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

 

 

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Lindisfarne (Project Renova 2) by Terry Tyler #BookReview

Lindisfarne

Book Description

‘You’re judging this by the standards of the old world. But that’s gone. We don’t live there anymore.’

Six months after the viral outbreak, civilised society in the UK has broken down. Vicky and her group travel to the Northumbrian island of Lindisfarne, where they are welcomed by an existing community.

New relationships are formed, old ones renewed. The lucky survivors adapt, finding strength they didn’t know they possessed, but the honeymoon period does not last long. Some cannot accept that the rules have changed, and, for just a few, the opportunity to seize power is too great to pass up. Egos clash, and the islanders soon discover that there are greater dangers than not having enough to eat.

Meanwhile, in the south, Brian Doyle discovers that rebuilding is taking place in the middle of the devastated countryside. He comes face to face with Alex Verlander from Renova Workforce Liaison, who makes him an offer he can’t refuse. But is UK 2.0 a world in which he will want to live?

My Review

This sequel to Tipping Point is told through the voices of Vicky and her daughter Lottie, as well as other members of the community they join in Lindisfarne.  In many ways, it is more thrilling and revealing than the first book, as we see through their eyes, that this crisis is here to stay and can only get worse.  As social mores are eroded, a new form of rough justice is established to deal with the baser forms of human behaviour.

Arriving in Lindisfarne, Vicky, Heath and their companions must adapt to a miss-matched community of bikers and well-meaning people who use expressions such as, “reach out,” and “empower.”  Vicky must now face up to former partner, Dex’s, betrayal and meet his pregnant mistress, Naomi.  But soon, there are more sinister dangers to face.

Meanwhile, down south, Doyle ekes out an existence while trying to discover more about his former employment on Project Renova.  He is soon to meet Alex Verlander, the boss who left him trapped, but whose side will he be on this time?

The development of the characters we met in book one is convincing and rewarding.  Lottie has become an independent, strong young woman and Vicky now seems to be thinking for herself, but she can still be manipulated by others.  We learn Heath’s back story, showing his torture as he battles against demons from the past.  In Dex, we meet a new age leader who owes much to his studies of the Viking age.

It is difficult to make comments about Lindisfarne without giving away the plot, but as it reflects all aspects of humanity coming to terms, not just with survival but with making a new meaningful life, the possibilities are limitless.  In the last chapter, two new characters are introduced and those we already know have many more challenges to face.  This is a terrific book and I can’t wait for the next one!!

Lindisfarne is Book 2 in the Project Renova series, sequel to Tipping Point (Book 1).

A book of related short stories, entitled Patient Zero, features back and side-stories from minor characters, and should be available in November, 2017. Book 3 is due in mid 2018.

My review of Tipping Point can be found here

Lindisfarne is available on Amazon UK

Tyler

Terry Tyler is the author of sixteen books on Amazon.  She is proud to be self-published, is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Terry is a Walking Dead addict, and writes for one of their main fansites. She lives in the north east of England with her husband, and is still trying to learn Geordie.

Michel and Henry Go to War by Avan Judd Stallard #bookreview #RBRT

Michel

Book Description

A Frenchman in the British Army fighting Germans on the Western Front? That’d be a bastard—the illegitimate son of the French President, forbidden by father to join the fray. Under an assumed name, Michel joins anyway. Except now he cannot escape the war that follows every step of the way as he and Henry—his comrade in arms—seek rest and recuperation in the mountains. Instead of wine and women, they find Germans and a secret plot to destroy France’s hub of munitions production. Cut off and outnumbered, they recruit a motley army comprising a women’s auxiliary and an old farmer with a big rifle and bad attitude. There’ll be no rest for these soldiers, not until Michel and Henry go to war. A cracking action–adventure story for fans of Flashman and The Guns of Navarone.

My Review

This first book of The French Bastard Series is set in France during the First World War.  We are plunged straight into the horror and detritus of trench warfare where Michel and Henry drop into, “a trench filled with a mix of blood, shit and dead men.”  Not content to die needlessly in no man’s land, Michel leads Henry into a dangerous attack on the German gunners.  As a result of their success they are granted R & R, which they choose to take in the mountains Michel knew from his youth.

Along the way we encounter other characters including Emile, a French soldier bound for the hell-hole of Verdun, Ernie a tall Australian truck driver whom everyone likes and Kranz, a German killing machine with a mission, who treats enemy warriors with respect.  Initially Michel and Henry spend their time drinking, fornicating and using foul language, but soon they are embroiled in more perilous adventures after a breakout by German prisoners of war.  Michel is always bold and courageous, Henry, a reluctant soldier but a faithful friend.  They move from one battle to another and the book is littered with carnage including intricate detail of the anatomical damage caused to bodies by each bullet or weapon.

Their final escapade runs in parallel to the completion of Franz’s mission and it is at this stage that the plot gains pace and excitement.  There is a satisfactory denouement to a tragic story.  If you want to read about the terror and inhumanity of World War One, described vividly and realistically then this is the book for you.  If you prefer your adventures to be more sanitised then look elsewhere.

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A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift #TuesdayBookBlog #amreading

Divided

This is the story of two people, Elspet Leviston, responsible daughter of a lace dealer in Jacobean London and Zachary Deane, the illegitimate son of a poor Spanish woman whose bullying brothers have taught him to lie and steal.  When Elspet’s father suddenly brings Zachary into their household, usurping her position in the family business, she is horrified and as a dutiful daughter considers marriage to an apparently pleasant suitor.  Her relief when Zachary sets off on a grand tour is swiftly removed on her father’s sudden death and her world turns upside down when she hears the conditions of his will.

 

From the calm everyday life in London, where only the need to conceal their Catholic faith disturbs them, Elspet sets out across Europe to find Zachary and sort out her future.  Meanwhile, Zachary is discovering his true purpose in life, studying with Senor Alvarez, a Master of Fencing.  It is difficult to like Zachary at first but easy to understand him and as the plot develops so does his character.  Elspet also changes when she reaches Spain.  Her circumstances deteriorate and her way of life is completely different but the charismatic Senor Alvarez also guides her future.  And then she and Zachary find themselves caught up in the terrible expulsion of the Moriscos, the Moors who had settled in Seville.

 

Deborah Swift’s historical research is impeccable, grounding this unusual story in the troubled world of early 17th century Spain and questioning the role of women and the place of religion in society but this is not a learned tome.  It is an exciting, passionate story, full of vibrant, realistic characters and thrilling events.  I could not put this book down!

You can find A Divided Inheritance on AmazonUK

Swift

Deborah Swift

I live in North Lancashire on the edge of the Lake District, an area made famous by the Romantic Poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge. I’m a bookaholic and I read widely – contemporary and classic fiction as well as historical novels.

In the past I used to work as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV, so I enjoy the research aspect of creating historical fiction, something I loved doing as a scenographer. Each book takes about six months of research before I am ready to begin writing.

Wonders and Wickedness (The Victorian Detectives Book 5) by Carol Hedges

Wickedness

Here, you will indeed find Wonders in alchemy, seances, and on stage, but there is also Wickedness; murder, blackmail and deceit. It is 1864 and the railways have already caused a fatal accident. A brand new department store has opened but the window display contains an extra body which shocks everyone. Thankfully Detective Inspector Strife and Sergeant Cully are on hand, but they are diverted by a mysterious package delivered to the arrogant Lord Hugh Wynward and his unhappy wife Lady Meriel.

In a complex, ingenious plot several crimes are gradually solved as we meet a delicious selection of fantastic characters, from Felix Lightowler, who fancies himself as a contemporary alchemist, to Boris Finister, a Dickensian fat boy and Rancid Cretney, who constantly mans a neighbourhood watch irritating the police force considerably. Every detail of the characters’ names, clothing and vocabulary fit their context perfectly.

Within the plotline there is humour, pathos and a picture of the dire social consequences of Victorian values. When Stride goes to interview a builder he finds,
“Serried ranks of terraces of two up two down houses. Absent landlords will subdivide them into as many short-term lets as possible adding them to that surprising feature: the brand new suburban slum.
Mr Bellis struts with the aggressive bantam-cock attitude of all small men who’d like to be big men only nature hasn’t permitted it.”

As a connoisseur of all the previous Victorian Detective Books, I knew that I would enjoy meeting up with old friends at Scotland Yard and independent business women such as Lilith Marks and Josephine King but this book would be equally rewarding as a one off read, although it is bound to tempt you to indulge in other gems from the series. When will a producer take up these books for TV or movie?

Wonders & Wickedness can be found on AmazonUK

My review of Rack and Ruin is here

Bamboo Heart by Ann Bennett #BookReview

B Heart

Bamboo Heart has been waiting on my Kindle for a little while. I loved Bamboo Island and I found Bamboo Road really moving but I was worried that this, the first book of the Bamboo Trilogy might be very upsetting. Indeed, the Prologue takes us straight to a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp in 1943, where Tom Ellis has been incarcerated in a narrow individual earth lock-up. He keeps his spirits up by thinking of the girl he left in Penang.

The book moves on to London in 1986 where Laura Ellis, Tom’s daughter returns from Paris to see her father, who is sick. A successful city lawyer, she is dissatisfied with her life and worried about the actions of her boyfriend, Luke. Finding a photo of a young woman with oriental features, named Joy de Souza, Laura decides to travel to Thailand to learn more about her father’s wartime experiences and then on to Penang where he may have met Joy.

The book takes us back to pre-war London where Tom, also unhappy with his life, had decided to travel out east to manage workers on a rubber plantation. He becomes part of the expat community, but he also meets a local teacher who becomes very important to him. His easy-going life is suddenly changed by the approach of the Japanese, when he must become a soldier, but he becomes a captive in Singapore and is taken to the Death Railway.

The book reveals the suffering of so many soldiers and the repercussions in their lives post war. Laura’s experiences in Thailand and Penang are also life-changing but in a positive way. This is a challenging but fascinating story of the tragedy of war but hope for the future.

My interview about the Bamboo Trilogy is here  The book is available on Amazon UK

 

Tipping Point by Terry Tyler #BookReview #NewRelease

Tipping

How would we cope if all social media disappeared followed by Google and the whole internet, if family and friends fell ill and died and public utilities ceased to function?

“Only Twitter, the domain of conspiracy theorists, anarchists, artists and writers clung on.”

I have always enjoyed Terry Tyler’s character driven contemporary stories about realistic people I felt I knew but I was unsure of how I would react to a post-apocalypse novel, which is not my usual choice of genre. Well, I was blown away by how compelling I found this story. There are thrilling, edge of the seat events, a very likeable heroine and a convincing plot.

What struck me early in the story, when young mother, Vicky described events leading up to the “tipping point,” in August 2024, was that the book addresses the concerns we have now, of intolerance, reduction of public services and the burden of providing for an increasing population.

Vicky lived in a small Norfolk town on the coast with her partner Dex and teenage daughter, Lottie. Dex, a college lecturer, is concerned about covert Government intelligence agencies and advises Vicky not to give away too much about her private life, online. He belongs to an organisation called Unicorn who distrust government motives and action. As a new social networking site called Private Lives, promising absolute security, replaces the established websites, there is news of a lethal epidemic in Africa, which might spread.

After Dex disappears, Vicky soon loses her naivety and she and Lottie become closer as they escape military forces trapping them in their home. Travelling to a “Safe House” in Tyne and Wear where they hope to see Dex, they find themselves in extremely dangerous situations and have to make judgements as to whom they can trust. In the Safe House, a group of disparate individuals must learn to live together and become aware that twenty first century life is never going to be the same again.

In other chapters, we meet Travis and Aria, who have been working for the government on “Project Renova,” but discover that they too are trapped, partly as a result of the actions of a socially inadequate individual who has deliberately created chaos. There is also Wedge, an escapee from a high security prison who is the last person any of them would wish to meet.

This is a story of how we can stumble blindly into disaster, not just as individuals but also as a nation. It is highly relevant to the present day where we are only concerned about our own small world. It is also a damn good read with the feel of a film script where we are both observers and closely involved in the experiences of Vicky and Lottie. A must read and ….. there will be more to follow.

You can find Tipping Point on Amazon UK