MORE THAN COFFEE: A BOOK REVIEW

‘More than Coffee’ by Lauren Scott is a beautiful and reflective celebration of life; a book of poems and prose that flows with ease between memories of the author’s life, of the six decades of a loving marriage of her parents and of her family, to present day hiking trails, between the wonder of nature and the seasons to the amusing encounter with spiders!

The pieces are imbued with warmth, love, light humour and sadness; overall togetherness. Life in all its facets is explored and ensures that the reader reflects on their own lives and those closest to them, reminding us of the treasures within even the most insignificant of items or events.

A late-comer to hiking and camping, Lauren captures the magic and enriching moments of being in the wonder of solitude in nature.

‘It’s about those quiet, nostalgic moments sitting on a smooth slab of granite, captivated by the sights and sounds of wilderness surroundings.’

The book begins with her first ever hike in her fifties and in ‘Silver Heirlooms’ she describes setting out her mother’s silverware which brings moving reflections on how this previously normal household cutlery is now filled with nostalgic significance and poignancy as her grief over the loss of her parents eases to help her move forward.

The power of nature is captured throughout and it is a privilege to join her on the trail, pausing to appreciate that ‘listening to the whispers/among the trees/our time here/is a gift.’ Just as Lauren Scott feels that the ‘tranquility embraces’ so the reader is enveloped in a heartwarming embrace.

The book fulfils the promise of being a ‘snapshot of memories’ and one of my favourites could easily be turned into a novel, I feel. ‘Ninety-seven candles’ is a beautifully penned piece about her father-in-law Wil and his extraordinary life. During his nigh hundred years of life, Wil has twice been joyously married yet endured two heartbreaking losses. However, his positive attitude and gentle humour still shine through.

A humour shared by her father, who when asked the secret to reaching his nineties, declared with aplomb, ‘the olive in the martini’.

Through her gifted writing, Lauren captures the fun first meeting with her husband; who knew selling a fridge could be so life-changing! On their first date, it was ‘as though we’ve danced together a million times before’. Lauren has a gift for seeing beyond the ordinary and in ‘Cake’ she weaves in descriptions of her bridal shower, her parents and children – the universal force of love and life is re-affirmed.

Since singing is part of Lauren’s being it is perhaps not surprising that the powerful and intense poem ‘Belonging’ is a love song to her husband and soulmate, Matt.

Do you trust me? Will you
take my hand and let me
lead the way to a place
transcending the boundaries
of our reality? Let us get
lost in the tranquility –
dancing to the majesty of
the surroundings, feeling the
rhythm vibrate through our
bones. For as long as our
hearts desire, this is our
destination. For time is
but a memory. Its existence
leaves no trace on the path
where we tread. There is
only you, me, and the
intensity of our belonging
to each other.

‘The Phone Call’ especially resonated with me as a recent ‘empty-nester’; I related to the gems of long chats with children moved away, the love and pride as they make their way into the world, but the pain too. As Lauren’s son is soon to embark upon his path across the country he tries to reassure his parents and show them how this is a positive experience for them – a comment that had me laughing out loud and so typical! ‘Mom and Dad can reap the benefits of having the house to themselves.’

In ‘More than Coffee’ Lauren realises her dream to be ‘the narrator of my own stories’ and it is with gratitude, joy and chuckling that I could sit down, with a cuppa, and join in this wonderful, uplifting and absorbing collection; peace settling upon me. I only hope I will learn to collect my memories with equal clarity, wisdom and warmth, to reach a deeper understanding of life and its joys and tragedies. ‘More than Coffee’ is a true tonic for the soul and I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Publication Date: 21st September 2021

Available:

Amazon UK: Kindle £ 3.32 Paperback £ 6.88

Amazon US: Kindle $ 4.99 Paperback $ 2.34

ABOUT LAUREN SCOTT

Lauren writes poetry, memoir, and fiction short stories who lives in California with her husband of thirty-three years and their chocolate lab; they have two grown children. She has authored two collections of poetry: New Day, New Dreams (2013) and Finding a Balance (2015). Her latest book, More than Coffee: Memories in Verse and Prose was published in 2021. And in 2022, she contributed four poems to the anthology: Poetry Treasures 2: Relationships. Lauren writes about family, experiencing loss, finding joy in the smallest things, and nature from her many backpacking and camping adventures.

Parallel to her passion for writing is her love for reading. Whether it is a gripping thriller or a heartwarming romance, she enjoys exploring different worlds and meeting diverse characters, drawing similarities to reality that translate into her own writing. Her writing projects are sometimes serious – drawn from painful subjects and raw emotions – or they spotlight her silly side – pulled from humorous moments captured in photographs.

Lauren is inspired to write from her love of nature and the marvelous wild world that surrounds her: the smell of the woods, the sound of a babbling brook, and the chorus of birds singing. Recent backpacking trips with her husband along the California coast and Sierra Nevada mountains have stirred up thoughts to pen about love, lost friendship, family, and the possibility that anything can happen. Hikes along the Paper Mill Creek remind her that life is fragile. From trout hatchlings to swallowtail butterflies, Lauren marvels at how the world is interconnected and that every living thing matters. She hopes her readers will find a little nugget of delight, comfort, or understanding in her poetry and stories – some detail that resonates with them beyond her words.

Finally, Lauren Scott shares her beautiful poetry, vignettes on life, and fiction short stories on her engaging blog Baydreamer ~ a thread of words from every stitch of life ~. Enjoy meeting her there and join Lauren for a cup of virtual coffee and chat.

THE ENIGMA OF ROOM 622: A BOOK REVIEW

There is a wall! In nearly all fiction novels there is a distinct wall between the story and the writer – the latter remains well hidden and remote from the book. However, in The Enigma of Room 622, the first book I read in 2023, the author smashes through this concept and becomes one of the main protagonists. With daring and excellent writing Joël Dicker breaks down the infamous fourth wall within acting (and by extension in writing) and directly addresses the reader while at the same time becoming one of the key characters.

I started reading this beautiful book gifted to me for Christmas without scanning the inner dust jacket information, without perusing its back cover. Sometimes I just want to be surprised and wow, this book achieved that in abundance!

After a couple of pages, I found myself doing a double-take! Was the writer’s name really the same as the initial character? Were they both the same writers? The answer was an unequivocal yes!

A careful reading of the blurb showed I was right and I was thrilled! Could Joël Dicker carry this off and retain it throughout the whole book as he investigated the mystery and interviewed people along the way? Could he slowly unravel the story in the first person perspective while at the same time creating a full-fledged novel of 563 pages in the third person? Absolutely!

The Enigma of Room 622 is a multi-layered novel that begins with a very simple set-up.

A famous writer, recently broken up with his girlfriend, leaves for a break at Hotel de Verbier in Switzerland. He finds himself in room 621a. The scene is set—what happened to room 622? A mysterious unsolved murder it turns out and his recent friend and aspiring writer Scarlett urges him to investigate the story. She believes this can help him recover from his girlfriend woes, and the writer’s sorrow following the death of his mentor/publisher. In the process, she hopes this will help Joel create his next global blockbuster.

Quickly the novel develops into a partial thriller involving a Swiss international bank, as well as espionage, plus a murder mystery and also tilts towards romance in the form of the trickiest and pivotal of love triangles.

The plot line reminds me of an intricate Venn diagram with various engaging storylines on the periphery which intersect throughout the book. Furthermore, the author interweaves a multitude of characters and plots across thirty-five years with a deft seamless touch that has the reader hooked throughout!

Macaire Ebezner is a president in waiting to the largest private Swiss bank and he is married to the stunning Anastasia, supposedly part of a Russian dynasty. As well as a banker (a role that honestly rather seems to bore him) Macaire enjoys the excitement of working as a spy for the Swiss secret service to aid the county.

Macaire’s presidency is in doubt however when he learns that the board plan to vote in Lev Levotich instead. The plot thickens and the history of Lev’s lowly actor father is introduced in detail as is Lev’s surprising rise to banking success! The two men are tied together not only through banking but through their love of the same woman.

This is only the bare outlines of an intricate suspenseful novel with a plenitude of extraordinary characters and their lives. There are twists galore until the most astonishing and unexpected ending!

The imagination and skill of Joël Dicker in creating this tour de force novel are extraordinary. It is one I can highly recommend.

About Joël Dicker:


Joël Dicker was born in 1985 in Geneva, Switzerland, where he studied law. He spent childhood summers in New England, particularly in Stonington and Bar Harbor, Maine. The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair won three French literary prizes, including the Grand Prix du Roman from the Académie Française, and was a finalist for the Prix Goncourt. It was later adapted for television starring Patrick Dempsey. The Baltimore Boys, at once a prequel and a sequel, was published in English translation in 2017, followed by The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer in 2021. The Enigma of Room 622, his first novel to be set in his native Switzerland, has sold more than a million copies in France. Dicker lives in Geneva.

GRIEF SONGS: A BOOK REVIEW

Grief Songs is a beautiful and haunting collection of poems that has left an indelible impression on my soul.

The book pays homage to the author’s parents, Elliot and Katherine as well as her brother, George. All deceased. The heart and essence are within the minutiae of the detail of each poem; where the everyday objects or events become increasingly poignant and resonate with vitality, a life lived, a life no longer except within memories of a few. Memories such as the crooked smile of her father, the perfect portrait of the siblings, ‘his (her father’s) precious angels’ who are immortalised in a click but belies the earlier unruly behaviour of the children when:

‘George had cried piteous tears
while I railed against my bangs’

A doll during a seaside outing is recalled in the stark awareness that:

‘just Lulubelle and I now
detritus of a beach day’

Each poem within Grief Songs is preceded by a photograph and coupled with the poem these become a powerful and emotional combination.

Grief Songs I, II & III consists of one striking poem each. The majority of the poems in the book are tankas within the Poems of Love and Remembrance section. Tankas are a Japanese form of poetry, a type of short song, over five lines with a 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count format.

The hypnotic poems take on a life of their own as familial love, warmth, kindness and care is recalled. Liz’s mother is described with the memorable and striking words of:

‘for a time she stood fearless
my protector, my mother’

One of the later poems summarises her mother’s life in:

‘sixty years safe under glass
minutes tucked into envelopes
decades left in dresser drawers’

The book is a tribute to her parents, their early life, family trips, love for her brother. An early poem describes how the siblings are enjoying a day on the beach, ‘no diagnosis / his arm around her shoulders’. Another photo and poem describe ‘George Gauffreau enjoys a Coke/classmate, friend, brother deceased’.

Katherine, Elliot, Liz & Geoge Gauffreau at Hannaford Cove Beach in Cape Elizabeth, Maine – photo courtesy of the author, with thanks.

I am deeply moved by the profound inner landscape captured within the ordinary days of family life. Remarkable moments mulled over time. In one poem, entitled ‘Time’, Liz fondly remembers her father’s story-time and her mother’s words of ‘wait till your father gets home / not a threat but a promise’. A father one senses is a hero for young Liz who, as a two-year-old, sits beside him, pen in hand as he writes his sermons. ‘oh the places she will go’. For now, she is happy to be close to her father and recalls on her confirmation day that there is ‘more time with Daddy for me’.

Liz Gauffreau’s book dares to directly approach an emotion that in modern society is often not acknowledged; the universal experience of loss is one of the rawest and most absolute of emotions and one that has become increasingly sidelined in search of ‘happiness’.

Not by Liz Gauffreau who in response to her own close personal losses in life decided to highlight the contradiction of grief. Where dark and light coexist on an existential level, where memories blend with the present, a buffer for living with intense and overwhelming grief. The transient nature of life is explored through these snapshot moments, caught in the black and white of photographs, in the black of the text, through colour images. The memories are retrieved, examined and shared in the most tender and thought-provoking poetry.

Ultimately the book becomes not only a study of Liz Gauffreau’s grief but also of one’s own as well as one’s identity upon losing those closest to us.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Publisher: Paul Stream Press (September 2021)

Available: Amazon US Kindle $ 2.99 Amazon US Paperback $ 10.57
Amazon UK Kindle £ 2.16 Amazon UK Paperback £ 3.84

About Liz Gauffreau

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a B.A. in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an M.A. in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She is currently the Assistant Dean of Curriculum & Assessment for Champlain College Online, where she is an Associate Professor. Her fiction and poetry have been published in literary magazines and several themed anthologies. Her debut novel, TELLING SONNY, was published by Adelaide Books in 2018. Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband.

Read more about Liz Gauffreau on her website and blog. Connect with Liz on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest and BookBub.

MOUNTAIN LAUREL CHRISTMAS: A BOOK REVIEW

I’m delighted to share my review of Jan Sikes’s ‘Mountain Laurel Christmas’ novella – a book that can be thoroughly enjoyed all year round! Her latest bookJagged Feathers’ is released on 1st February and I also look forward to reading this romantic thriller novel!

In ‘Mountain Laurel Christmas’ the reader is immediately drawn into the psyche of Cole Knight. Although a rich and famous musician he is still a troubled and tortured soul who cannot escape the tragedies of his childhood.

As Cole finishes yet one more night at the Grand Ole Opry the past overwhelms him again and he seeks solace with drinks in a bar by himself. He is not alone for long as a reporter seeks him out for an interview about Cole’s background.

What follows in the next chapter is a clever ‘non-interview’ interview where Cole responds to the reporter’s questions – but only in his thoughts! Quickly the truth is revealed; the death of his father and soon after his mother, which left him orphaned at the tender age of twelve. Meanwhile, his brother Timmy, who was ‘ … born different. They said his brain never developed the way it should’ was taken into care. A brother who is soon eighteen years old. The disparate family also includes his older sister April. Throughout his adult life, Cole has failed to keep a promise made to his father ‘on everything holy and sacred, to take care of Mama, April and Timmy if anything happened to him.’

The deluge of memories provides a fascinating and intense insight into Cole’s route to success. Music became his saviour and at the family shack at Cumberland Mountains he’d play his guitar and sing ‘to the fish that jumped out of the water, turtles that sunned on a log, and frogs that leaped from stone to stone’.

In sharp contrast to the past remembrances is the immediacy of Cole’s first-person direct and personable thoughts and actions of the current days. The present tense helps the reader to feel understanding and sympathy with Cole.

Finally, at his lowest point Cole, discovers a yellowed envelope.

Can this help Cole finally find redemption? Can the grief and guilt that has plagued him his adult life finally be laid to rest? Can he reunite his family and in the process heal himself?

‘Mountain Laurel Christmas’ is a compelling and engaging book and I was immediately immersed within the world of country and western as well as within Cole’s and his family and friends’ lives.

The characters by Jan Sikes are imbued with humanity and warmth, their failings are depicted with compassion, their successes are celebrated with love! She is a natural of the novella format, one I do not tend to read but I am now thoroughly converted to it! I look forward to reading more of her novellas and can highly recommend ‘Mountain Laurel Christmas’.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Available: Amazon US Amazon UK

Publisher : RiJan Publishing (November 18, 2021)

About Jan Sikes

Jan Sikes is an award-winning author & Texan Wordsmith who weaves stories in a creative and entertaining way. She has been called a magician and wordsmith extraordinaire by her readers and peers. She writes in various book genres including Biographical Fiction, Poetry, Short Stories, Paranormal Romance.

Jan is a member of the Author’s Marketing Guild, The Writer’s League of Texas, Romance Writers of America, Story Empire, and the Paranormal Writer’s Guild. Furthermore, She is an active blogger, sharing anything bookish, supporting indie music artists and metaphysical subjects! Read more about Jan Sikes, her books, writings and music on her website and blog. Connect with Jan on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and BookBub.

Finally, do also take a look at Jan’s latest release – out on 1st February 2022!!

FLASHES OF LIFE: A BOOK REVIEW

‘Flashes of Life’ a gem of a book! It is a wonderful original twist on short stories as within Pamela’s latest book all the stories are beautifully portrayed vignettes based on her own life and experiences!

Her writing sparkles as she reflects upon her childhood, her family, friends, work and her beloved partner. Her zest for life permeates through the pages and her sense of humour, her warmth, kindness and generosity shine through.

Every single story is captivating; I laughed out loud whilst reading some, others had me reaching for tissues. The author’s tenderness and innate wisdom touched my heart and within many of the stories, I recognised myself during various phases of my life. As she hopes in the introduction her smiles have indeed become mine.

Thank you, Pamela, for helping me to see my own life with a philosophical eye, letting my thoughts dwell upon my own guideposts, and finally, for introducing me to ‘fluffing my aura’ — how have I managed so far without this in my life!

Finally, it was a privelege to be asked to write an author endorsement for ‘Flashes of Life’ which is one of four on the back of the book! Another first in my life as a writer!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Available: Amazon US Amazon UK

Publisher: Borgo Design

About Pamela S. Wight

Pamela Wight is a successful author of romantic suspense novels, THE RIGHT WRONG MAN and TWIN DESIRES; two illustrated children’s book, BIRDS OF PARADISE and MOLLY FINDS HER PURR; and a “flash” memoir, FLASHES OF LIFE.

Pamela earned her Master’s in English from Drew University, continued with postgraduate work at UC Berkeley in publishing, and teaches creative writing classes in Boston and San Francisco.

She lives in the Boston area with her “right man” and hikes the New England trails while concocting her stories. Wight travels frequently to the San Francisco Bay area for additional inspiration. She speaks to book clubs, schools, and libraries in both locations.

Read more about Pamela Wight, her books and writings on her wonderful blog Roughwighting. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest

LIFE’S RICH TAPESTRY Woven in Words: A Book Review

Thank goodness for the blogging challenges that inspired Sally Cronin’s Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven in Words. An enriching and engaging collection of verse, micro fiction and short stories, her work is mesmerising, always uplifting and often humorous. Throughout humanity and the spirits of humans (and some animals) is a beacon of hope for us all.

Sally’s poetry is enticing, thoughtful and soothing; they are written tightly within the framework of syllables for various formats such as haikus and tankas yet explore a vast range of topics encompassing the wonder of the seasons, recognising human frailties and celebrating the warmth of togetherness. She manages to take us on a journey from cave drawings to digital code across the universe, from the mystical of the ugly troll with his bewitching music in The Moonlight Concerto to the enchantment of Fairies!

As a writer, one poem – an ode to writing – particularly struck a chord with me:

The Freedom to write

The freedom
and time to create
written words
to be read
by those open to our thoughts
intoxicating.


by Sally Cronin

Sally Cronin is a master storyteller and I was immediately drawn into the lives of the characters in all her short stories. Her writing flows with ease and self-assurance within this diverse selection of short stories. I was moved by the reunion of siblings, impressed how a story told through the point of view of a polar bear both touched me and touched on environmental issues. The reason for a black sheep was raised in one story and had me smiling as did My Mouse, a clever play on words and a predicament experienced by most of us!

The superb stories in The Underdogs section had me in awe of the strength of the individual personalities of the dogs. Later, in For the Love of Lily, I was cheering on as eighty-year-old Millicent found her courage to stand up to her overbearing son with the help of her cat Lily and her kindly neighbour Eric. This was an excellent depiction of what I hope isn’t a scenario that takes place often.

The final longer pieces in the book are under the title of Speculative Fiction and these are all exceptional and shows Sally Cronin’s incredible imagination and ability in writing across all genres.

A moment of alignment is superlative and left me with goosebumps (of the happy variety!) as a child, following her death, manages to cross from the other world for the briefest of times on certain occasions to talk to her mother. Great Aunt Georgina left me tear-eyed and is a wonderful and powerful story partly told through the use of old letters; a deft use of an evocative writing technique. The Enhancement Project combines the tantalising hint of romance between a surgeon and her patient cyborg, all against the backdrop of the end of civilisation. It is a terrific blend of human and futuristic, of dark and light, love and destruction.

I can’t recommend Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven with Words highly enough and look forward to reading more of Sally Cronon’s books.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Available: Amazon US : $4.53 (Kindle) Amazon UK: £3.50(Kindle)

ABOUT SALLY CRONIN

Sally Cronin

Sally Cronin is the author of fifteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another fourteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry.

Her latest release, Life is Like a Mosaic: Random fragments in harmony is a collection of 50 + images and poems on life, nature, love and a touch of humour.

As an author she understands how important it is to have support in marketing books and offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities in the Café and Bookstore on her blog and across her social media.

Her podcast shares book reviews and short stories Soundcloud Sally Cronin

After leading a nomadic existence exploring the world, she now lives with her husband on the coast of Southern Ireland enjoying the seasonal fluctuations in the temperature of the rain.

Sally’s magazine blog for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general is Smorgasbord Blog Magazine.

Connect directly with Sally on Twitter Facebook LinkedIn.

Smorgasbord Children’s Reading Room – #Reviews – #Adventure Annika Perry, #Bears Sue Wickstead

An honour to see the latest review of ‘Oskar’s Quest’ shared by Sally as part of her Children’s Reading Room! As always my thanks to Sally for her wonderful support to authors within this amazing community! Also a huge thank you to Vashti at The Writer Next Door / Vashti Q for the thoughtful review; they are so precious to writers and fantastic help for all readers!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the reading room and some recent reviews for authors on the shelves with books for up to the age of 12.

The first book today with a recent review is  Oskar’s Quest by Annika Perry.

About the book

Oskar is afraid of adventures. Yet one day he finds himself on a mysterious island which needs his help.Join Oskar on this unexpected and magnificent quest, where he finds not only courage but so much more…“It’s light, extremely enjoyable and very gripping.” Esther Chilton – author & editor.Perfect for ages 3 to 6.

A recent review for Oskar’s Quest

Vashti Quiroz-Vega5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous illustrations and captivating story!  Reviewed in the United States on June 9, 2021

What a lovely picture book! This marvelous children’s book is filled with beautiful and colorful illustrations and is a riveting story.

Oskar is an adorable little bird that was…

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AMANDA IN MALTA THE SLEEPING LADY: A BOOK REVIEW

With a unique blend of adventure, friendship, history and travel Darlene Foster has hit upon a winning and inspirational combination for her children’s books Amanda Travels.

The series is aimed at middle grade (aged 9-12) children, although from reading her latest book I feel it would also be suited for adept readers of a younger age as well as reluctant readers.

Darlene Foster’s latest in the series, Book 8, takes the reader to Malta after Amanda receives a letter from her best friend Leah. To receive a letter alone sends concern to Amanda in the modern digital age of emails. Leah hints that something is wrong, but gives no detail and wants Amanda to join her.

Amanda would love to leave the cold wintry weather of Canada behind her for the warmth and sun of the Mediterranean island but would it even be possible?

As with all children’s books, a resolution is quickly found and Amanda joins her classmate and his parents on their holiday on the beautiful island.

Immediately the author captures the heavenly warmth of the landscape, limestone buildings and history perfectly. In snippets, the reader is enveloped in the amazing historical elements of the island, some of which become central to the story whilst others act as a stunning backdrop to the action.

Any reservation I had that the historical might slow down the pace of the story proved unfounded as the plot is quickly propelled along. Although there are dramatic events such a brief kidnapping, ominous warnings, chases and unexplained killings of protected birds these are all pitched gently and safely for the younger reader.

Initially, Amanda cannot even find Leah and when she finds her it turns out that Leah’s aunt has become mixed up with crooks. Two criminals want Leah’s aunt, who is an archaeologist, to steal the 4000-year-old Sleeping Lady statue from the museum otherwise there will be consequences. Could Leah even be involved?

Luckily Amanda and Leah are not alone on their mission. Max is a helpful and able go-between and Caleb, the son of the family friend, provides many comic moments throughout the book, particularly with his strange phobia of fish and love of all things Popeye.

When finally they visit the famous Popeye Village he is ecstatic and his courage shines through as he has to rescue Leah!

I like how all the main characters are slightly flawed with their fears and how through working together they find courage, helping each other. The warmth and kindness is a beacon of hope!

Amanda in Malta is a hugely enjoyable book, the writing flows with ease and the plot had me eagerly turning the pages. The book took me back to my addictive reading of the Nancy Drew mysteries as young and I can see how readers will long to read and collect the whole series of Amanda Travels.

Although I have unfortunately not read any previous books within the series this is in no way hampered my enjoyment or understanding of The Sleeping Lady. The author slips in enough backstory to ensure this book is an exciting and stand-alone book.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

PUBLICATION DATE: 11th May 2021

PUBLISHER: Central Avenue Publishing

GENRE: Children’s Fiction / Middle Grade / Travel

AVAILABLE:

AMAZON US: PAPERBACK KINDLE

AMAZON UK: PAPAERBACK KINDLE

ABOUT DARLENE:

A bit about me. I am a writer of children’s stories, a retired employment counsellor, and ESL tutor, a wife, mother and grandmother. I love travelling, reading, shoes, cooking, sewing, music, chocolate, walking on the beach and making new friends. My grandson once called me “super-mega-woman-supreme”. I was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where I dreamt of travelling the world and meeting interesting people. I currently divide my time between Orihuela Costa in Spain and the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. My husband, Paul, and I enjoy spending time with our adorable dog, Dot.

CONTACT:

Do visit Darlene on her Blog or on Twitter.

Finally, I can highly recommend you listen to a wonderful interview with Darlene Foster on Rebecca Budd’s excellent Tea Toast & Trivia podcast. Their sense of fun is fantastic and their laughter infectious. It is touching how Amanda joins Darlene and her husband on their travels!

A GHOST AND HIS GOLD: A BOOK REVIEW

A Ghost and His Gold combines the paranormal with intense violent battle scenes from 1899-1902; it features three ghosts not only haunting a house and its occupants in present-day South Africa but who are themselves haunted by events in their past lives; it’s a story about seeking forgiveness and ultimately finding redemption.

Furthermore the book explores not only the horror of war, concentration camps, scorched earth policy but also date rape, rape, violence against women. Can any ever be forgiven? Can anyone carrying out these acts ever find peace within themselves and acceptance by loved ones again?

Initially, A Ghost and his Gold appears to be a normal paranormal ghost story as Michelle and Tom, both working in the finance sector although she is also a part-time writer, move into their new home. The new townhouse is situated on the site of an old Boer homestead. Michelle immediately senses and sees a presence in the house, one that makes itself known to them and their friends during a party using an Ouija board. Tom, a hard-nosed realist, is sceptical that the man named Pieter was there or even existed.

From the close-third person narrative in 2019, the novel switches to 1900 and Pieter is in his house with the family as he is woken by banging on the door with a warning that the ‘khakis’ (British soldiers) are on the way.

It is in the midst of the Second Anglo Boer War and the events focus on Pieter, his strong-willed wife, their daughter Estelle and other children. Estelle is treated with contempt by her mother, a woman who later rejects her.

As another ghost called Robert makes itself known to Michelle, she discovers his journal written whilst he was a British soldier during the war. The first-person perspective of the journal is especially powerful, personal and direct. During the siege of Mafeking, Robert befriends a young man called Richard and he takes him under his wing.

Roberta Eaton Cheadle’s research of the period is impressive. Yet she does not fall into the trap of using all her knowledge with a flood of information, rather skilfully incorporates detail where necessary; be it of the furniture or buildings of the era, the form of travel, clothes and she is particularly adept at writing battles scenes, the weapons used, their tragic consequences. I felt as if I was in the midst of the carnage, feeling the horrors experienced by Robert, Pieter and the others.

Whilst Pieter and some of his family and friends have some reservations about the war, their women have no such qualms and see no other option for their ‘Volk’. Tragically they suffer dreadfully during the war and these scenes in the book are not easy to read, horrors repeated many times throughout history and alas in present times.

The third ghost is a poltergeist who first appears on Michelle’s computer screen — this part of the book had me jumping back in fright as I read it! Estelle is consumed with ferocious anger against Tom and as she starts to haunt him he suffers nightmares and becomes increasingly sick, all the time unaware of the cause of his illness. Michelle knows the cause, Estelle, but why does Estelle hate Tom with such frightening malice and enmity? Slowly I learned her history through her own third-person narrative.

Throughout the author manages the nigh-impossible; equally portraying the ruthlessness and violence of both sides as well as their humanity and warmth. It is heart-wrenching to see how the mutual loathing and hatred intensified as the battles were protracted and that both Robert and Pieter, who had briefly met in battle, lose their kindheartedness and compassion. It is only in death that they realise the true cost of war and that so many wrongs need to be righted for them to find peace, for Estelle to be freed from her path of vengeance. However, they need help and at last through Michelle, they have found it!

The finale of the book had me totally engrossed as I read late into the night, with the story building to a crescendo of action and emotional pinnacle I could see no resolution. Luckily the author had and with expertise she brings the book to a terrific conclusion and some light in the darkness.

A brief note regarding the start of the book which begins with a list of names of famous characters from the era along with a timeline of major events. I couldn’t wait to read the novel and skipped these informative pages. They are a valuable resource but feel they might be better placed at the back of the book. The shorter explanatory notes scattered throughout the novel are extremely helpful.

This is not a book for the faint-hearted, or those seeking a simple ghost story or cosy read. One recommended for readers looking for a thought-provoking, action-packed novel with a rich variety of characters set in historical times with a paranormal twist!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Publisher: TSL Publications

Available to purchase:

TSL Publications (ebook and paperback)

Lulu

Amazon

Reading Challenge 2021: Oskar’s Quest – Annika Perry

A review from Charley at booksandbakes1 is like seeing my own book anew! Her insight and detailed analysis of ‘Oskar’s Quest’ is extraordinary and has me twirling with joy in my studio!

Comments are closed on my reblog here but I look forward to catching up with you all on her wonderful blog!

booksandbakes1

Hello Lovelies!

I hope you’re all well and are getting into the Easter spirit 🐣! I’m thoroughly enjoying my Easter break – reading plenty, spending time with my family (my support bubble), in the garden and spending time soaking up the warmer days. I seem to have got my writing mojo back so whilst I appreciate it is now April, I have a couple of posts I need to catch up with. Today’s post is the book I chose to read for the reading challenge. The focus for March was: Read a book that was gifted to you. If you’d like to catch up or take part in my reading challenge, please click here for more information. I’m sure all my avid reader blogging friends get books for birthdays, Christmas and then when you decide to treat yourself… or is that just me? Anyway, I had the perfect book in…

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