Island in the East by Jenny Ashcroft #FridayReads #BookReview

Island in the East

This is a book of two stories 44 years apart, both telling of romance and tragedy on the island of Singapore.  In 1941, Ivy Harcourt, a brave young servicewoman, arriving in Singapore a year before the Japanese invasion, meets Kit, the love of her life, but she discovers that her grandmother Mae has been keeping a secret.  She too had lived on the island as a young woman, with her twin sister, Harriet, but what has happened to her sister since then?

 

The stories are gradually revealed in parallel, Mae’s predicament intensifying as danger approaches Ivy and Kit.  This is a thrilling and intriguing book with authentic characters such as Alma, Ivy’s lively American friend and Alex, a warm elderly gentleman who knew her grandmother so many years earlier.  It is difficult to put down as there are so many questions to be answered, unscrupulous characters harming our heroines and the Japanese occupation to be endured.

 

Having lived in Singapore during the 1960s I am fascinated by its history, especially during the second world war, but I was also impressed by the familiar feeling of the heat, the lush vegetation and the colonial style buildings described in the text.  A perfect setting for a mystery, a story of wartime heroism and two enduring romances.

Island in the East is available at Amazon UK

Jenny Ashcroft

Jenny Ashcroft

Jenny Ashcroft is a British author of historical fiction. Having spent many years living, working and exploring in Australia and Asia – a time which gave her an enduring passion for stories set in exotic places – she is now based in Brighton where she lives with her family by the sea. She
has a degree in history, and has always been fascinated by the past – in particular the way that extraordinary events can transform the lives of normal people.

Her first book, Beneath a Burning Sky, was a 2017 kindle bestseller, and Island in the East is her second novel. She is currently working on her third, set in 1920s India.

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That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan #FridayReads

Seahorse

An old house in an estate on the beautiful east coast of Ireland is a perfect setting for romance and mystery.  Mia Flannagan is summoned to Galty House by the sad news of the imminent death of Archie Fitzgerald, a celebrated Hollywood actor who took the place of a father for most of her troubled childhood.  During a rather distant relationship with her mother, stunning actress Fenella Flannagan, Mia was nurtured by Archie’s family and friends, but even they would never reveal the identity of her father.

 

Leaving the set of a disastrous film where she is in charge of the wardrobe, she is relieved to find Archie is in good form despite being weak and tiring easily.  He maintains a good relationship with his new neighbour, American hotel manager, Ross Power’ but Mia is more interested in a friendship with Pearl, the lonely, neglected niece.  Just as Mia was, she is an imaginative, talkative child and the two have adventures together visiting the mysterious island just off the coast.

 

As Archie declines, Mia’s life begins to fall apart. The film is abandoned and when she returns to London she finds her dastardly boyfriend/fiancé in the arms of another woman.  There is great humour in this scene and also in the way that the women of Galty House conspire to deal with the cad.  It seems inevitable that Mia will be drawn to Ross, but she discovers he too seems to be involved in sharp practice.  Thus, the revelation that the Fitzgerald family have kept a conspiracy of silence about her father can only make matters worse.

 

This is a tortuous tale of love, leading to passion and envy.  The characters have substance and strong personalities and there is a little bit of Irish magic in the conclusion.  Definitely a book that is difficult to put down.

That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is available at Amazon UK or Amazon US

A Vaughan

Adrienne Vaughan

Adrienne Vaughan has been making up stories since she could speak; initially to entertain her sister Reta, who never allowed a plot or character to be repeated – tough audience. As soon as she could pick up a pen she started writing them down.

It was no surprise that Adrienne grew up to be a journalist, diving headfirst into her career after studying at the Dublin College of Journalism. These days she is recognised as a talented author and poet, having published The Heartfelt trilogy of acclaimed novels and an award-winning collection of short stories and poetry. Her fourth novel That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel was published in February 2018 by The Paris Press.

Adrienne lives in rural Leicestershire with her husband, two cocker spaniels and a rescue cat called Agatha Christie. She still harbours a burning ambition to be a ‘Bond girl’.

Painting Ruby Tuesday by Jane Yardley #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

Ruby Tuesday

Thanks to the introduction to the books of Jane Yardley by my friend Hilary I decided to read this book, mainly because of the intriguing nostagic title.

My Review

It is summer 1965 and ten-year-old Annie is whiling away the holiday in her Essex village with best friend Babette, trying to keep out of the way of her parents who run the village school.  But as she practises for her grade 5 piano exam and escapes into the latest Beatles or Rolling Stone song, the local community is shocked by a spate of murders.

 

At first, Annie continues to visit her favourite adult, Mrs Clitheroe, who shares her synaesthesia, the tendency to see music, days of the week etc as colours, absorbed in conversation with her while Babette leafs through an old photo album. But then the murders come closer to home.  Annie is a witness, but she has no intention of helping the police to find the culprit.

 

In tandem with the story of her childhood we meet Annie thirty years later, a musician and teacher with one failed marriage and another cooling.  She is offered a chance to move to New York, a place that has always been significant to her, but she needs to work on improving the relationship with her American husband, Alan.  But memories of her creative, chaotic first marriage to sculptor, Daniel are getting in the way.

 

This is a complex book about only children who live in a world of their own (I identify with this!) of the traumatic effect of discovering a murder scene and the way some people stay with you all of your life, even if you only knew them as a child.  It is amusing, mystifying and reveals the world of a sixties village very well.  It is a stimulating read which makes you think but it is also a great page turner.

Painting Ruby Tuesday is available at Amazon UK or at Amazon US

 

Just an Odd Job Girl by Sally Cronin #TuesdayBookBlog #Review

Odd Job Girl

Imogen has reached the milestone of 50, but her world has fallen apart.  After over 20 years of marriage to Peter, he has abandoned her for a younger model.  Thrown out of her lovely home, she has downsized and is hibernating.  After turning to comfort eating, she has gained several pounds so has decided to make a new start by looking for a job.  She hasn’t worked since marrying Peter, so she approaches an agency.  There she meets Andrew who listens to her; something Peter never did.

 

Talking to him about her work experiences unleashes a multitude of memories and we as readers are able to share in the variety of occupations of her youth.  This isn’t a depressing story about loss or wasted years, it is a lively, amusing account of work in a hotel, funeral directors and the catering world. It shows a woman’s worth, gained from all the challenges of life experiences.  By going back through her memories, Imogen rediscovers her confidence and is ready to face the world anew.

Sally Cronin

Sally G Cronin

Sally Cronin is a successful author, well known for Smorgasboarda blog magazine for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general.

Just an Odd Job Girl can be purchased on Amazon UK or Amazon US

 

The Likeness by Bill Kirton #RBRT #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

Likeness

In this sequel to Bill Kirton’s “The Figurehead,” we meet wood carver, John Grant, once again, showing his strength and resolute character as he heads out of Aberdeen harbour with his fellow oarsmen in the Lifeboat.  Meanwhile, Helen Anderson, frequently in John’s thoughts, is trying to persuade her father to allow her active participation in his business.  Her parents know that she has grown close to John Grant, although he is not her social equal, but she does not follow the normal accepted behaviour of a young woman in 1841.  She is keen to travel on one of her father’s ships, on part of its journey to the colonies, to see how accommodation might be improved.

Imminent separation begins to drive John and Helen apart, as his new project to carve a figurehead for part of a ship on stage, brings him into frequent contact with an actress in the touring company.  The discovery of the original star of the play, dead behind the fishing sheds, has made him determined to solve the possible murder and there are several likely suspects.

The details of the shipping business and the life of a touring group of actors enrich this distinctive historical mystery and misunderstandings in the relationship between Helen and John are solved in an unusual manner, based on their love and respect for each other. A wonderful opportunity to discover the people and hardships of this thriving 19th century port.

The Likeness can be found on Amazon UK   and Amazon US

My review of The Figurehead.

Bill Kirton

Bill Kirton

Bill Kirton was a university lecturer in French before taking early retirement to become a full-time writer. He’s won two 2011 Forward National Literature Awards – ‘The Sparrow Conundrum’ was the overall winner of the Humor category and ‘The Darkness’ was runner up in the Mystery category. ‘The Sparrow Conundrum’ also won the Readers’ Choice Award for satire/humor on the Big Al’s Books and Pals website in 2012. His historical mystery, ‘The Figurehead’, was long-listed for the 2012 Rubery Book Awards.
He’s produced material in many different media. His radio plays have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4 and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. His stage plays have been performed in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the USA and he’s been the visiting artist to the Theatre Department of the University of Rhode Island on four separate occasions. There, he directed stage plays, gave classes on creative writing and theatre, performed in revues and translated three plays by Molière for public performance, one of which won a BCLA prize. Material from his Edinburgh Festival revues was broadcast on the BBC, ITV and French television.
He’s also been a TV presenter and a voice-over artist and his scripts for corporate and educational DVDs and videos have won awards in the UK and USA. He’s been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, and the universities of Dundee and St Andrews.
Most of his novels are set in the north east of Scotland. ‘Material Evidence’, ‘Rough Justice’, the award-winning ‘The Darkness’, ‘Shadow Selves’ and ‘Unsafe Acts’ all feature DCI Jack Carston. ‘The Figurehead’ is a historical novel set in Aberdeen in 1840. The award-winning ‘The Sparrow Conundrum’, is a spoof spy/crime novel also set in Scotland. His comic fantasy novella, ‘Alternative Dimension’ satirises online role-playing games.
His short stories have appeared in the Crime Writers’ Association annual anthology in 1999, 2005 and 2006. IN 2010, one was also chosen for the ‘Best British Crime Stories, Vol. 7’ anthology edited by Maxim Jacubowski.

 

 

An Interview with Crazy Amy (from the books by Rose Edmunds)

I am thrilled that the amazing (crazy?) Amy from Concealment and Exposure has taken the time to talk to me this week, shortly before another installment in her life is revealed to us by Rose Edmunds in her new book Restitution.

new conceal Exposure

Amy, you are a smartly dressed woman who had all the trappings of success in the world of corporate finance, but nobody really seems to know you well. Perhaps you could answer a few questions so that we can understand you better.

It is said that you are exceptionally ambitious and obsessed with material things which demonstrate your success. Does this conceal hidden insecurities?

Before I started out on my painful journey of readjustment, I would have vehemently denied this, but now I’m inclined to agree. Having grown up in squalor due to my mother’s compulsive hoarding, I felt driven to live the “perfect” life I’d been denied as a child. The material possessions were merely symbols of this quest for perfection. But the shame and embarrassment of my childhood never left me, and I felt unworthy of my beautiful home and designer wardrobe, and dissatisfied with my professional achievements. So I drove myself harder and harder until it all imploded…

Would you agree that keeping secrets make relationships impossible to sustain?

Yes and no. In the past, I believed everyone would shun me if they knew about the hoarding, and so keeping the Big Secret was essential. This has been my undoing on occasion. Now, I’m much more open about that aspect of my life, but I still haven’t told anyone about Little Amy. People already regard me as crazy and I shudder to think what they’d say if they knew I was haunted by a hallucination of my fourteen-year-old self.

Did you enjoy the chance of assuming a new identity by changing your appearance? Shorter hair suits you, by the way.

Thanks for the compliment. I like the short hair too, and now realise that the long flowing locks were just part of the illusion I was trying so desperately to maintain.

The new identity was exciting to begin with. I relished the opportunity to be someone different and leave behind all my emotional baggage. But ultimately I came to realise that no matter who you’re pretending to be, you can’t leave your weaknesses behind.

Did you benefit from your stay at the Priory?

Not as much as I should have done. It was useful to retreat for a few weeks, but I never really fully engaged in the therapy and was always trying to hold something of myself back (those secrets again!). With hindsight, I shouldn’t have been on the rehab program anyway, because obviously I’m not an alcoholic.

We have seen you in a variety of relationships. Who was the one who got away?

Toby Marchpole. We first dated when I was sixteen and I realise now I should have confided in him about the problems at home. He was hurt when he found out what I’d been holding back, as it demonstrated a lack of trust, and ended the relationship. On the other hand, he ferretted out my secret in a very sneaky way, but I can hardly hold that against him in the circumstances. Unfortunately by the time we reconnected, time ran out before we could put the past behind us.

Is Little Amy a help or a hindrance in times of stress?

Both. She talks a lot of bullshit, but on the other hand from time to time there are nuggets of common sense in what she says. But lately she’s been a real bitch and it’s stressful to deal with her. Plus it’s obviously concerning that she’s around at all, which makes me wonder if I really am crazy. I’ve also been wondering why she’s fourteen? Did something stressful happen then which I can’t remember? Maybe some day I’ll find out.

Thanks so much for the interview. I do hope my answers have cleared up some of the mystery surrounding me. You’ve given me much food for thought and maybe I should try to be more open with people in the future. But it’s so hard to shake off a habit of secrecy ingrained over a lifetime. Perhaps I should have been a spy…

Rose Edmunds

Rose Edmunds

My reviews of Concealment and Exposure

The Figurehead by Bill Kirton #FridayReads #BookReview

Figurehead

ABERDEEN, Scotland – 1840

Return to an age where sail was being challenged by steam, new continents were opening, and the world was full of opportunities for people to be as good—or as evil—as they chose. When the body of a local shipwright is found on the beach, neither the customers and suppliers he cheated nor the women he molested are surprised. But the mystery intrigues woodcarver John Grant, who determines to seek out the truth of the killing. His work and his investigations bring him into contact with William Anderson, a rich merchant—and his daughter Elizabeth. Commissioned to create a figurehead that combines the features of two women, John eventually uncovers a sordid tale of blackmail and death as, simultaneously, he struggles to resist the pangs of unexpected love.

Poor old Bessie Rennie found herself in great trouble as a result of stealing a watch from the dead body of Jimmie Crombie, the shipwright, on the Aberdeen beach. Had she murdered him, or did he drown? The local Watch are useless, but John Grant, figurehead maker and ship carver, is determined to find the murderer even if Jimmie deserved his fate.

William Anderson, wealthy ship owner and trader, had commissioned Crombie to build him a new ship, so he is concerned about completing the build, while his independently minded daughter, Helen, not a typical rich young lady of 1840, wants to help her father in his business as well as solve the murder. Inevitably, Helen and John Grant are drawn together as she models for the figurehead for her father’s ship and they begin to share their investigations.

Events slowly reveal which of Jimmie’s enemies might have wished him dead, as the author shows the comfortable gentrified life of the Anderson family contrasting with extreme poverty among the fisherman, thieves and prostitutes. While John is able to span the lives of both communities, Helen takes dangerous risks in seeking out the company of Jimmie’s widow, Jessie. The picture of 19th century Aberdeen is vivid and convincing, while John’s strong, calm personality is a good foil for the impetuous determination of Helen Anderson.

This is a story full of realistic characters, whom we grow to care for and a lifestyle full of passion and suffering. After an unpredictable twist, the mystery draws to a satisfactory, logical conclusion, but the relationship of Helen and John is still uncertain, leading us on to the following book. The well-researched background story of this busy port raises questions to be answered about the business practices of William Anderson and his provision of passages to the colonies so I look forward to reading “The Likeness.”

The Figurehead is available at Amazon UK