Fighting for success in 17th century Amsterdam, a female artist must risk everything – and make enemies along the way.
Clara Peeters’ idyllic upbringing is shattered by her mother’s death, leaving her with a secret horror of childbirth. When her childhood love, Henri, proposes marriage and she refuses, they are both left heartbroken, though she must conceal her pain.
Defying convention, gifted artist Clara becomes a pupil to the renowned painter, Osias Beerts. But when the highly prized patronage won from the powerful Burgomeister Fabritius turns to hostility, Clara has to make sacrifices and risk everything to pursue her craft.
Together with fellow pupil Nico, the two find themselves surrounded by dangerous secrets and powerful enemies. But in the face of so much past pain, can something as fragile as love survive?
Throughout this 17th century tale death in childbirth and the power over, patronage of and rape and sexual abuse of women are powerful themes. Along with witch persecution and the taboo and abhorrence of same sex male partners to love and live openly at that historical time period.
Clara mother’s dies in childbirth leaving her with an overwhelming fear of ever becoming pregnant and this has huge consequences for her personal love life. Clara is a strong willed artist determined to make her way in a world ruthlessly dominated by men. Clara tolerates Fabritius’s ‘patronage,’ until it is clear what sort of man he is and her sister Adela is somewhat foolish making some terrible choices with regard to men with horrendous outcomes. Clara’s aunt disapproves of her painting, as do so many others but Clara’s admirable force of will and determination to succeed overcomes prejudice to follow her chosen career path often at the detriment of her life in other ways.
What an engaging tale. I loved this and became so absorbed in the life of artist Clara and the wonderful variety of characters in this story. The descriptive writing really pulled me in. The ending was so poignant, emotional and sad. Life wasn’t easy for women way back then! She had to be tough! She is such a strong character full of determination and I really loved Constanza, Nico and Henri too.
Notes from Wikipedia: “Clara Peeters was a Flemish still-life painter from Antwerp who worked in both the Spanish Netherlands and Dutch Republic. Peeters is the best-known female Flemish artist of this era and one of the few women artists working professionally in seventeenth-century Europe, despite restrictions on women’s access to artistic training and membership in guilds. Peeters specialized in still-life paintings with food and was prominent among the artists who shaped the traditions of the Netherlandish ontbijtjes, “breakfast pieces,” scenes of food and simple vessels, and banketjes, “banquet pieces” with expensive cups and vessels in precious metals.”
Listened to on Audiobook – the narrator did a fabulous job.
At the dawn of World War Two, German-born nurse Emma Taylor sits by the bedside of a Jewish heiress in London as she reminisces over her dear friend, Oscar Wilde.
As the story of Wilde unravels, so does Emma’s past. What really happened to her husband?
She’s taken back to her days in Singapore on the eve of World War One. To her disappointing marriage to a British export agent, her struggle to fit into colonial life and the need to hide her true identity.
Emma is caught up in history, the highs, the lows, the adventures. A deadly mutiny, terrifying rice riots and a confrontation with the Ku Klux Klan bring home, for all migrants, the fragility of belonging.
Emma’s Tapestry is an imaginative retelling of the remarkable life of the author’s great-grandmother.
I loved Emma’s Tapestry, a historical tale with an imaginative aspect, from the beginning!
I was attracted to reading this historical novel as it’s set in London, partially in the Far East in Singapore (where I was born) and also in Japan. The main character, Emma, is from Philadelphia but with German origins.
There are so many aspects to this tale to keep you utterly enthralled from mentions of Oscar Wilde’s letter to Adela, (an elderly Jewish heiress with a fascinating life to tell,) the tapestry itself which is cleverly interwoven into the plot, details of Emma’s Mennonite faith, emotional scenes, fears, dangers and insecurities brought on by war, anti-German feeling, mentions of mediums and spiritualism, the sense of the divide between the rich and the poor in Expat countries – Emma’s reaction and empathy for the locals (she is a trained nurse) and the terrible loss of life following WW1 caused by the Spanish influenza.
I admire authors who write historical fiction (as it must involve so much painstaking research to get the details right.)
Throughout it all the main character Emma shines with a can do I won’t be beaten attitude.
I just loved Emma’s wonderful strength of character!
There’s mention of the trials and tribulations throughout the war years of WW1 and WW2, (and coping with Ernest, her merchant hubby, a dire excuse for a husband, ) and the evergrowing anti-German sentiment and fears for her safety and her children’s wellbeing given her German heritage.
I listened to this sweeping historical novel in Audible and loved every minute.
With its wonderful storyline which sweeps back and forth in diverse time periods and believable, well written and engaging characters.
There is a lovely epilogue explaining Isobel Blackthorn’s family background and the mysterious inspiration for writing this story, (a period in her maternal great grandparents lives, ) which is in itself all so fascinating!
*** You can find many posts with character intros & a video about the book in the above links
Abigail has always struggled with strange voices appearing inside her head. From the relentless tyranny a woman faces on an antebellum plantation to the unknown prison camps in America during World War II, our heroine discovers the past in a way that forever changes her future. There are moments from previous periods that serve as guiding posts for the country’s growth, but they also mark the transitions for Abigail’s own personal history. Her best friend, Margaret, partners with Abigail to discover the identity of these voices while focusing on her passion and quest to become a United States senator. Through it all, a serial killer torments the country, romance blossoms between some of the people they meet during the journey, and secrets long thought buried come to light in devastating ways. With the twisting of elements, numerical alignments, and the trauma of spiritual entanglements, no one will be the same… and just a few might not even be around anymore.
Contemporary Fiction but with historical interludes, metaphysical elements, past life regression, suspense / mystery
Release Day Giveaway:
Didi and James are giving away 4 prizes as part of this book launch. The giveaway will run from 3/31 thru 5/16. We will close it after Release Day and select 4 winners.
Didi Oviatt is an intuitive soul. She’s a wife and mother first, with one son and one daughter. Her thirst to write was developed at an early age, and she never looked back. After digging down deep and getting in touch with her literary self, she’s writing mystery/thrillers like Search for Maylee, Justice for Belle, Aggravated Momentum, and Sketch, along with multiple short story collections. She’s collaborated with Kim Knight in an ongoing interactive short story anthology, The Suspenseful Collection. Most recently, she published her first romance novella titled Skinny Dippin’ which was originally released as a part of the highly appraised Anthology, Sinners and Saints. When Didi doesn’t have her nose buried in a book, she can be found enjoying a laid-back outdoorsy lifestyle. Time spent sleeping under the stars, hiking, fishing, and ATVing the back roads of beautiful mountain trails, and sun-bathing in the desert heat play an important part of her day to day lifestyle.
Ahnia has a very dicey past – one that is scratching under the surface, just dying to get out.
She’s hit rock bottom, broke and desperate to be on top again. When she finds herself partnering up with man she hardly knows, and who’s utterly untouchable, she’s forced out of her comfort zone in every way.
Will Ahnia and Mac’s dangerous decision be a success, or will she find herself in the clutches of an unforgiving force, brought about by her childhood sin?
In this nail-biting thrill ride, no one is as they seem…and no one is truly safe with those they trust.
When local girl Misty is found dead in an underground bunker, the town is thrown into a whirlwind of panic and speculation. Times are tough, but the spaced-out farmer community pulls together as one, trying to uncover who’s guilty.
Thrown smack in the middle of the chaos is a group of teens: local troublemakers, but with good hearts. Although they’re innocent, the local law enforcers believe otherwise, and the true killer is lurking far too close for comfort.
Will the four be able to uncover the truth before one of them pays the price for Misty’s death?
The Suspenseful Collection (Vol. 1):
For Mature Readers Only: A suspenseful novel with a twist. Eight short stories, by two suspense authors, from diverse backgrounds. From opposite sides of the Atlantic these stories have been created. One author started the tale and the other ended it. No discussion, no pre-planning, but yet their stories are seamless. With just creativity and the use of writing prompts, to craft one tale, with two different writers. This anthology of suspenseful, fast paced and engaging tales covers multiple genres. From heart felt romance, crime, fantasy, and steamy historical fiction. There is a story for everyone!
Blurred Lines (The Suspenseful Collection Vol. 2):
For Mature Readers Only: As the second installment of suspenseful short stories by two suspense authors, from diverse backgrounds, Blurred Lines offers a thrill ride with nine stories in genres across the board. From opposite sides of the Atlantic these stories have been created. One author started the tale and the other ended it. No discussion, no pre-planning, but yet their stories are seamless. With the use of writing prompts Kim and Didi have created tales that will tug at your heart strings, drop your jaws, and leave you clinging to the edge of your seat. From gory horror, romance, crime fiction, family drama, and fantasy, there is a story for everyone!
Jackson has barely reached manhood when lightning heralds the end of the world as we know it. The lightning has awakened the Lamians: descendants of the mythological creature Lamia.
In his world, The Company delivers supplies into his village, and harnesses technology that others lack. Soon, Jackson is taken by The Company; he is to be an ultimate warrior, alongside few others, as their blood is rare and compatible with the technology needed to transform them.
According to The Company, the Lamians are monsters who need to be defeated at all costs. But is Jackson really the one who can save the world?
When Carla agrees to house sit a condo by the beach for a summer, she’s met with a juicy surprise. Though reluctant, and determined to stay away, Carla is drawn to a young man a few doors down. Blake is handsome, temperamental, and just as determined to win her over as she is to stay away. Will Carla succumb to his possessive, domineering traits and become his for the summer? Or will she let better judgement along with their age difference drive a wedge between the undeniable connection? Three months under the summer sun is about to heat up the parts of Carla that she once believed to be lost, tossed to the wind and gone forever. After an accidentally naked night in the water, everything changes, and Carla is forced to face his persistence head on.
About the Author – James J. Cudney
James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media, hospitality, and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote short stories, poems, and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I committed to focusing my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing, and publishing.
Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, mind, and body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels, and suspense thrillers. I conjure characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.
Reader & Reviewer
Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies, or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read two books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review, and post it on all my sites and platforms.
Blogger & Thinker
I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice, and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks,” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.
Genealogist & Researcher
I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.
I write in the family drama, suspense, and mystery genres. My first two books were Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I wrote a sequel, Hiding Cracked Glass, for my debut novel, and they are known as the Perceptions of Glass series. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with seven books available.
All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, paperback, hardcover, large print paperback, pocket size paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.
Father Figure (Contemporary Fiction / Family Drama)
Between the fast-paced New York City, a rural Mississippi town and a charming Pennsylvania college campus filled with secrets, two young girls learn the consequences of growing up too quickly. Amalia Graeme, abused by her mother for most of her life, longs to escape her desolate hometown and fall in love. Contemplating her loss of innocence and conflicting feelings between her boyfriend and the dangerous attraction she’s developed for an older man, Amalia faces life-altering tragedies. Brianna Porter, a sassy, angst-ridden teenager raised in New York City, yearns to find her life’s true purpose, conquer her fear of abandonment, and interpret an intimidating desire for her best friend, Shanelle. Desperate to find the father whom her mother refuses to reveal, Brianna accidentally finds out a shocking truth about her missing parent. Set in alternating chapters two decades apart, the parallels between their lives and the unavoidable collision that is bound to happen are revealed. FATHER FIGURE is a stand-alone emotional story filled with mystery, romance, and suspense.
PERCEPTIONS OF GLASS SERIES
Watching Glass Shatter (Contemporary Fiction / Family Drama)
The wealthy Glass family lost its patriarch, Benjamin Glass, sooner than expected. Benjamin’s widow, Olivia, and her 5 sons each react to his death in their own way while preparing for the reading of his will. Olivia receives a very unexpected confession from her late husband about one of their sons that could shatter the whole family. Prior to revealing the secret to her children, Olivia must figure out which boy Ben refers to in the confession he left her in his will. While the family attorney searches for the mysterious Rowena Hector whom Ben says holds the answers, Olivia asks her sons to each spend a week with her as she isn’t ready to let go of the past. When Olivia visits her sons, she quickly learns that each one has been keeping his own secret from her. Olivia never expected her remaining years would be so complex and life-altering, but she will not rest until her family is reunited after Ben’s untimely death. We all need family. We all want to fit in. We’re all a mix of quirky personalities. Will Olivia be able to fix them, or will the whole family implode? What will she do when she discovers the son behind Ben’s secret? Check out this ensemble cast where each family member’s perspective is center stage, discovering along the way who might feel the biggest impact from all the secrets. Through various scenes and memories across a six-month period, you’ll get to know everyone, learning how and why they made certain decisions. Welcome to being an honorary member of the Glass family where the flair for over-the-top drama pushes everyone to their limits.
Hiding Cracked Glass (Contemporary Fiction / Family Drama)
An ominous blackmail letter appears at an inopportune moment. The recipient’s name is accidentally blurred out upon arrival. Which member of the Glass family is the ruthless missive meant for? In the powerful sequel to Watching Glass Shatter, Olivia is the first to read the nasty threat and assumes it’s meant for her. When the mysterious letter falls into the wrong hands and is read aloud, it throws the entire Glass family into an inescapable trajectory of self-question. Across the span of eight hours, Olivia and her sons contemplate whether to confess their hidden secrets or find a way to bury them forever. Some failed to learn an important lesson last time. Will they determine how to save themselves before it’s too late? Each chapter’s focus alternates between the various family members and introduces several new and familiar faces with a vested interest in the outcome. As each hour ticks by, the remaining siblings and their mother gradually reveal what’s happened to them in the preceding months, and when the blackmailer makes an appearance at Olivia’s birthday party, the truth brilliantly comes to light. Although everyone seemed to embrace the healing process at the end of Watching Glass Shatter, there were hidden cracks in the Glass family that couldn’t be mended. Their lives are about to shatter into pieces once again, but this time, the stakes are even higher. Someone wants to teach them a permanent lesson and refuses to stop until success is achieved.
BRAXTON CAMPUS MYSTERY SERIES
Academic Curveball: Death at the Sports Complex (#1)
When Kellan Ayrwick, a thirty-two-year-old single father, is forced to return home for his father’s retirement from Braxton College, he finds the dead body of a professor in Diamond Hall’s stairwell. Unfortunately, Kellan has a connection to the victim, and so do several members of his family. Could one of them be guilty of murder? Then he finds a second body after discovering mysterious donations to the college’s athletic program, a nasty blog denouncing his father, and a criminal attempting to change student grades so the star baseball pitcher isn’t expelled. Someone is playing games on campus, but none of the facts add up. With the help of his eccentric and trouble-making nana weeding through the clues, Kellan tries to stay out of the sheriff’s way. Fate has other plans. Kellan is close to discovering the killer’s identity just as someone he loves is put in grave danger of becoming victim number three. And if that’s not enough to wreak havoc on his family, everything comes crashing to a halt when his own past comes spiraling back to change his life forever. In this debut novel in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series, readers discover a cozy, secluded Pennsylvania village full of quirky, sarcastic, and nosy residents. Among the daily workings of Braxton College and the charming Ayrwick family, Kellan weighs his investigative talents against an opportunity to achieve a much sought-after dream. When this first book ends, the drama is set for the next adventure in Kellan’s future… and it’s one you won’t want to miss.
Broken Heart Attack: Death at the Theater (#2)
When an extra ticket becomes available to attend the dress rehearsal of Braxton’s King Lear production, Kellan tags along with Nana D and her buddies, sisters-in-law Eustacia and Gwendolyn Paddington, to show support for the rest of the Paddington family. When one of them appears to have a heart attack in the middle of the second act, Nana D raises her suspicions and asks Kellan to investigate who killed her friend. Amidst family members suddenly in debt and a secret rendezvous between an unlikely pair, Kellan learns the Paddingtons might not be as clean-cut as everyone thinks. But did one of them commit murder for an inheritance? Kellan is back in his second adventure since returning home to Pennsylvania. With his personal life in upheaval and his new boss, Myriam, making life difficult, will he be able to find a killer, or will he get caught up in his own version of stage fright?
Flower Power Trip: Death at the Masquerade Ball (#3)
Braxton College is throwing the Heroes & Villains Costume Extravaganza to raise money for renovations to the antiquated Memorial Library. While attending, Kellan stumbles upon a close family friend standing over a dead body that’s dressed as Dr. Evil. Did one of Maggie’s sisters kill an annoying guest at the Roarke and Daughters Inn or does the victim have a more intimate connection to someone else on campus? As Kellan helps the school’s president, Ursula, bury a scandalous secret from her past and unearth the identity of her stalker, he unexpectedly encounters a missing member of his own family who’s reappeared after a lengthy absence. When all the peculiar events around town trace back to the Stoddards, a new family who recently moved to Wharton County, the explosive discovery only offers more confusion. Between the special flower exhibit that’s made an unplanned stop on campus and strange postcards arriving each week from all around the world, Kellan can’t decide which mystery in his life should take priority. Unfortunately, the biggest one of all has yet to arrive at his doorstep. When it does, Kellan won’t know what hit him.
Mistaken Identity Crisis: Death on the Cable Car (#4)
A clever thief with a sinister calling card has invaded Braxton campus. A string of jewelry thefts continues to puzzle the sheriff given they’re remarkably similar to an unsolved eight-year-old case from shortly before Gabriel vanished one stormy night. When a missing ruby is discovered near an electrified dead body during the campus cable car redesign project, Kellan must investigate the real killer to protect his brother. Amidst sorority hazing practices and the victim’s connections to several prominent Wharton County citizens, a malicious motive becomes more obvious and trickier to prove. As if the latest murder isn’t enough to keep him busy, Kellan partners with April to end the Castigliano and Vargas crime family feud. What really happened to Francesca while all those postcards showed up in Braxton? The mafia world is more calculating than Kellan realized, and if he wants to move forward, he must make a few ruthless sacrifices. Election Day is over, and the new mayor takes office. Nana D celebrates her 75th birthday with an adventure. A double wedding occurs at Crilly Lake on Independence Day. And Kellan receives a few more surprises as the summer heat settles in Wharton County.
Haunted House Ghost: Death at the Fall Festival (#5)
It’s Halloween, and excitement is brewing in Braxton to carve jack-o’-lanterns, go on haunted hayrides, and race through the spooky corn maze at the Fall Festival. Despite the former occupant’s warnings, Kellan renovates and moves into a mysterious old house. When a ruthless ghost promises retribution, our fearless professor turns to the eccentric town historian and an eerie psychic to communicate with the apparition. Meanwhile, construction workers discover a fifty-year-old skeleton after breaking ground on the new Memorial Library wing. While Kellan and April dance around the chemistry sparking between them, a suspicious accident occurs at the Fall Festival. Soon, Kellan discovers the true history and dastardly connections of the Grey family. But can he capture the elusive killer – and placate the revenge-seeking ghost.
Frozen Stiff Drink: Death at Danby Landing (#6)
A winter blizzard barrels toward Wharton County with a vengeance. Madam Zenya predicted the raging storm would change the course of Kellan’s life, but the famed seer never could’ve prepared him for all the collateral damage. Nana D disappears after visiting a patient at Willow Trees, leaving behind a trail of confusion. When the patient turns up dead, and second body is discovered beneath the snowbanks, Kellan must face his worst fears. What tragedy has befallen his beloved grandmother? Kellan’s brother Hampton learns essential life lessons the hard way after his father-in-law accuses him of embezzlement. While trying to prove his innocence, Hampton digs himself a deeper hole that might lead to prison. Sheriff Montague wants to save him, but she receives the shock of her life as the past hurtles forward and complicates her future. Between locating Nana D and solving the scandalous murder of another prominent Braxton citizen, Kellan and April’s worlds explode with more turmoil than they can handle. Too bad neither one of them knows what to do about the psychic’s latest premonition. The suspicious deaths happening around town aren’t ending anytime soon.
Legally Blind Luck: Death via Curse (#7)
Surprising new family members. A hidden talisman. Deadly curses. Horrific murder. Months after tragically losing a loved one, Kellan learns his relative’s death wasn’t an accident. Someone discovered Queen Tessa’s cursed talisman, and a rogue government agent will stop at nothing to retrieve the heirloom. Too bad it changed hands during an anonymous auction and found its way on campus. Moments before Braxton’s controversial art exhibition opens, Kellan stumbles upon another murder victim. It appears he might be next on the avenger’s list too. Will Kellan protect Tessa’s true heir and prevent a killer’s nefarious plan from ending the curse? Given all the suspects have ties to prominent Braxton citizens, he’s uncertain whom to trust. Together, Kellan and Sheriff April are determined to solve the mystery via legal means or purely through blind luck.
A Jewish girl-turned-spy must infiltrate an elite Nazi boarding school in this highly commercial, relentlessly nail-biting World War II drama!
After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah–blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish–finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead. Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He’s a spy, and he needs Sarah to become one, too, to pull off a mission he can’t attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazi brass, befriend the daughter of a key scientist, and steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe. With years of training from her actress mother in the art of impersonation, Sarah thinks she’s ready. But nothing prepares her for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she finds herself in a battle for survival unlike any she’d ever imagined.
I’ve been keen to read his for a while and I am so glad I took the plunge! I absolutely loved Orphan Monster Spy from page one right through to the fabulous ending. Matt Killeen has a wonderful way with words and I loved the heroine of the story: Sarah. She’s so feisty and rises above all her terrible experiences, (including the death of her mother,) to be a truly awesome, fierce, brave and engaging character.
You’d enjoy this if you like stories set in Nazi Germany.
It doesn’t shy away from the ugly side of this time period of history. This is a different take, focusing on a young Jewish girl infiltrating a Nazi school for the ‘elite,’ and convincing them that she is one of them. What a great idea for a story.
It is obviously well researched and the author Matt Killeen’s compassion and humanity is evident in his writing.
It’s an easy one to rate. A five stars without a doubt. Definitely a favourite. Highly recommended.
Eleanor Roy is determined to do her bit for the war effort after being recruited by the War Artist Advisory Committee. When she meets handsome artist Jack Valante, her dreams seem to be finally coming true when Jack promises to help her pursue her ambition of becoming an artist. But after a whirlwind romance, Eleanor is devastated when Jack is posted overseas.
When Eleanor receives some unexpected news she desperately tries to find Jack. But with the young couple torn apart by war, will they be reunited and find happiness at last?
A heartwarming wartime saga perfect for fans of Ellie Dean and Nancy Revell.
Thank you to the author for a copy – opinions are my own.
This novel attracted me with its artistic slant and Eleanor’s desire to become a female war artist. I’ve never read anything about war artists before so this definitely piqued my interest. I particularly loved the scenes which focused on the war orphans and Eleanor struggling at first to bring them out of their shells, but succeeding by encouraging them to focus on things that mattered to them – taking them out of the carnage of war and into a happier place.
There are two main female characters: Eleanor and her granddaughter, Kathryn both of whom are engaging and well-developed. I found the shifts in time from WWII to modern day Britain a little jarring to begin with but I soon got the hang of it!
It is a well-written love story and a mystery too – What happened to Jack? Why did he disappear? I particularly enjoyed Jack’s diaries. These helped me gain a deeper understanding of Jack’s character and his frustration at the futility of war. There were rare moments of beauty. These particular entries shone through allowing for a momentary respite from Jack’s witnessing and recording daily bloodshed.
Overall, a well-researched story with some fantastic descriptive detail which really drew you into the story and made you feel totally invested in the characters and setting. I’d recommend this novel for readers of historical romance and those with an interest in art and art history.
I’d rate this 4.5 stars as the ending was so powerfully moving that it made me cry! I love it when that happens. Such a fantastic ending… <3
The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles is the second book of the Finding Billy Battles trilogy.
The trilogy tells the amazing story of a man who is born in 1860 and who dies in 1960. In between Billy lives an improbable and staggering life of adventure, peril, transgression and redemption. Then Billy mysteriously disappears. For several decades his family has no idea where he is or what he is doing.
Finally, with his life coming to an end, Billy resurfaces in an old soldiers’ home in Leavenworth, Kansas. It is there, when he is 98 that he meets his 12-year-old great-grandson and bequeaths his journals and his other property to him — though he is not to receive them until he is much older.
Years later, the great-grandson finally reads the journals and fashions a three volume trilogy that tells of his great-grandfather’s audacious life in the old west, as well as his journeys to the Far East of the 1890s–including French Indochina and The Philippines–and finally, in the early 20th century, to Europe and Latin America where his adventures and predicaments continue. One thing readers can be sure of, wherever Billy Battles goes trouble is not far behind.
As with Book 1 in the series, Book 2 is what I call “faction” because it is both fact and fiction. Some of the events in the book–especially those dealing with real people, did happen. Was my character directly involved in them? No. However, members of my family were native Kansans and some of the experiences I write about did happen. Of course, I have woven some of my own experiences into the story line also.
Billy Battles is definitely not in Kansas anymore. As Book 2 of the Finding Billy Battles trilogy opens, Billy is far from his Kansas roots-and his improbable journeys are just beginning. He is aboard an ocean liner sailing to the Mysterious East (Hong Kong, French Indochina, and the Philippines), among other places. The year is 1894 and aboard the S S China Billy meets a mysterious, dazzling, and possibly dangerous German Baroness, locked horns with malevolent agents of the German government, and battled ferocious Chinese and Malay pirates in the South China Sea. Later, he is inadvertently embroiled in the bloody anti-French insurgency in Indochina-which quite possibly makes him the first American combatant in a country that eventually will become Vietnam. Later, in the Philippines, he is thrust into the Spanish-American War and the anti-American insurgency that follows. But Billy’s troubles are just beginning. As the 19th century ends and the 20th century begins, he finds himself entangled with political opportunists, spies, revolutionaries and an assortment of malevolent and dubious characters of both sexes. How will Billy handle those people and the challenges they present?
I am a member of the community – Rave Reviews Book Club – and this is one of my #RRBC reviews… All of my reviews are my personal opinion based on my consideration of the books I have read.
This novel is part historical fiction, part based on fact and celebrates the fascinating life of Billy Battles. Who has a life like this? My goodness! What a guy… I have not read the first in the series but I didn’t find that this hampered my enjoyment in any way. Billy’s journeys take him to Saigon, the Philippines, and even to Germany. This story is packed full of exciting events. What a Smorgasbord of reading delight!
It is an well-researched and well-written novel with the benefit of pain-staking detail which makes the reader feel as if he or she is immediately immersed in the narrative. I enjoyed this so much. I was initially attracted to reading this book by the mention of the mysterious East. My father, (who is also a Ronald,) has often spoken of his travels to the Far East and I hope one day to write his memoirs so this piqued my interest. The author Ronald E Yates did a great job in creating wonderful characters and a fascinating plot that kept you intrigued throughout.
I particularly enjoyed the section in the Far East and the ending kept me on the edge of my seat. I would definitely recommend this author.
Through six turbulent months of 1934, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain keeps a journal, filling three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries about her home, a ruined Suffolk castle, and her eccentric and penniless family. By the time the last diary shuts, there have been great changes in the Mortmain household, not the least of which is that Cassandra is deeply, hopelessly, in love.
This is a very charming coming of age story, expressed via the journal entries of the young would be writer Cassandra Mortmain. The opening sentences introduce the reader to the eccentric and quirky tone of the novel beautifully:
I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.
Cassandra’s family is about as bohemian as it gets. After an unfortunate incident her father, an author, has spent time in prison. Now released he wishes to distance himself from any further alterations with neighbours by living in relative solitude in a castle. He is now experiencing what appears to be a protracted case of writer’s block. Even his wife Topaz, (the children’s step mother) can’t inspire him with her ministrations, and naked jaunts communing with nature. With no income to sustain them, the family has no choice but to welcome any help they can get. At first, this comes in the form of the late housekeeper’s son Stephen, who happily hands over his wages, poor lad, as he is hopelessly in love with Cassandra. The arrival of two young eligible American bachelors, Simon and Neil offers hope to the family if only Cassandra’s elder sister Rose could perhaps convince the eldest brother Simon to marry her. Rose is desperate to escape poverty so is almost willing to do anything to change their material fortunes.
The close of I Capture The Castle doesn’t promise a happier ever after, or a neat and tidy ending which may disappoint some readers who expected this to be a romantic novel with the lovers walking off into the sunset hand in hand. This is perhaps partly due to the fact that this is a coming of age story and the romance contained within is experienced through the eyes of a very young girl. Young girls do get their hearts broken and suffer disappointments. Love can and does get complicated, and this is particularly true when we are still at an age when we are vulnerable and inexperienced. I Capture The Castle explores the resulting entanglements and jealousy beautifully. So, in my opinion, the ending is all the more poignant as it does suggest a more realistic and believable outcome.
Highly recommended for readers that appreciate character driven novels, and those who enjoy Young Adult Fiction, (with the young adult taking centre stage,) Historical Romance, and Classics.
My rating: A very enjoyable 4 stars.
Have you read I Capture The Castle? Do let me know in the comments below if you have.
Where do I begin?
That’s a difficult question in and of itself but when your life is transformed into something else, do you start when you’re born or when your life truly began?
I was born in London as Gabriel Wallace. The child of high society; although I was raised to appreciate everything that softly landed in my hand. I followed all the rules. I worked hard, studied hard and ended up a captain in the Royal Navy before my twenty fifth birthday. Unfortunately, I saw the world through my own eyes, not the eyes of my superiors and my vision was clear.
I knew my duty. I knew my job. I also knew deep down, regardless of the loyalty my commission required, my stance was in opposition and it was but a matter of time before they’d force me to stand alone.
Fortunately for me, my crew was loyal too and I had the full support of my closest friend and confidant as well. I didn’t know where I’d end up but I knew one thing for sure; I needed to get the hell out of England and thanks to them, I was taking my ship with me.
The time had come to hunt.
Thank you to Ronovan Hester for a copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I really enjoyed Amber Wake – Gabriel Falling by P.S. Bartlett and Ronovan Hester. This pirate tale oozes excitement, the fight scenes are first class, and the touches of humour had me chuckling like a pirate!! I’d recommend it for readers who enjoy a fast paced adventure on the high seas, lots of camaraderie, and splashes and splashes of thrills. It’s a very entertaining read, a well written and plotted book. Its strength lies in its thrilling passages, excellent characterisation, and sense of place. You really do feel that you are one of the crew, going off on an adventure, to an uncertain future, and perhaps sticky end. These elements make the book truly shine.
Towards the end of the middle section the momentum of the narrative slows down a little to explore the once honourable Royal Navy Captain’s motivations: Gabriel Wallace’s sense of justice, his fear that his character is changing, developing into something that perhaps he fears to become. This is an interesting aspect of the novel, suggesting his internal struggle to cast off his pirate persona, to overturn the wrongs done by Admiral Chambers. He longs to be a better man, and all the while he is changing into a man he does not recognise – a pirate! This goes more than skin deep, but is evident in his change of name: Rasmus, the changing names of the ships he captures, his pirate lingo, and his growing goatee beard, etc. This part of the novel reminded me of a kind of Robin Hood pirate of the high seas, this once respectable, gallant Captain, desires to protect those deemed to be at risk from the Admiral’s greed. I enjoyed this but I did feel that this reflective section could have perhaps been a bit shorter. I must be a bit of a devil because I preferred the fast paced excitement of the fight scenes! Ha Ha!! I confess I’m a bit of a rogue…
Also there are strong similarities to Robin Hood/Maid Marian in Gabriel’s desire to protect and preserve the innocence of women – those who may fall prey to the lasciviousness and wantonness of pirates of folklore. Though having said that he isn’t an angel either!
My recommendation: Definitely read Amber Wake – Gabriel Falling, especially if you enjoy the sea…. Go on a pirate adventure, sail the high seas, taste that salty water…. but whatever you do don’t rile pirate Captain Rasmus aka Gabriel or you might end up walking the plank!
DISCLAIMER: “As of 13th September 2017 we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”
My opinions are my own and any reviews on this site have not been swayed or altered in any way by monetary compensation, or by the offer of a free book in exchange for a review.
My fun (totally not serious but nevertheless 90% true,) author bio on Wattpad – Link below.
Marjorie Mallon was born in Lion City: Singapore. She grew up in a mountainous court in Hong Kong. Her crazy parents dragged her spotty soul away from her exotic childhood and her much loved dog Topsy to the frozen wastelands of Scotland. There she mastered Scottish country dancing, haggis bashing, bagpipe playing and a whole new Och Aye lingo.
As a teenager she travelled to many far flung destinations to visit her abacus wielding wayfarer dad. On one such occasion a barracuda swam by. It stopped to view her bikini clad body, longing to take a big bite. With dogs' fangs replacing barracudas' teeth, she returned to her mother's birthplace: Kuching, Cat City. There, Blackie, a black-hearted dog sniffed her frightened butt, whimpered and ran away! Shortly after this extraordinary event an angry female Orang-Utan chased her unfit ass out of the Malaysian jungle believing that she was a threat to her babies! She still monkeys about, would love to own a cat, or a replacement Topsy but refuses to entertain murderous dogs, or over-protective monkeys.
It's rumoured that she lives in the Venice of Cambridge, with her six foot hunk of a Rock God husband, and her two enchanted daughters.
After such an upbringing her author's mind has taken total leave of its senses. When she's not writing, she eats exotic delicacies while belly dancing, or surfs to the far reaches of the moon. To chill out she practises Tai Chi and Yoga on the crest of a wave. If the mood takes her she goes snorkelling with mermaids, or signs up for idyllic holidays with the Chinese Unicorn, whose magnificent voice sings like a thousand wind chimes.
She is a child of the light and the dark. Her motto is simply this: Do what you love, stay true to your heart's desires, remain young at heart, and inspire others to do so, even if it appears that the odds are stacked like black hearted shadows against you...
Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now… Henry and Flora.
For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.
Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?
Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured—a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.
The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.
Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.
Well with a title like that this novel was bound to capture my attention: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough… huh!! To begin with I have to admit it took me a while to get into this novel but when I did it was a soaring in the air doing crazy flips kind of moment. If I was to use one word to describe this novel, it would be: imaginative. Loved those imaginative loop-the-loops!
The heroine Flora sings in a jazz club her parents once owned, but dreams of being a pilot, Amelia Earhart is her inspiration. But this is 1937, and Flora can’t get sponsorship to fly, due to horrible racist attitudes about her skin colour. The story is set in Hooverville, USA, at a time when racism and sexism were rife.
The characters of Love and Death have a certain fondness for each other, having spent much time locked together in an endless battle to overcome each other and win. Love chooses Henry as his player, whilst Death, picks Flora. Both end up being pretty ruthless in their desire to win, but Death has a soft side to him which is expressed in subtle and unexpected ways.
This is a tale of love between two ‘star crossed lovers,’ Flora and Henry. Henry is an orphan too but he has a wealthy family backing him, Flora only has her Grandmother. There is a particularly poignant point later in the story regarding the grandmother but rather than spoil it for you I’ll just say read it and weep. The ‘star crossed lovers’ are discouraged from being a couple purely on the basis of their differing skin colour. They are drawn into a game with deadly consequences with no realisation that they are players.
The Game Of Love And Death is also a reflection on attitudes to homosexuality at the time, played out beautifully with the character of Love taking the persona of James Booth and engaging in a relationship with Henry’s best friend Ethan.
The story is written against a fantasy backdrop – a game between two mighty game players, LOVE and DEATH. Who will win? Until now Death has always won but with the right players could Love win?
The characters of Love and Death shapeshift into people to try to influence the outcome of the game. Love is portrayed as a guy, and Death as a girl, this I liked as the girl gets to be the wicked one! Of the two game masters I enjoyed (if that is the right word to use!) Death’s persona more!
Expect surprises, interesting characters, a romance which is not overplayed, and a well researched historical background.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel in countless ways. Highly recommended.
A few of my favourite quotes:
“Life is a temporary condition, Henry. And it’s uncertain. That’s why you have to seize chances when you find them. Pursue what you want. Take risks. Live, love…all of it. Every last one of us is going to die, but if we don’t live as we truly want, if we’re not with the one we want to be with, we’re dead already.”
“We have all the time in the world.’ Love found a record. He laid it on the player. The music started again, scratchy from age, but so sweet and beautiful and deep.
And there, in the darkness, Love and Death and the ones inside of them danced until the song was done.
And then, when all around them was silent and still, they disappeared.”
“The kiss: It felt like light rising through them. It was a memory and it was a promise, an enigma and a wonder. It was music. A conversation. A flight. A true story. And it was theirs.”
DISCLAIMER: “As of 13th September 2017 we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”
My opinions are my own and any reviews on this site have not been swayed or altered in any way by monetary compensation, or by the offer of a free book in exchange for a review.
An extraordinary new novel from the author of Never Let Me Go and the Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day.
“You’ve long set your heart against it, Axl, I know. But it’s time now to think on it anew. There’s a journey we must go on, and no more delay…”
The Romans have long since departed, and Britain is steadily declining into ruin. But at least the wars that once ravaged the country have ceased. The Buried Giant begins as a couple, Axl and Beatrice, set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years.
They expect to face many hazards – some strange and other – worldly – but they cannot yet foresee how their journey will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another.
Sometimes savage, often intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel in a decade is about lost memories, love, revenge and war.
Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant is an ambitious endeavour which combines elements of fantasy with literary and historical fiction. It is a philosophical tale replete with deep insights regarding family love and loyalty, trust, forgiveness, old age and memory loss, marital love, and war. At the heart of this story the premise is this: in a long life our memories will not always be happy ones, free from any hurt, or guilt. All human beings make mistakes and do hurtful things, therefore, is it better to leave these painful memories buried? But if you do so how will you ever learn from the tragic historical mistakes of the past? Moreover, if you are unable to remember your family, the people you love, the life that you live, then what do you truly have? One only has to consider a victim of Alzheimer’s to understand the devastation that this brings. This gift of remembrance comes with a price, it is a double-edged sword as you will find if you read the book.
The Buried Giant, as its name suggests, is a slow almost laborious read to begin with. In fact I almost felt as if the mist of forgetfulness was engulfing me as I was reading! Some might find the development of the story line to be too slow for their taste, and may be switched off the book because of it, this is most definitely a novel that will divide opinion. If you like a deeply thoughtful close read, I would recommend this, but prepared for the slow start. The true meaning of the book’s title, The Buried Giant, remains a mystery hidden in the mists of the story right until it is time to reveal its true meaning.
The time period is mythical old England. The Buried Giant features an elderly Briton couple, Beatrice and Axl, who set of on a journey from the village in which they live, an underground habitat connected, “one to another by underground passages and covered corridors,” to their son’s village to find him. This sounds a simple enough quest but this isn’t just an ordinary reunion, no, Beatrice and Axl can hardly remember what their son looks like, nor can they even remember recent life changing events that have happened to them. In fact the past has now taken on the qualities of a mist: “I mean that it had somehow faded into a mist as dense as which hung over the marshes.” Axl feels the pain of this lack of remembering particularly when it is about their son: “Many things I’ll happily let go to it, but its cruel when we can’t remember a precious thing like that.”
They are joined on their quest like adventure by an injured boy, Master Edwin, and a Saxon Warrior, Master Wistan. The warrior appears to be a man of great character who is able to withstand spells. All four of these characters, Axl, Beatrice, Edwin, and Wistan, are looking for something or someone. Edwin, Axl and Beatrice are all wishing to be reunited with a much-loved but mostly forgotten, family member, in Edwin’s case it is his mother. The warrior Wistan sees a special quality in his protégé Edwin that he feels sure will lead him to the She Dragon Querig : “I chose you above others, Master Edwin, because I saw you had the hunter’s gift to match your warrior spirit.”
They meet an aged knight, Sir Gawain, the “nephew of the great Arthur,” and his elderly horse, Horace. The once mighty Sir Gawain has been given the task of slaying Querig, but it appears that in his enfeebled state, Sir Gawain has failed in this endeavour and the She dragon still lives. Sir Gawain continues to defend the honour of Arthur who he believes has brought a lasting peace to Britain.
Sir Gawain reflects on Edwin’s injury: ‘That’s no ogre’s bite the boy carries.” The Villagers superstitions’ lead them to believe that Edwin will turn into a fiend himself. The reader begins to wonder is this an ogre’s bite or a dragon’s bite? The young boy’s behaviour becomes stranger the closer that he gets to the She dragon’s lair, this mimics an earlier episode in the book when Wistan pretends to be an idiot, this device connects these two characters, suggesting Wistan’s hold over Edwin.
On the quest we are introduced to a rich array of characters in keeping with the fantasy, (magical realism,) element of this story, to name a few there are: ogres, monks, sprites, a beast, pixies, a bird like old woman, a she dragon, and the all important boat man, who ferry people to the island of the dead. When we meet the bird like old woman she is clutching a rabbit that she intends to kill.
**** Some minor spoilers below in italics****
This bird like old woman appears to be taunting a thin unusually tall boatman. But nothing is quite as it seems. At first glance it appears as if the boatman is the victim of this strange woman’s hideous behaviour. But could it be that the woman has suffered an injustice at the hands of the boatman? The old woman recants a tale of being questioned by the boatman about the bond between her husband and herself. This bond is deemed too weak by the all-knowing boatman. She is tricked and forcibly parted from her husband and offered a rabbit as recompense for her first night of never-ending solitude. Can you imagine? What a wicked thing! Beatrice is fearful that the loss of memory that she and her husband are currently experiencing will lead to their enforced parting too. She fears that they may let some less than perfect confession slip when answering the boatman’s far-reaching questions about the worthiness of their love.
Later it is suggested that the weary old couple, Axl and Beatrice, will defeat the she-dragon with a poisoned goat given to them by abandoned children whose mother has forgotten them. Again, the theme of forgetfulness, and loss permeates the many layers of this novel. This seems ridiculous at this point in the novel, yet it isn’t as far fetched as it seems, as Axl and Beatrice are now as enfeebled as the dragon.
As for the warrior Wistan, he has been taught by Lord Brennus to hate Britons. Now Wistan hopes to ensure that his protégé, Edwin, hates Britons too. Later Edwin questions whether this should apply to all Britons, even to their fair-minded companions, Axl and Beatrice. Will the circle of hate continue if Querig is destroyed and the mist is lifted?
Superstition plays an important role in this tale, the She dragon Querig is attributed with having caused the mist. It is suggested that Merlin placed a spell on her breath. Gawain states that,”Without this she-dragon’s breath, would peace ever have come?” But there are others who think that the mist is God’s forgetting, or possibly God’s punishment for man’s evil. When Axl and Beatrice are sheltered by Ivor, Ivor says to Beatrice,”The stranger thought it might be God himself had forgotten much from our pasts, events far distant, events of the same day.”
There is a sense of a past laying below the surface waiting to reappear, like the mist clearing, and little by little Axl begins to recollect days of wars. He recalls the slaughter of women, children and elderly. “A slaughterer of babes.”
When finally the reader is acquainted with the once mighty Querig, one wonders whether this creature is now to be pitied? This once fearsome creature has aged like three of the characters who seek it: Axl, Beatrice, and Sir Gawain. The warrior and Sir Gawain at this point in the novel have utterly opposing views, “Leave this place, sir, I beg you.” Wistan considers that,”what kind of god is it, sir, wishes wrongs to go forgotten and unpunished?” When they fight, their blades lock in what initially appears to be a matched battle, suggesting they both believe in the true justice of their contrasting opinions. The rest you must learn by reading the book.
Ultimately, if the dragon is indeed slayed will the result be peace and happiness for all? What impact will this have on Beatrice and Axl? Will their memories be restored? If they are, will this bring them joy or pain? Will the Britons and Saxons be divided once again?
The final conclusion is heart breaking, a powerful ending. I waited a long time for this emotionally charged moment, it came right at the end but it was worth the wait. I liked this novel, and appreciated the thought that went into its crafting, but somehow it didn’t quite reach the heady heights of my favourite shelf. The slow progression of the novel, and some of the slightly irritating habits of the characters dragged it down, Axl’s constant referring to his wife, as his “princess” comes to mind. Yet, The Buried Giant left me thinking….. Yes, it is a deeply thoughtful novel, one to ponder on and consider.
Highly recommended for readers of: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Fantasy.
4 stars. A hard one to rate, the slow start, though possibly unavoidable, meant that it dragged a bit for me, so didn’t quite hit the giddy heights of a five-star read, so I’d say, a very solid 4 stars.
Have you read The Buried Giant? Do leave a comment below I’d love to hear from you.