The Christmas Ghosts by G. Lawrence #RBRT #BookReview

 

The Christmas Ghosts

“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.” Salman Rushdie

“The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited.”  Stephen King

 

This book of 5 short stories is a surprise. Yes, each story has a ghost, who appears at Christmas, but they are not horrifying. The protagonist may feel fear or confusion, but the reader feels curiosity.  Why is the ghost returning?

 

In the first story, Guardian, we meet the most traditional ghost-like figure, but this is also the story about relationships, good and bad. Occurring on Bodmin Moor late on Christmas Eve, there is a gradual build up of tension and we fear for Henry, just as his mother did.  Hot Toddy is a more reassuring story of enduring love, while Roger Reed and the Road Kill Rabbit is an amusing tale of an unpleasant man receiving his just reward.

 

My favourites are the last two stories. Old Man Symmonds echoes “A Christmas Carol”.  There are two unjust bosses in different eras, mistreating their employees, but the heroine, Hayley, regains her confidence, realising her worth as a consequence of her encounter with the ghost. In this story and also in the final tale the main character deals with relationships and gains maturity. Eloise in The Christmas Ghost is struggling to become an author, but she already knows that her occupation as a house-sitter suits her disposition and her aspiration. Failing in her attempt to become closer to her critical mother, whose glass is always half-full, she returns to the Victorian cottage she is minding, to find a ghost whose fate is far worse than hers. The house has inspired her writing, will it help her to heal her family too?

I highly recommend this delightful volume of unusual ghost stories and hope that there will be a second volume to follow next Christmas.

The Christmas Ghosts can be purchased on Amazon UK

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Goddess of the Rainbow by Patrick Brigham #FridayReads #BookReview

Goddess Rainbow

 

Goddess of the Rainbow gives, in 16 chapters, the interconnected stories of the community of a small town in Northern Greece when constant rain threatens imminent flooding.  The goddess of the title takes the form of Iris, a DHL courier, who like her namesake is a messenger.  The other inhabitants of Orestiada include an estate agent and his wife, who are plotting murder, a Greek Australian returning to his father’s birthplace, the Greek Orthodox priest whom everyone trusts but who has had a crisis of faith, a Syrian illegal immigrant, a writer with a dangerous past, who has found sanctuary and a group of Russian women invited to the town by the mayor, due to a lack of potential wives for the towns aging bachelors.

This disparate group provide, humour, pathos and intrigue.  Fate and the floods brings them together and changes their future. Patrick Brigham is a talented writer with specialised knowledge of the people and politics of the Balkans and the lifestyle of northern Greece.  His imaginative stories show an awareness of the human condition and the effects of relationships, both loving and poisonous.  These stories tempt me to look further into his other published books. A good read.

To purchase Goddess of the Rainbow on Amazon UK

 

Patrick Brigham

Patrick

The author Patrick Brigham has written several mystery books, many of which are set at the very end of the Cold War and Communism. Featuring fictional police detective Chief Inspector Michael Lambert, he is often faced with political intrigue, and in order to solve his cases – which frequently take place in Eastern Europe and the Balkans – he needs to understand how an old Communist thinks, during the course of his investigations.  There are few good books on the subject of international crime, especially mystery stories which delve into the shady side of Balkan politics, neither are there many novelists who are prepared to address Mystery Crime Fiction.

 
Patrick Brigham was the Editor in Chief of the first English Language news magazine in Bulgaria between 1995 and 2000. As a journalist, he witnessed the changes in this once hard core Communist Country and personally knew most of the political players. Traditionally a hotbed of intrigue and the natural home of the conspiracy theory, Bulgaria proved to be quite a challenge and for many the transition into democracy was painful.  Despite this, he personally managed to survive these changes and now lives peacefully in Northern Greece.

https://authorpatrickbrigham.com/

 

 

Patient Zero: Short stories from the Project Renova series by Terry Tyler #NewRelease

Patient Zero

The short stories in Patient Zero are part of Terry Tyler’s Project Renova series.  They add to the two books “Tipping Point” and “Lindisfarne” but they can successfully be read without knowledge of, or before reading one or both of the novels.

 

A deadly virus, nicknamed Bat Fever has appeared in 2024.  Despite vaccination gradually being offered around the country, many people have died, though some seem immune.  For several years, an underground group known as Unicorn have been suspicious of the government and now they believe that the virus may have been deliberately spread.

 

The unfair way in which the vaccination is distributed is highlighted in the first story when Jared is given a vial by his uncle who works for a drug company.  He is also given a spare vial.  Should he give it to his girlfriend Angelina even though he suspects she may be unfaithful to him?  Later in the book, in the story of Evie, we meet her boyfriend Nick Greenaway, a high achieving, non-stop socialite who proudly displays his wristband to prove he has been vaccinated on social media.  Does he deserve Evie’s devotion?

 

One character, Jeff was well prepared for an apocalypse.  He had a bunker built and well stocked away from civilisation and finally when he was 65, the epidemic arrived.  He planned to live alone but two of the underground group Unicorn joined him.  When they moved on, he decided to seek out other survivors and this is when his life really began.  In total contrast, Flora or Princess Snowflake, her more apt name, has been brought up as a chosen child.  Spoilt and isolated by her “Christian,” kind parents, their character changes as civilisation breaks down.  She is totally unable to cope on her own, but she maintains her positive attitude.

 

There are other stories of disparate characters, all subject to fate and their own actions.  There is no right way to deal with a country in chaos, but their beliefs and habits dictate how they react.  This fascinating book of stories has one fault.  It isn’t long enough to tell even more individual stories.  If you haven’t read the other two books, “Patient Zero” would make a good introduction.  If you have read them then you mustn’t miss these stories.

You can purchase Patient Zero on Amazon UK and on Amazon US

Silent Night by Wendy Clarke #RBRT #BookReview #Christmas

Silent Night

 

As a teenager I loved staying with my Gran in Scotland so that I could read her People’s Friend Annual.  The stories had a feel-good theme which made me look forward to being one of the young women in the tales.  A few years ago, my mother was passing on copies of the magazine and I discovered the stories had moved with the times.  Nowadays they deal with single parents, caring grandparents and the problems of divorce.  So, I had an inkling that Wendy Clarke’s book of Christmas stories which have already been published in the People’s Friend and Women’s Weekly would be a rewarding experience.

 

There are 13 stories of which two take us back to the twentieth century.  The characters are children, young couples, middle-aged men and women stuck in their ways and old people with sad stories but wisdom to pass on.  Some try to recreate happy Christmas gatherings from the past while others try to escape the traditions and family problems of a conventional day.

 

Bella’s Christmas, “On my Own,” particularly appeals to me personally and promises a change in her future life, while “Project Christmas”, “A Christmas Present called Abbie,” and “A Song for Christmas,” are heartening accounts of how young men come to terms with looking after a family they love at Christmas.

 

“Cancelling Christmas,” and “Together for Christmas,” reminded me that friendship is worth celebrating at this time and “Finding Santa,” shows how strangers will rally round to make Christmas special when disaster strikes.

 

“Christmas Strike” is a lesson for us all about making assumptions about others while “The Greatest Gift” is a touching story about love, although I did feel that Lindsay was almost too perfect, in her happiness to receive only a small gift from her partner.

 

The two historical stories are sad and moving but perhaps the most unusual is “The Memory Purse” where Tracy’s attempt to give all the residents of a Retirement Village what they wish for, results in a surprise gift for her personally.  This lovely book would make an excellent present or a relaxing read for yourself over the festive season.

You can find Silent Night on Amazon UK

Wendy Clarke

Wendy Clarke

Wendy Clarke is a full time writer of women’s fiction. She started writing when the primary school she taught in closed down and after completing two creative writing courses, began writing short fiction for magazines. Since then, she has sold over two hundred short stories and her work regularly appears in national women’s magazines such as The People’s Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles.

Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!

 

Rosie's Book Review team 1

 

Donkey Boy and other stories by Mary Smith #amreading

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Donkey Boy and other stories is a pot-pourri of tales that could accompany you on a journey to pick up and read in instalments, or you might find, like me, that you end up reading one story after another, late into the night.

 
Each tale introduces a character, either from home or abroad, with whom the reader can empathise. Their concerns may be amusing or distressing but they all concern human nature, good and bad.

 
I was particularly taken by two stories which have been performed; Trouble with Socks and Asylum Seekers. The latter, an ironic monologue of prejudice, pertinent to the world we live in today and Trouble with Socks expressing the feelings of the delightful George who is patronised by a “caring” auxiliary. The last story The Thing in Your Eye was a surprise and I am still unsure of my response. I think I need to re-read it.

 
There is great sadness in some of the early tales but also determination to walk away from grief, but for me Donkey Boy, about Ali, who drives a donkey cart for his father, deserves its place as the title story. It shows the contrast between different values; in the first and third world, between men and women and between youthful hope and cynicism. These stories are easy to read quickly, but they stay in your mind to mull over for some time.

 

You can buy Donkey Boy and other stories on Amazon UK

mary5

Mary Smith has always loved writing. As a child she wrote stories in homemade books made from wallpaper trimmings – but she never thought people could grow up and become real writers. She spent a year working in a bank, which she hated – all numbers, very few words – ten years with Oxfam in the UK, followed by ten years working in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She wanted others to share her amazing, life-changing experiences so she wrote about them – fiction, non-fiction, poetry and journalism. And she discovered the little girl who wrote stories had become a real writer after all.

 
Drunk Chickens and Burnt Macaroni: Real Stories of Afghan Women is an account of her time in Afghanistan and her debut novel No More Mulberries is also set in Afghanistan.

 
Mary loves interacting with her readers and her website is www.marysmith.co.uk.

 

My review of Mary’s book No More Mulberries is here

 

 

Rosie's Book Review team 1

What Tim Knows and other stories by Wendy Janes

Tim

The short stories in this book are connected to significant moments in the lives of a group of people who feature in Wendy Janes’ novel What Jennifer Knows. There is no need to have read the novel first but it certainly gave an added dimension to me.
The first story, Beauty, describes the paramount need for beauty to surround Rollo, an Art Gallery owner. When he parts company with one of his exhibitors, the “empty plinths,” are reduced, “to totem poles with no message,” so it is essential that he finds beauty elsewhere. Never-Ending Day struck a chord with me as it reminded me so well of those awful first weeks, as a new mother, when you realise that you know nothing about babies and that you are making a terrible mess of trying to care for this one. Similarly, Perfect Family made me aware of the contrast between my home life as an only child and that of lively families with several siblings which seemed to have such fun together.
What Tim Knows contrasts completely with What Jennifer Knows. Jennifer knew too much, but Tim knows too little, or at least his comprehension of the world is very different to that of the people who surround him. Having taught children on the autistic spectrum, I have been caught out by my inability to state exactly what is a fact and am aware that there are no greys for many. I love the way this story puts us inside Tim’s head and shows us what an inexplicable world we live in!
A refreshing look at life through a wide variety of characters, which is available here

You can read my review of What Jennifer Knows here.

The House with the Lilac Shutters by Gabrielle Barnby

Lilac

I have mixed feelings about short stories.  In some ways they can be perfectly formed like poems and they can be read in a limited time window but lacking the total commitment to a plot it is unlikely that the reader can be involved with the characters as in a novel.  In Gabrielle Barnby’s book there are connections woven through most of the stories, giving them a unity of place and essence.

 

The house with the lilac shutters, which drew me to this book, stands opposite the Café Rose in a small town in the south of France.  Most, but not all, of the stories take place there, in the heat of the summer sun.  Some are set in a parallel town in England. The protagonist are old and young, visitor and local and all aspects of life are reflected; birth, death, adultery, love, suicide and desire.

 

There is an element of, measuring lives in coffee spoons, as many moments in time are described in intense detail,

 

“Today we are sitting together outside Café Rose.  On our right there is the river, dark and green, bending the light into convex ripples.  I sip my coffee and look onto the square.  I want to add another cube of sugar, but I resist and try to savour the unfamiliar bitter-rich flavour.”

 

Among the many characters are many with secrets, some with regrets or guilt.  Memories are dwelt on but only some find new opportunities.  My favourite character is Angelique, the carer, who dressed in bright colours brings light into the life of Aubrey and makes tasty dishes from her childhood in Cameroon.  One story, Leyla’s Legacy, really troubled me.  It is a tragic tale of cruelty and unhappiness and of the subjugation of women continuing into each generation.

 

These stories are thought provoking, encompassing many themes and emotions in everyday places.  Gabrielle Barnby is a very talented writer.

 

You can find the book here and my earlier post about it.