No Way Back by Kelly Florentia #bookreview #FridayReads

No Way Back

Audrey Fox’s Life has become a rollercoaster.  At 41, her long term boyfriend, Nick, has jilted her shortly before their wedding, but a holiday in Cyprus with her parents has not restored her confidence or taken away the pain.  Still haunted by dreams of Nick, she is certainly not ready for any new relationship.

But fate and her mother have other ideas and soon Audrey is falling for the charms of Daniel, a handsome, successful divorcee.  Still unable to cut herself off from Nick who has been involved in an accident, she begins to care for Daniel, but soon it is evident that both men have been keeping secrets from her.

Relying on her friends, Louise and Tina, while trying to help her sister-in-law, Vicky, with her post-natal depression, Audrey careers from one emotional scene to another.  It is refreshing to read a novel about a modern woman in her early forties dealing with relationship, job and health issues and Audrey is a charismatic, eccentric heroine.  This ingenious plot never ceases to surprise right up to the final page and I was delighted to read that there will be a sequel.

Book Link:  Amazon UK

Kelly

Kelly Florentia

Kelly Florentia was born and bred in north London, where she continues to live with her husband Joe. Her second novel NO WAY BACK was published on 21st September 2017.

Kelly has always enjoyed writing and was a bit of a poet when she was younger. Before penning her first novel, The Magic Touch (2016), she wrote short stories for women’s magazines. TO TELL A TALE OR TWO… is a collection of her short tales.

Kelly has a keen interest in health and fitness and has written many articles on this subject. Smooth Operator (published in January 2017) is a collection of twenty of her favourite smoothie recipes.

As well as writing, Kelly enjoys reading, running, drinking coffee and scoffing cakes. She is currently working on the sequel to NO WAY BACK.

Website: www.kellyflorentia.com

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Away for Christmas (A Novella) by Jan Ruth #NewRelease #BookReview

Away

Jonathan is at a crossroads in his life; disillusioned with his work as an accountant he is about to launch his first book, but was it wise to give up his job just before Christmas?  As he and his girlfriend, Catherine, set out for a couples Christmas with their usual friends, at a rented house in Llangollen, their relationship is heading for a crisis.  And he already has unresolved issues with ex-wife Denise and their teenage daughter, Lizzie.

There are many complications with his book trilogy, due to the incompetency of the publishing company and he is concerned about Catherine’s grandfather Gwilym, who is rapidly developing Alzheimer’s.  He cherishes Gwilym’s small bookshop on the seafront and doesn’t want it to close.  Could he find a solution to all these problems?

There are some delightful observations about the difficulties of publishing a book.  Tangerine Press and editor, Eden Edwards, act as if they are on the ball as a prestige company but it is all smoke and mirrors.  It doesn’t take the reader long to identify the online bookseller, Marathon, where Jonathan searches for his sales figures.

For a novella, this story packs in many strands: of parental and romantic relationships, of friendship and community spirit.  Set over three Christmas seasons, 2015 -2017, we see Jonathan find a way through his problems, gaining wisdom and appreciating his friends and family.  He acquires a dog called Frodo and sets out on a new life.  There is a satisfying conclusion which keeps you guessing and even leaves the way open for the possibility of a follow-up book.  A warm, rewarding book for the Christmas season, set in a realistic, inviting location.

Away for Christmas can be purchased from Amazon UK

Jan Ruth

Jan Ruth

About My Books

Fiction which does not fall neatly into a pigeon hole has always been the most difficult to define. In the old days such books wouldn’t be allowed shelf space if they didn’t slot immediately into a commercial list.
As an author I have been described as a combination of literary-contemporary-romantic-comedy-rural-realism-family-saga; oh, and with an occasional criminal twist and a lot of the time, written from the male viewpoint.

No question my books are Contemporary. Family and Realism; these two must surely go hand-in-hand, yes? So, although you’ll discover plenty of escapism, I hope you’ll also be able to relate to my characters as they stumble through a minefield of relationships. I hesitate to use the word romance. It’s a misunderstood and mistreated word and despite the huge part it plays in the market, attracts an element of disdain. If romance says young, fluffy and something to avoid, maybe my novels will change your mind since many of my central characters are in their forties and fifties. Grown-up love is rather different, and this is where I try to bring that sense of realism into play without compromising the escapism.

Jan Ruth

The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Lover's Portrait

American Art History student Zelda Richardson loves her life in Amsterdam, but entrance into the Master’s course in Museum Studies depends on her performance as an intern at the Amsterdam Historical Museum. She is asked to work on an online project to restore 1500 paintings stolen by the Nazis during World War Two to their rightful owners or descendants but she is not welcomed onto the project by the stiff, unfriendly Huub Konijn, senior curator at the Jewish Historical Museum, who designed the website.

But not content with her editing role, Zelda uses her previous web design experience to brighten up the front page, with her own choice of paintings, in an animation. Despite Huub’s criticism, one of these paintings, Irises, triggers a claimant almost instantly. Rita Brouwer, a large, jolly American woman claims it was painted for her elderly sister, but as Zelda begins to warm to this lady, another claimant turns up. Karen O’Neil is an unpleasant socialite, accompanied by her German lawyer, Konrad Heider. She has paperwork listing the painting in the Gallery of her grandfather, Arjan van Heemsvliet.

In parallel with events in 2015, we read about how many valuable paintings belonging to Dutch Jews were hidden in 1942 by Arjan and his friend, picture framer, Philip Verbeet who was Rita’s father. But both men disappeared and the location of the paintings is still unknown. We know more than Zelda about whom she should trust but part of the mystery is concealed until the end and Zelda’s impetuous, proactive investigation leads her into danger and thrilling action.

The novel gives a detailed account of the large quantity of art that was stolen and how rightful ownership is carefully researched, which of necessity slows down the first part of the story, but there is also a compelling mystery which makes the rest of book a real page turner. Zelda is a determined young woman who stumbles into predicaments because of her desire to reveal the truth and the other characters also have convincing motives and characteristics. A great read.

I have since discovered that this is the second book about Zelda, so I am now looking forward to reading Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery, Book one in the series.

The Lover’s Portrait can be purchased at Amazon UK or Amazon US

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Strawberry Sky by Jan Ruth #newlypublished #bookreview

James & Laura

After the momentous events in Palomino Sky, the previous book of this heart-breaking trilogy, the opening paragraphs of Strawberry Sky promise contentment at last for Laura and James as they complete the improvements to their equestrian business and plan a happy life together. However, the continued disruption to their lives by Laura’s niece, Jess, and her erstwhile partner, Callum Armstrong, keeps them on an emotional roller coaster.

This time the story is told in turn from the point of view of Laura and her sister, Maggie. Maggie is in torment over Jess’s lack of affection for her daughter Kristle, and her anxiety over the success of the B & B she is running with her husband Pete, is causing her to neglect her younger daughter, Ellie. Meanwhile, Laura is anxiously hoping, each month, that she will become pregnant.

Rob, the local vet, has added a strawberry roan to the stable, a very young Carneddau colt whose mother has been killed on the mountain road and James selects a new young member of staff, who becomes increasingly important to Laura. The rest of their team remain cheerfully supportive and client, Carla, is a good friend when Laura most needs one.

Despite trying events, the relationship between James and Laura remains strong, as Jan Ruth shows in comments such as,
“James caught her eye. He shot her a smile, a real smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes.”
The healing effect of the horses is still a major part of the work James does and we see this especially in the reactions of a tough ex-soldier who comes regularly to help at the farm.

Effective descriptions of the countryside provide a vivid context without departing from the nail-biting events of the plot. The setting of the Carneddau and its wild horses provide both the heart and the pain of this novel and it is the response of those who come from this area which makes the conclusion perfect.

I have included Jan Ruth’s images of James and Laura at the top, as they fit my mental picture of the characters so well!

You can find Strawberry Sky on Amazon here

This is Jan Ruth’s account of the original idea behind the Midnight Sky Series

 Inspiration for the Midnight Sky Series began 37 years ago…

Day one, and we stopped in a vast forest throbbing with birdsong to gather mushrooms, easily filling one of the saddlebags with our cache. Hopefully, we’d picked a non-poisonous addition for breakfast the following morning. My horse for the day, Cinnamon, was the colour of, well, cinnamon. Standing at 16th I needed a handy rock to perch from in order to scramble back on as he wasn’t keen on standing still and I’m on the short side. We’d already passed some sort of horsemanship test together by hurtling down the steep grassy slopes of an ancient fort, galloping out through what would have been a drawbridge. An exercise our leader informed us, ‘Sorts out the wheat from the chaff,’ before we got onto the serious part of the ride, a four-day trail across The Cheviots.

The Cheviot Trail – a loop reaching from Jedburgh in Northumberland all the way to Kirk Yetholm, just inside the English border – was no pony trek. Our horses were thoroughbred-cross, corn-fed and super-fit. To the uninitiated, this meant it wasn’t for novice riders. John Tough (pronounced Tooch, although tough suited him just as well), was no ordinary leader. If I had to make a short list of people who’d made an impression on me in my life then this guy would be close to the top. Not one to pander to any British Horse Society regulations, Tough set his own high standards and had little regard for officialdom, preferring to trust his own instincts about people, as well as horses. Hosting riding holidays for total strangers, some of whom spoke no English was clearly not for the faint-hearted, but if Tough decided after day one he didn’t like the way you handled his horse then your holiday ended right there with a full refund and a lift to the train station. There’s nothing like the burr of a Scottish accent in full flow to overcome any language barriers. No one, argued with him.

Once upon a time, John Tough bought a rundown mill on the River Jed and restored it. Then he bought horses, some of them with problems, both physical and otherwise, and nurtured them to full health. His reputation for riding the Cheviots, grew. In 1980 he built a lodge on his land, for rider accommodation. I returned – of course I did – from 1979 to 1986, riding in many different seasons, including colourful autumn trails and once, during the heavy snow of early spring. Tough retired at the end of the eighties due to ill health. Did I set out to write a book about John Tough, and Beryl, the young interior designer from London who never went home after her riding holiday? Surely, this was the stuff of fiction! Not that I was aware of, but I guess it’s an example of how more than 30 years later, the subconscious finds a story somehow, pulling together characters, historical facts, impressions and experiences… one I’ll never forget.

You can follow Jan on her website: http://janruth.com/

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JanRuthAuthor/

And on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JanRuthAuthor

Grey Horse

#FridayReads ~Reviewing my favourite books from 2016

According to Goodreads, of the 65 books I have read this year, 21 are contemporary stories, 18 historical fiction, 7 crime novels and 5 mysteries. In addition, I chose to read 5 non-fiction history books, 3 steampunk novels, 2 travel books, one young child’s book, one dystopian novel and one of literary fiction. Only one is specifically a romantic novel, but of course romance often turns up in historical novels or mysteries too and definitely in most contemporary stories. There is a lot of blurring at the edges.
The number of books in each category does not surprise me, but perhaps next year I should try self-help, vampire books or maybe return to fantasy or science fiction. I’m not promising!
These are my highlights of the year.

rack-ruin-front-cover-002

Midnight Sky Cover LARGE EBOOK

devil-you-know

Rusty

AB Bamboo Island

Lake House

I could list more, but I will stop with these chosen few from my favourite genres; historical, contemporary and mystery.  If you click on a book cover it will link you to my review of that book.

Broken Cups by Heather MacQuarrie #TuesdayBookBlog #bookreview

broken-cups

This is the story of two families who may have more in common than they realise. Early in the book, childhood friends Imogen and Jillian, move into a flat together. They meet their new neighbour, Bradley and both girls are instantly attracted, not only to his good looks, but also to his generous and kind nature. Bradley introduces them to his surrogate grandmother, Gertrude and her real grandchildren including Grant, but Imogen has the wrong impression of Grant, believing him to be a philanderer.

Like all successful romances, misunderstanding complicates their relationships but this book also tells a mystery story of three momentous events over 20 years earlier. Gradually the truth is revealed and there is a chance of forgiveness and compassion. The plot reaches a very satisfactory and pleasing denouement but there is a cliff-hanger, promising another novel to follow.

Heather MacQuarrie’s particular skill, is in showing us that many of the problems in present day families, can be solved by love and understanding. She is able to make connections between a network of people allowing us to know the characters in a variety of circumstances and to feel their pain and happiness.

Heather MacQuarrie‘s books can be purchased here and in the US

heather

Heather MacQuarrie lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland and also spends a good part of her time on the Algarve coast in Portugal. Having spent over thirty years working as a schoolteacher, she is now relishing the opportunity to channel her creativity in exciting new directions. Since 2013 she has written four novels of contemporary fiction,the first three being ‘A Voice from the Past’, ‘In the Greater Scheme of Things’ and ‘Blood is Thicker’. Whilst they can all be read separately as free-standing novels, the three books are linked, forming a trilogy. The same characters feature throughout in a story of romance, mystery and intrigue.  Broken Cups is her fourth book, introducing us to a new group of characters.

Lost in Static by Christina Philippou #TuesdayBookBlog

static

I was not at all sure that I would be able to identify with this novel, since it is over 40 years since I walked into the hall of residence of my university campus, but in fact things haven’t really changed all that much and I found the story compulsive reading.

The novel is told through the voices of the four main characters; Juliette, who is trying to escape her rigidly Christian upbringing, Callum, a rich, good-looking young man with a family secret, Yasmin, an annoyingly superficial girl with her own agenda and Ruby, a football loving tomboy with low self-esteem. Opening with a tragic accident at the end of the summer term, the story moves back to the first day of the Autumn term when the four characters first meet. They are all trying to make a good impression but they are also attempting to have a new persona, concealing the aspects of their past lives which they do not wish to share.

It is easiest to identify with Ruby, although I wish she would stop calling everyone “mate”, including herself. From a shy mousy girl, lacking confidence she blossoms into a popular, sociable student, but we realise from her internal dialogue that she still feels inadequate. Juliette is complex and interesting and you can’t help liking her. Callum is like so many privileged, handsome young men; good-hearted, lazy and easily manipulated. Yasmine is an enigma. Although reasons are given, just why she is so poisonous in her attitude to the other girls, isn’t clear.

Other reviewers have commented on the drugs and alcohol involved in the story but it is the constant chain-smoking which shocked me. Set in the era just before it was banned in public places, there are interesting clashes between the smokers and those like Callum who disapprove.

As is usually the case, misunderstanding provokes much of the storyline but secrets and lies enhance the drama of the situation. I found the setting, writing style and denouement very refreshing.

cphilippou

Christina Philippou’s writing career has been a varied one, from populating the short-story notebook that lived under her desk at school to penning reports on corruption and terrorist finance. When not reading or writing, she can be found engaging in sport or undertaking some form of nature appreciation. Christina has three passports to go with her three children, but is not a spy. Lost in Static  is her first novel.

Christina is also the founder of the contemporary fiction author initiative, Britfic.