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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A Holiday By Gaslight: A Victorian Christmas Novella by Mimi Matthews #NewRelease #RBRT

Holiday by Gaslight

A Courtship of Convenience

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion—or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things.

A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.

My Review

Sophie Appersett, the heroine of A Holiday by Gaslight, is the kind of girl I would love to have as a friend. Frank and honest, she speaks her mind and is determined to find the best in other people.  Accepting that she will have no love match, she is prepared to make a marriage of convenience to a man beneath her in rank but possessing a fortune, in order to save her family from ruin. Her profligate father has spent her dowry on modern gas lighting and has further expensive plans.

Ned Sharpe may be presentable, but he fails to converse properly. His stiff, abrupt approach is at odds with Sophie’s loquacious chat, so she finally decides that, they “don’t suit.”  However, his response to her termination of their potential betrothal, surprises her so she decides to give him one last chance at the Christmas party at Appersett House deep in the countryside.

Although set 50 years after the world of Jane Austen, Sophie reminds me of Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, prepared to put her family first but feeling affection for a man who seems unable to communicate with her.  But here we are in a mid-Victorian world looking to the future, where love matches can be achieved, and modern technology is embraced. A wonderful feel good read for the Christmas holiday.

A Holiday by Gaslight is available at Amazon UK

My Review of The Matrimonial Advertisemenby Mimi Matthews

Book Reviews

My favourite books in 2017

Christmas

This year, I reviewed 70 books from a variety of genres.  Often, those I like most combine genres such as mystery, romance, history etc.  I’m not going to list 10 or more top books but just 7 in the order I read them during the year.  These are the books I couldn’t put down, in which I became immersed and regretted finishing.

James & Laura

In April I was thrilled to return to Jan Ruth’s Midnight Sky series, reading the last of the trilogy, Strawberry Sky.  This was an intense story of love and suffering, a family saga featuring a wonderful horse whisperer.  If you are tempted please start with Book 1 Midnight Sky.

Tipping

The next great book was the beginning of Terry Tyler’s post-apocalypse series.  What makes Tipping Point so convincing are her characters who step out of the page to talk to us.  They have flaws, they make mistakes, they are human and we want them (or at least most of them) to survive.  Luckily, Terry followed up quite quickly with the second book in the Project Renova series and I am looking forward to the third book in 2018.

Georgia Lies

Another of my favourite authors, Georgia Rose, whose unusual thriller series The Grayson Trilogy is well worth seeking out, produced Parallel Lies, a new stand-alone novel, this year.  Superbly plotted, with twists to catch you out, it kept me guessing to the end.

Wickedness

I was so excited when Carol Hedges published another episode in the investigations of detectives, Cully and Stride. Wonders & Wickedness lives up to the quality and excitement of the previous volumes, steeped in the smells, sounds and sights of Victorian London. You can start with this book or any other in this wonderful series.

Divided

It is always good to discover a new author.  Thanks to Terry Tyler’s reviews I started reading books by Deborah Swift and my favourite was A Divided Inheritance.  Starting in early 17th century London the story moves to Spain where the heroine finds herself a fish out of water in a dangerous situation. A fascinating novel.

Cowboy

Another author I finally discovered this year was June Kearns.  I loved both her books but An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy is superb.  A brave, desirable hero, a sympathetic heroine and an amazing historical setting made it such pleasure to read.

Castle

And the last of my seven choices is the second book I have read by Lizzie Lamb.  We share similar names, Scottish birth and similar careers but if only I could write the way Lizzie can.  If you’ve time to spare over Christmas, do download Girl in the Castle for sheer indulgence.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

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

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

 

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet & Allan Ahlberg #FridayBookShare ~ @ShelleyWilson72

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s there were several superb stories for children by husband and wife Janet and Allan Ahlberg.  My respect for Eddie Redmayne increased tremendously recently when he shared his love for Miss Wobble the Waitress and other Happy Families books by the Ahlbergs.  I have two copies of The Jolly Christmas Postman, one for children to pull apart and crumple and another in good condition which is mine!

First Lines

Once upon a Christmas Eve
Just After it had snowed,
The Jolly Postman (him again!)
Came down the jolly road;
And in the bag upon his back
An … interesting load.

Recruit fans by adding the blurb

It’s Christmas Eve and the JOLLY POSTMAN is delivering greetings to various fairy-tale characters – there’s a card for Baby Bear, a game appropriately called ‘Beware’ for Red Riding Hood from Mr Wolf, a get-well jigsaw for hospitalised Humpty Dumpty and three more surprise envelopes containing letters, cards, etc. Everyone’s favourite postman keeps on peddling his bicycle up hill and down dale . . . and into everybody’s hearts.

Introduce the main character – The Postman is jolly, full of food and glad to reach home at last.

Delightful Design

christmas-post

Audience appeal  Children, adults, anyone who likes Christmas and inventive books.

Your Favourite Scene

There was once a moneybox in the shape of a pig that belonged to a little girl named Angela.  This pig had a curly tail, a coin-shaped slot in his back…and criminal tendencies.  In some ways the pig was quite good-natured, at east when he was empty.  But money is the root of all evil and as he got fuller and fuller, he became boastful.

“I’m rich!” he cried, to the other toys, “I’m the richest creature in this room!” And he rattled his tummy.  “I’m a millionaire!”

One night in the week before Christmas, when the pig was simply bulging with money, he decided to run away.  He rattled.  He scrambled and wobbled down the stairs………..

#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.

Home for Christmas by Jan Ruth

Home 4 Xmas

I’ve been getting myself into the Christmas mood by reading three fairly long short stories by Jan Ruth on the theme of Home for Christmas.  Each story is set in Snowdonia but there are three very different story styles.

Rudolph the Brown-nosed Reindeer describes an occasion everyone hates – a corporate weekend, part team building, part appraisal and part social. Rick, a reserved, hard-working man in his 30s is facing a lonely Christmas and he is not sure whether being stranded in a cottage in Snowdonia in bad weather will improve his mood or not. The story is a mixture of humour and pathos with an unexpected ending.

Jim’s Christmas Carol has a more complex plot.  Life catches up with an unfaithful husband in the setting of Christmas dinner at his large comfortable home.  Good and evil are present in his home and we see the situation from more than one viewpoint.  Tarot cards, Satan and a guardian angel all play a part.

The last, and my favourite story, really is Home for Christmas for Philippa. Worn out by her pretence of a successful career and relationship she has returned to her home village for peace to take stock.  This is a romantic comedy in a delightful setting which I will not spoil by writing any more.

A great book to download and read over Christmas.