Oath Breaker by Shelley Wilson #bookreview #Fridayreads

Oath

It’s a while since I read a YA book although they used to be my first choice of genre.  I was a little unsure of the werewolf theme but the text of the first page enthralled me.

The blue flashing lights pulsed through the fractured front window, illuminating the blood splatter on the walls.  The click-click of the forensic team’s camera ate into the sterile silence as the officers combed through the living room.

Like something out of a macabre horror show the blood covered everything, coating the threadbare rug in front of the fireplace with its crimson wash.  The splintered remains of the coffee table littered the overturned chair, and the smell of death clung to the walls.

Mia finds herself orphaned after the violent death of her father and is surprised at the sudden appearance of Sebastian Roberts, saying he is her uncle.  A smart, arrogant man, resembling her cruel father, he whisks her away to Hood Academy, his private boarding school, and begins to seem kind and considerate.  But Mia longs to find her elder brother, Zak, who has disappeared after running away from their home.  She begins to encounter others who warn her to be careful who she trusts.

There is something reassuring about the boarding school setting, where Mia finds a reliable friend, Elizabeth and a caring teacher, Miss Ross.  There is even a school bully, Felicity, but in this school the danger is life-threatening.  The girls have been chosen to train as werewolf hunters and Mia is surprised to discover she has fighting skills.  But there are mysterious goings-on behind locked doors and she begins to wonder if the werewolves are all bad.

In addition to the mystery and daredevil adventure there is burgeoning romance and loyal friendship which make this novel heartening to read as well as thrilling.  I am now tempted to sample Shelley Wilson’s Guardian series.

You can buy Oath Breaker on Amazon UK  or on Amazon US

You can read my review of Shelley’s motivational book Vision Boards for Beginners here

shelley_wilson

Shelley Wilson

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

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Dark Clouds over Nuala by Harriet Steel #RBRT #bookreview

Dark Clouds

It was a pleasure to return to mid-1930s colonial Ceylon and reconnect with the courteous Inspector Shanti de Silva and his amenable English wife, Jane. A painstaking detective, De Silva manages to balance polite acquiescence to his pompous superior, government agent, Archie Clutterbuck, with a determined pursuit of justice.

We join society in Nuala at an exciting time, when a young couple from Australia are visiting Lady Caroline Petrie en route to claiming an inheritance. Ralph Wynne Talbot is the long-lost heir of the Earl of Axford. He is almost too charming and his wife Helen is stunning. Soon there is a tragic death, but is it murder or suicide? Meanwhile Sergeant Prasanna is distracted by the mistreatment of a young lady called Kuveni. She and her family have fled to Nuala from their village due to ill treatment by the headman whom she had refused to marry. This is outside De Silva’s remit but he will try to find a solution since the girl’s plight is so important to his young Sergeant.

The plot of this second volume is faster moving than the first and this time Shanti de Silva puts himself in considerable danger. Alongside the drama Jane manages social problems with great diplomacy and tact, giving us a window into colonial life in this era. This combination of social history, exciting crime solving and a delightful loving couple make Dark Clouds over Nuala a great pleasure to read. I am sure there will be more mysteries for Inspector de Silva to solve, but I also have a desire to read about how he met and wooed Jane when she was the governess to a colonial family.

You might also like to read my review of Trouble in Nuala Volume one of the Inspector de Silva mysteries.

You can purchase Dark Clouds over Nuala at Amazon

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Garden of Stars by Rose Alexander #BookReview

Garden of stars

Garden of Stars is a beautifully written novel, set in London and Portugal. It tells the tale of Sarah Lacey, who returns to Portugal in 2010 wondering whether she will be able to discover the love she had lost 20 years earlier. She has been given a journal by her great aunt, Inês Bretão, who though born in the Alentejo, had married an Englishman in 1934. At first Sarah thinks that the life story of Inês is meant to guide her own actions but she begins to realise that there is a mystery to solve.

But Sarah’s story is also one of love and loss. There is passion and romance and also the quandary of modern family life, of too much work, not enough money and lack of communication. At home, her husband Hugo is looking after her beloved daughters Honor and Rose. In Portugal she has the chance of rediscovering Scott, her first love.

For me, the delight of this book is the description of places in Portugal, both in the 1930s and the 21st century. We visit a cork farm, a vineyard, Lisbon, Estoril and Porto. Both Inês and Sarah love the light, the beauty and the people of Portugal and when Sarah is reunited with Scott, he sums up his feelings in this way.

He had managed to get hold of tickets to see one of Portugal’s most famous fado singers, knowing that Sarah shared his love of this traditional music that sang of saudade, of nostalgia, loss and longing.
“Memories are what make us hurt – we all have our own saudade. My saudade is about you, what I shared with you and lost. When you left without telling me why, you stole my life and my soul.
This is fado. There are no happy endings.”

I found the journal of Inês rather strange. At first she writes in intimate detail, expressing feelings not written for an audience, she writes of things she would not want her husband to read but later she explains little of her life. Only towards the end of the book do we understand why she has given this book to Sarah. Sarah is an easier character to identify with, as she deals with everyday life we can recognise.  Scott said, “There are no happy endings.” I recommend that you read the book to discover whether he was right or wrong.

Garden of Stars is available on Amazon here

The Parody of Death by William Savage #RBRT #HistoricalFiction #MurderMystery

Parody of death

This is the third Ashmole Fox Georgian mystery, but the first I have read. This was no hindrance as Fox’s tastes and character are soon evident to the reader and indeed in this volume he seems to be on the cusp of a changes in his character being an aging man, over 30! Ashmole lives in Norwich, which in the 18th century was a vibrant city. A rich man with plenty of time on his hands, ostensibly a book seller, but leaving the day-to-day work to the reliable Mrs Crombie, he is becoming an expert at solving murder mysteries.

On this occasion the victim is Richard Logan, the unpopular Tower Captain of the United Norwich Ringers. The Bell Ringers were soon to play the famous “Bloody Peal” but will now be unable to achieve it without their Captain. Soon Fox finds several possible murderers and also mystery concerning Logan’s family and home affairs. Aided by young Charlie Dillon, a former urchin, he is able to make use of the street children and young whores, to spy on the suspects.

The unique character of William Savage’s books is the convincing detail he gives of 18th century life without in any way slowing down the narrative. For instance, we read that the talent of weavers to memorise pattern linked to physical movement made them particularly suited to change ringing in church bell towers, which was so popular at the time and Fox’s queries about the clothing worn by different classes of women produces a fascinating description of their varied attire from his maid-servant

There are a panoply of amusing characters such as the Calderwood sisters, whose lives running a Dame school have made them a fount of local gossip. As Ashmole sits before them, they talk as if he is not in the room,
“Young Ashmole always had nice manners”, Miss Hannah said.
“Nice manners but no morals whatsoever,” her sister replied, “especially in the matter of females.”

Savage has created a believable world of historical authority which I enjoyed dipping into and I thoroughly agree with the judicious decision he makes about the murder which might not have been possible in the present day.

You can find This Parody of Death at Amazon US  or Amazon UK

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The Curse of Arundel Hall: A Yellow Cottage Vintage Mystery by J. New #FridayRead #RBRT

Arundel

Although this is not the first of the Yellow Cottage cosy mysteries, Chapter One introduces the heroine, Ella, and explains why, as an intelligent 24 year old widow, she is living on the island of Linhay needing to occupy her life with a challenge.

 

Set in the 1930s, there are parallels with the investigations of Miss Marple, but in Ella’s case her help is welcomed by Sir Albert Montisford, Police Commissioner at Scotland Yard.  In addition to the usual cast of suspects, the local Lord, a spurned spinster, a handsome doctor and a disreputable bachelor, Ella has a phantom cat and sees ghosts others are unaware of.  New developments in police methods such as finger-printing are explained and the local village provides a range of interesting characters.

 

At first the story moves rather slowly as Ella researches the history of Arundel Hall and why it is cursed.  I felt Phantom the cat should have had a more active part in the story and I kept trying to locate the island of Linhay, which was such a short drive or train ride from Scotland Yard.  Once the murder had occurred, the pace increased and the reader is presented with several possibilities for the culprit.

 

For me the most interesting part are the questions raised towards the end of the book.  What is the mysterious background of Ella’s housekeeper and who is the person who telephones Yellow Cottage filling Ella with dismay?  Definitely an invitation to read the next book.  If you like a light read in the style of Agatha Christie or Midsummer Murders you will enjoy this novel.

PS I love the black cat on the cover picture!

 The Curse of Arundel Hall is available on Amazon UK

J New

J. New is the British author of paranormal cosy mysteries, murder mysteries and magical YA with a hint of romance. A voracious reader and writer all her life, she took her first foray into Indie publishing in 2013, and has never looked back.
She has an eclectic reading taste, ranging from the Magic of Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling, Tolkien and Neil Gaiman, to Dean Koontz, Eion Colfer, Anne Rice and Agatha Christie. A lover of murder mysteries set in past times, where steam trains, afternoon tea and house staff abound. She is convinced she was born in the wrong era as she has a particular aversion to cooking and housework.
She also has an impossible bucket list, which includes travelling on the Orient Express with Hercule Poirot, shopping in Diagon Alley with Sirius Black, lazing around the Shire with Gandalf and Bilbo, exploring Pico Mundo with Odd Thomas and having Tea at the Ritz with Miss Marple.
Funds from the sale of her books go towards her dog rescue effort.

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#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.