

Graveyard

When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him – after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod’s life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?

My Review

This unusual story is not typical of the style of books I would choose but I knew after reading Good Omens that Neil Gaiman is a writer to follow.  Written for Middle Grade readers The Graveyard Book is also perfect for adults.  After a horrifying introduction when three members of a family are murdered by a cruel killer named Jack, the orphaned baby escapes. Crawling into the graveyard he is adopted by the ghosts and other inhabitants and his new parents name him Nobody Owens or Bod for short.  Like other children he learns by experience and through the guidance of those who bring him up. He is kept safe from Jack, who still seeks him, but is able to make friends with one living human, a girl called Scarlett. When Scarlett disappears from his life Bod is not prepared to stay in the sanctuary of the graveyard, but can he survive to adulthood?

The environment and inhabitants of the graveyard have charm and intrigue and the plot is incredibly inventive. A novel about loyalty and friendship and it’s such fun.

First published in 2008, the film of The Graveyard Book is currently being produced.

To read more about Neil Gaiman

Gaiman

The Graveyard Book on Amazon UK

 

The Strictly Business Proposal (Freshwater Bay Novel Series Book 1) by Nell Grey #BookReview #Romance

Business Proposal

Is Beth Barnes a beautiful con artist or the genuine friend of Evan Morgan, an elderly Welsh chef?

When Evan dies, he hands talented London chef Beth her big break. She has the chance to realise her dream and run her very own restaurant in a village on the wild Welsh Celtic coast. But there are strings attached. Can she comply and gain her inheritance, her dream? Accused of being a gold digger by the family, Beth’s welcome to Wales is not quite as warm as she’d hoped for.

Burned from a recent divorce, the last thing on architect Gareth Morgan’s mind is another wedding. If he wants to realise his development dreams, he must marry.

It’s a strictly business proposal. But can Beth and Gareth really stick to the terms

My Review

My first impression of this novel was not good. Reading the first paragraph of a book by a British author I didn’t expect to read,” busting her ass,” and “snuck out,” but perhaps this was to appeal to readers across the pond. Certainly, the vocabulary soon settled into recognisable English and I began to enjoy following the story of chef Beth Barnes and the handsome Welsh architect Gareth Morgan with whom she agreed a business contract.

Both Beth and Gareth are passionate about their careers and neither intend to become entangled in a relationship but in order to achieve their dreams of a successful restaurant on the Welsh coast and an eco-holiday village they must agree to a partnership which involves marriage. Of course, there is misunderstanding, anger and disappointment but this is more than just chick-lit. Gareth’s family are well-rounded interesting people with their own back stories and Beth’s friendship with local girl, Ariana promises more about this artistic jewellery maker.

In addition to some torrid love scenes, we are treated to two complex but likeable characters and a fascinating location in Freshwater Bay. This is the first of four books in the Freshwater Bay series so I shall certainly be following it to learn more about the Morgan bothers. An easy, enjoyable read.

The Strictly Business Proposal on Amazon UK