The Detour: A road trip with my mom, her pug and a 1986 Volvo by Jennifer Ammoscato #BookReview #RBRT

Detour

Michael Garland’s is so good at getting lost that the thirty-year old coder lives an almost virtual life. He works from home, shops exclusively online—and does not drive. The poor man is shocked to discover his mother’s last wish is that he bring her ashes in the old family Volvo from San Francisco to her childhood hometown of Lebanon, New Hampshire. Guilt for reaching his mother’s deathbed too late will fuel the trip—with additional gas supplied by his mother’s Pug, Puddles, he must bring along. Armed with a GPS, a series of ever-more detailed lists, and the support of his best friend, Savannah, he embarks on an emotional side trip that will change his life.

My Review

I started this book expecting a light amusing story, which it certainly is but it is also much deeper. It is about friendship, loyalty and love.  We share Michael’s courageous adventure into the real world departing from his safe organised home. This is something we can all appreciate as we cautiously put out a toe from Lockdown.

Clearly Michael has some form of Asperger’s syndrome. He is highly intelligent and has been brought up by a warm, caring mother, but expressing emotions or trying something new is not part of his life.  As he sets out on his long journey across America, we share Michael’s fears of the traffic and the possibility of bedbugs in the hotel, but we also see that he is growing in confidence and independence. There are many amusing incidents often including Puddles the Pug but everything always works out in the end.

I always enjoy reading about journeys, all the more so at present, and I particularly warmed to Michael’s caring friend, Savannah. I can really recommend this book to put a smile on your face and make you feel good.

The Detour on Amazon UK

Ammoscato

Author Jennifer Ammoscato – solving the world’s problems one cosmo at a time.

Jennifer Ammoscato is a paid, productive member of society. Frankly, it’s not enough. Therefore, May 2015 saw the launch of her debut novel, “Dear Internet: It’s Me, Avery” (The “Avery Fowler 2.0” series, Book I).

During the day, she is an intrepid writer/editor for the public relations department of a Canadian university. By night, she fights crime and the urge to organize closets and stuff herself with salted chocolate caramels.

Dreams do not inspire Jennifer’s books. In fact, they tend to terrify her. In particular, the ever- popular naked-at-school or I-have-a-final-exam-and-didn’t-study dreams. She usually just makes stuff up.

She is married to her husband, Ezio. As opposed to someone else’s husband (insert name here). She is the proud mom of two very tall sons, Dante and Christian.

Art & Soul by Claire Huston #BookReview #RBRT #Romance

A heart-warming, uplifting romance served with a generous slice of cake.

Art and Soul

There’s no problem Becky Watson can’t fix. Except her own love life…

The best romance is one which grows out of friendship, but will Becky Watson ever find common ground with morose, grumpy artist, Charlie Handren?  Becky is returning to her job as a life coach and fixer of crises, after her maternity leave, and as a single mother she needs this major contract to augment her other job as the invisible fairy godmother at weddings, calming family tensions.  Living in the Comptons, a wealthy, upmarket area in the south of England with a strong artistic tradition, it would be a triumph if she could help Charlie to regain his ability to paint after 6 years lamenting his failed marriage. Arranging an exhibition to relaunch his career does not phase Becky, but helping him to woo Rachel Stone, the woman he admires from afar, is more challenging.

The story’s warmth is created by the vivid characters surrounding events. Becky’s 2-year-old son, Dylan, captivates Charlie and her friend, Ronnie, cake creator extraordinary, is a breath of fresh air.  Becky’s ability to convince the “movers and shakers” of the community that the exhibition will be spectacular, demonstrate her understanding of people and her trust in Charlie even though he no longer trusts himself.  The fact that she is secretly paddling away below the surface to keep herself financially afloat is all the more admirable.  An unusual but engaging story to read late into the night.

Art and Soul on Amazon UK

Huston

Claire Huston lives in Warwickshire with her husband and two children. Art and Soul is her first novel.

A keen amateur baker, she enjoys making cakes, biscuits and brownies almost as much as eating them. You can find recipes for all the cakes mentioned in Art and Soul at www.clairehuston.co.uk along with over 100 other recipes. This is also where she talks about and reviews books.

As well as her website, you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Goodreads: linktr.ee/clairehuston_author

Death by Windmill by Jennifer S Alderson Travel Can Be Murder 3 #TuesdayBookBlog

windmill

A Mother’s Day trip to the Netherlands turns deadly when a guest plummets from a windmill. Was it an accident or a murder? For Lana Hansen, the answer will mean freedom or imprisonment for someone close to her…

Wanderlust Tours guide Lana Hansen and her mother, Gillian, haven’t seen eye to eye in over a decade, ever since Lana was wrongly fired from her job as an investigative reporter. So when Lana’s boss invites Gillian to join her upcoming Mother’s Day tour to the Netherlands, Lana is less than pleased.

What could be worse than spending ten days with her estranged mother? Lana is about to find out…

Death by Windmill is the third mystery to be solved by tour guide Lana Hansen, but this time its personal. Lana is just beginning to make up with her estranged mother when another guest on the tour in the Netherlands reveals a secret that could lead Lana herself into committing murder.  The theme is Mothers and Daughters but most of them seem at odds with each other.  While visiting some interesting sites in Amsterdam and the stunning Keukenhof Garden, we meet a number of people linked to the McGruffin company back in Seattle, many, including Lana, having been treated unjustly by its management. As the women are taken from one fascinating location to another, resentment and anger rise to the surface.

After one of their party dies, Lana must discover if it was an accident and who might have wished the victim to die. Her spirits are raised when she meets Alex, the perfect date, but will she be able to see him again? Another fast moving cozy mystery by Jennifer S Alderson which gives the reader a wonderful introduction to a holiday destination.

Miss Tavistock’s Mistake by Linore Rose Burkard #RegencyRomance #RBRT

Tavistock

Young Miss Tavistock is promised in marriage to Captain Rempeare by the wish of her dearly departed papa. But the captain’s been at sea for a decade. When she finally meets him, tempestuous sparks fly, and she impulsively adopts a daring false identity. Going by “Lady X,” she vows never to marry such an infuriating man.

Captain Gabriel Rempeare is prepared to fulfill his duty and marry Miss Tavistock—if only he can clap eyes on her. One circumstance or another keeps them apart, though he cannot seem to avoid the beautiful, maddening, Lady X. When fate throws them together in London, Miss Tavistock discovers the real nature of the captain, and regrets her subterfuge. But can such a noble man forgive deceit? Or has her mistake already cost her everything?

My Review

Feodora Tavistock is an exuberant heroine, who despite living as a ward of the aging Duke of Trent on a remote estate, shows enthusiasm for whatever life offers. When Mrs Filbert arrives as companion to the 19-year-old girl, she embraces her as friend despite the fact that she is middle aged.  One day life for Feodora (or Margaret as she prefers to be called) will change, for she is betrothed to her cousin Gabriel who showed her great kindness when she was first orphaned ten years earlier. But Gabriel Rampeare has spent most of the intervening years in the navy and he has scarcely written to her at all.

With Mrs Filbert’s collusion Margaret persuades her guardian to allow her to join the London Season so that she can enjoy one summer of balls, parties and frivolous gowns before her marriage. In the meantime, Gabriel and Margaret meet under unfortunate circumstances, not recognising each other and his behaviour is so despicable she determines to refuse the marriage.  Unfortunately, they are thrown together in London although Captain Rempeare believes she is “Lady X” the Inamorata of his elderly uncle.  The secrets, lies and misunderstanding are a perfect basis for an amusing, exciting plot.

For me, Captain Gabriel Rempeare is the perfect hero. A career sailor he misses the sea, but intends to do his duty by his betrothed, yet he is hampered by the necessity to cover the debts and appalling behaviour of his brother. Miss Tavistock lacks experience of life so makes foolish mistakes and is prepared to give up her chance of happiness rather than confess her falsehoods to Gabriel.

The author knows the era very well. Her descriptions of the ballroom with its chalked floor, of the sumptuous dinners provided and the extravagant fete at Carlton House are filled with authentic detail and her account of naval battles in the early 19th century, ring true. My only complaint would be the rather sudden ending when I would have liked a little longer to enjoy the inevitable conclusion.

Miss Tavistock’s Mistake on Amazon UK

Linore

Linore Rose Burkard ( L.R.Burkard) is a serious watcher of period films, a Janeite, and hopeless romantic. An award winning author best known for Inspirational Regency Romance, her first novel (Before the Season Ends) opened the genre for the CBA. Besides historical romance, Linore writes contemporary suspense (The Pulse Effex Series, as L.R. Burkard), contemporary romance (Falling In), and romantic short stories (ie., “Three French Hens”). Linore has a magna cum laude English Lit. degree from CUNY which she earned while taking herself far too seriously. She now resides in Ohio with her husband and family, where she turns her youthful angst into character or humor-driven plots.

Different Class by Joanne Harris #BookReview #PsychologicalThriller

Different Class

I chose this book because I had enjoyed Gentlemen and Players many years ago and this sequel takes place a year later in the same location, St Oswald’s Grammar School. Roy Straitley, an old-fashioned Latin Master is teaching his 35th year at the school and he has no desire for any other life.  Nicknamed Quaz (Quasimodo) because of his resemblance to a gargoyle based in a classroom in the bell tower, his intellectual, laissez-faire approach and loyalty to a group of boys he calls his “Brodie  Boys,” has caused boys and staff to be divided between those who detest him and those who have genuine respect and affection for him.

Although current events take place in 2005, alternate chapters take us back to 1981 when a group of 3 boys who join Straitley’s class, fail to fit in.  Of the three, it is Johnny Harrington whom he most disliked. It is therefor a shock that the new Super Head brought in to sort out the school is the same Harrington.  Reading a secret diary written by one of the boys in 1981 we gradually discover horrific events which took place.

Despite the serious nature of the plot there is also delightful humour.  Having taught in a school from the 1980s till this century I empathise with Straitley’s resistance to the new ways of emails and “health and safety”.  He defines his teaching style as “benevolent neglect” and on the whole his pupils respond by acting responsibly.  However the past catches up in appalling consequences and only wit and comradeship can avoid disaster for the school, its staff and its pupils.

Different Class on Amazon UK

 

Blackthorn by Terry Tyler #NewRelease #BookReview #Post-apocalypse

Blackthorn-Twitter-square

 

The UK, year 2139.

One hundred and fifteen years ago, a mysterious virus wiped out ninety-five per cent of humanity.

Blackthorn, the largest settlement in England, rose from the ashes of the devastated old world. It is a troubled city, where the workers live in crude shacks, and make do with the worst of everything.

It is a city of violent divisions, crime, and an over-populated jail block, until a charismatic traveller has a miraculous vision, and promises to bring hope back to the people’s lives.

Blackthorn falls under Ryder Swift’s spell, and the most devoted of all is the governor’s loyal servant, Lieutenant August Hemsley.

Twenty-one-year-old Evie has lived her whole life in the shacks. She and disillusioned guard Byron Lewis are two of a minority who have doubts about Ryder’s message. Can they stand against the beliefs of an entire city?

My Review

It was with great excitement that I began to read Blackthorn about life in the largest settlement in England 115 years after ninety-five per cent of the population died as a result of a fatal virus.  The books of the Project Renova series had introduced us to several unforgettable characters, evil, conniving, honourable or delightful but there are many more permutations possible within the human race.  Here we meet Evie, a hard-working, kind young woman who doesn’t follow the crowd but is careful not to draw attention to her family or friends.  Living in a simple shack she is one step above her friend Jay in Stinky Bottom but definitely below the status of Byron and Hemsley, guards who can live in the East End near to Governor North with all the modern conveniences.

Into their lives comes Ryder Swift, a handsome, charming traveller whom everyone takes to. Soon he brings a vision of life after death and harmony amongst the people.  But when Jay gets into trouble, the unhappy lives of the poor and imprisoned cause Hemsley, Byron and Evie to question the new-found benevolence of their unpleasant governor.  They need to take dangerous, drastic action.

This is a great book to read as a stand-alone story, including love, friendship, deceit and cruelty in the fast moving tale, but if you have read books in the Project Renova series you will find some of the names are familiar and towards the end of the novel a connection to the original legacy is made.

 

Blackthorn on Amazon UK

My review of Tipping Point (Book 1 in the Project Renova series)

Jigsaw Pieces by Carol Hedges #TuesdayBookBlog #YA

Jigsaw

‘He had been part of my everyday life. I hadn’t liked him much, nobody had liked him much, but he’d been there. Now, I’d never see him again.’

This week I chose a book which many people have read several years ago.  I am an ardent fan of the Victorian detective stories of Carol Hedges, but Jigsaw Pieces is a Young Adult novel set in the early 21st century.  The heroine, Annie Skjaerstad, has a prickly, independent personality.  The thick skin she adopts to protect herself make her unappealing to her peers, but she speaks to readers in the first person, putting us firmly on her side.

Separated from her father and the country she loves, you would expect Annie to go off the rails, but although she has been bullied or ignored by her classmates, she copes with everyday life and exam pressure phlegmatically. Only in English lessons do her spirits rise. Her teacher appreciates her talent and nurtures her interest in poetry written during the First World War.

Suddenly the whole class are shocked when one of the boys commits suicide.  Grant had been unkind to her, but Annie cannot believe he would have made this decision.  Looking forward to a week’s work experience with the police force she is bitterly disappointed when she is sent to a care home instead.  Working through the week of domestic drudgery she meets someone whose early life sparks her interest. In the meantime, she tries to investigate Grant’s suicide.

This easy to read book confronts the challenges which young people are facing at this moment and I read avidly as Annie became endangered by her brave investigation.  Not just for young adults. This is a story for us all.

You can find Jigsaw Pieces on Amazon UK

If you are interested in the Young Adult books by Carol Hedges you might also enjoy The Final Virus

Perfect by Rachel Joyce #BookReview

Only when the clock stops does time come to life

Perfect

Summer, 1972: In the claustrophobic heat, eleven-year-old Byron and his friend begin ‘Operation Perfect’, a hapless mission to rescue Byron’s mother from impending crisis.

Winter, present day: As frost creeps across the moor, Jim cleans tables in the local café, a solitary figure struggling with OCD. His job is a relief from the rituals that govern his nights.

Little would seem to connect them except that two seconds can change everything.

And if your world can be shattered in an instant, can time also put it right?

This is a story of details; of the few seconds which can alter life and the routines which keep us sane.  The hot summer of 1972 is vividly recreated at Cranham House, a desirable Georgian home standing alone on the moor.  In a house where, “the air was thick with Vim and Pledge polish,” Diana maintains an immaculate life for Byron & his young sister while her husband works away from home all week.  Each morning after a healthy breakfast they get into the new Jaguar driving Byron to Winston House private school in his smart, neatly pressed uniform, but on the day when two seconds are removed from time, everything changes.

Byron’s friend James is full of clever ideas and he also has a crush on Diana. “Her eyes were bright, her skirt pressed, her hair blow-dried,” and she was naturally kind.  When her world starts to fall apart the 2 boys do their best to help her.

In parallel chapters we meet Jim in the present day, living in a campervan on the edge of a new housing estate and working in a supermarket café.  As a result of his stay in Besley Hill, “where the mad people lived,” he has a stammer and has difficulty interacting with people. But he is finding it difficult to ignore the new cook Eileen, a large lady with titian hair and her laugh has, “something so chaotic about the noise, so joyous and unequivocal.”

And it is chaos which causes the major events in this novel.  It is a fascinating tale of appearances, mistakes and human relationships.  There is mystery as to who Jim is and what has happened to him and what Diana’s background was before she met her husband.  Despite the slow pace I found it compulsive reading.

Perfect on Amazon UK

Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her work has been translated into thirty-six languages.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Rachel was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards ‘New Writer of the Year’ in December 2012 and shortlisted for the ‘UK Author of the Year’ 2014.

Rachel has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl.

The White Hornet: Sword and Steampunk (The Viper and the Urchin Book 5) by Celine Jeanjean #NewRelease

White h

A city of snow and wind.
A logistical nightmare when running a mission…
…or an opportunity to explore new sartorial delights?

Rory has faced many challenges in her time, but none quite so frustrating as mastering the art of walking in a corset and bustle.

She has to pass herself off as a wealthy heiress to infiltrate the House of Bel, a mysterious and highly exclusive club for Airnian high society, and of course her true identity must remain hidden at all costs.

Luckily, Longinus is on hand to advise—that is, when he’s not busy discovering the giddy delights of winter outerwear and investigating the mystery of what happened to his family.

But they soon become aware of a mysterious presence—someone paying disturbingly close attention to their every move.

Who or what is the White Hornet? What is the link to Longinus’s family?

And will Rory and the gang be able to infiltrate the House of Bel before the White Hornet uncovers their true identities?

My Review

Once again, Longinus and Rory are part of a team engaged in espionage on behalf of the Marchioness of Damsport.  Leaving the warmth of their home, Cruikshank, the clever engineer, Adelma, the strong, hard-drinking smuggler and Rafe, a handsome Varanguard, have travelled north with them to Arnia, fearing the Emperor intends to reconquer Damsport.

The fledgling romance between Rafe and Rory is beginning to blossom as they act out their parts of a noble but poor aristocrat and his rich but unsophisticated fiancé.  Soon the need for Rory to act independently and Rafe’s shame in admitting a weakness from his past, cause misunderstanding and distance between them.  Meanwhile Longinus creeps through the frozen city at night in search of information about his lost father and missing mother.

Increasingly Rory’s efforts lead her into greater danger as she puts her trust in the dissipated Airnian, Simeon.  While she and Rafe escape the authorities over the rooftops, Adelma, Cruikshank and Longinus attempt a daring diversion which nearly kills them all. But the greatest peril is the cold and ice of the unwelcoming city.

There are two parts to this story. First, during Rory’s visits to the House of Bel, we read fascinating descriptions of room after room of indulgence and desire where she finds no-one will help her, until she learns the importance of gossip. The second and most exciting part describes the dangers and heroism of the five vivid characters, as they fight, flee and help each other against weapons, soldiers and hostile weather.  Another rollicking adventure of this likeable, if eccentric group.

The White Hornet on Amazon Uk

My review of  The Slave City by Celine Jeanjean

Loving Vengeance (The Ross Duology Book 2) by Georgia Rose #NewRelease #FridayReads

Loving Vengeance

Book Blurb

A woman with a troubled past. A new love hanging in the balance. Will an unexpected visitor strengthen her resolve or destroy the life she’s trying to build?

Madeleine’s world, once so organised, is a mess. Suffering the fallout from the mistakes she made with Tag, she has no idea where she stands with Daniel. Are they only friends or is there still a chance for something more?

Enter James – cool, calm and calculated. A stranger, she thinks. But he knows her, and he comes with an opportunity she can’t refuse, involving an enemy she’d tried to forget. At first keen to return to her past, Madeleine soon realises it’s not only the gang that’s changed, and battles her own demons as well as an unpredictable villain.

Can Daniel step up when he’s needed? Or will it be James who rides in to the rescue? Because when things go badly for Madeleine, and all hope seems lost, there is only one who can save the day. And only one who can bring more to the task than merely himself.

Loving Vengeance is the second book in this fast-paced duology. If you like strong heroines, character-driven action and powerful emotions, then you’ll love Georgia Rose’s exciting novel.

My Review

Loving Vengeance is the long awaited follow up to Parallel Lines where we left Maddy (or Scarlet in her former life) injured in body and reputation.  It is a great relief to find that Dan, with whom she had only recently started a relationship has not given up on Maddy, but can they overcome the secrets they kept and rekindle their feelings for each other?

The great thing about Maddy is her independent spirit and bravery. In this book she has antagonised Mayoral candidate, Ben Pritchard, by supporting his materialistic wife, Letitia and in turn he threatens Maddy’s friends, Kourtney and Diane. In a complex plot this situation becomes entangled in Maddy’s former life of crime.  A handsome policeman, James, has turned up, saying he knows her, and she must help him, back in her rough London neighbourhood, to catch one of her old contacts.

What makes the books of Georgia Rose so different is the way she takes us into the mind of her heroines.  Speaking in the first person, Maddy tells us all her feelings, her strengths and her weaknesses. Few of us would walk into such dangerous situations or be so pro-active in helping others but this makes for a thrilling, eventful story.  Dan, who occasionally speaks to us, in the second person, is an active participant, striving to keep Maddy safe, without compromising her plan.

Parallel Lines is still my favourite book of the two but in Loving Vengeance it is good to see how Maddy’s life continues and the positive effect she has on the village community.  There is definitely an opening for her to continue crime fighting and problem solving in further novels!

Loving Vengeance on Amazon UK

My review of Parallel Lines

To celebrate the launch of Loving Vengeance Georgia Rose is running a mega give away here