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Cheryl M-M (United Kingdom)

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The Sunset Gang: Inspirational Short Stories That Reshape the Meaning of Aging
The Sunset Gang: Inspirational Short Stories That Reshape the Meaning of Aging
Price: £2.38

5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant short stories, 19 Mar. 2017
Warren Adler is perhaps best known for The War of the Roses. His work is infused with his special brand of dark wit, hard-hitting truths and sense of humour. The Sunset Gang is a collection of ten stories revolving around the retirement village called Sunset Village. The feature connecting them all, aside from retirement and old-age, is the fact they are all Jews. It is the cotton which connects and threads through all the stories. Their language, identity, lives and where their stories start and end.

Yiddish is about the way the ancient language helps two people to discover themselves and their love of life again. It felt as if the kinship and brother/sisterhood was the message in this story. Conversing in Yiddish reignites something buried deep inside them. Perhaps something others could and should discover too.

Itch is, as many of the stories are, a testament to how lonely advanced age can be, even after an eventful and full life. Thrust suddenly into the strange schedule of a retirement community many find themselves missing the days of old and friends, who have since passed away.

An Unexpected Visit is an excellent example of how parents and children grow apart when both are adults. Suddenly life is so busy that families grow apart. In this case a visit with his father helps a son to re-evaluate his own life and priorities.

The Detective, this story is painfully true and it happens more often than people might think. It is all about compassion, empathy and more importantly how pride can be a huge obstacle when it comes to survival.

God Made Me That Way, same attracts same in this tale. It is probably karma when these two elderly people cross paths. Their mutual affinity for the opposite gender places them in the strange category of con-people or thieves of the heart.

The Braggart doesn’t just apply to older generations, it is the truth for many people. Successful careers and money may sound great, but they aren’t a replacement for genuine emotions and children who care enough to keep in touch.

The Demonstration is perhaps the most poignant from a political point of view. A man determined to stand up for his people. To not sit by silently and do nothing. It is about anti-Semitism, racism and hatred.

The Angel of Mercy is actually both sad and very mystical. If there is one thing that hovers over a retirement village it is definitely death. Mrs Klugerman seems to not only know when death is hovering over certain people, she also seems to be able to heal. Either way she catches the attention of someone under their own shadow of death.

Poor Herman, they do say that everyone meets twice in their lifetimes. In this case the strong embers of young love have been buried beneath the mediocrity of a more suitable lifestyle and partner. When they meet again after many decades the two of them reconnect as if they were teenagers again.

The Home is a situation many of us will possibly face, although the majority of us won’t want it to happen them. After a lifetime of being in control and being considered the head of the family one is suddenly considered a problem. An inconvenience that is too old to make decisions and unable to take care of themselves. A scary thought.

I enjoyed the humour, the Jewishness of it all and the fact each story spoke to me. Adler excels at describing every day situations and emotions. I liked the way the author managed to make excellent emotional, moral and even strong political points in the midst of such touching stories.
*I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.*

At the Edge of the Orchard
At the Edge of the Orchard
Price: £5.24

4.0 out of 5 stars It's the kind of book you remember, 14 Mar. 2017
I do enjoy a read that leaves behind more than just the story, especially ones that inform and educate, even when it is unintentional.
I think it is fair to say the story is about trees, yeh I know it’s also about family and relationship, but darn it there are a heck of a lot of trees. At first I thought, where is the author going with this, but then I have to admit Chevalier drew me in with all the seeds,grafting and complexities of apple trees.
On a side note, I enjoyed reading about the transport, import and export of plants and trees from foreign countries to more affluent ones. Unfortunately the foreign horticulture would often perish in the new climate.
Aside from the dysfunctional family and the trees, for me the story was also about Robert becoming the man he was always destined to be. He is his father’s son, regardless of what Sadie said to him. Her words are the catalyst to his emotional turmoil and the reason for his journeys.
Chevalier excels at giving the reader the same sense of awe and excitement at discovering the country and those giant trees. The majestic sequoias of Calaveras. It intrigued me so much I looked it up online, and I might just have a wee hankering for dancing on a giant tree stump now.

Aside from the tree and family perspective, the story also gives an interesting insight into the America of that particular era, especially in regards to early settlers. During almost two decades of travel Robert tries to remain in contact with his family. The sporadic letters scattered across the country are indicative of how family branches could lose contact completely in those times.
It is a beautiful read, albeit one that made me want to go forth and eat apples, especially ones that taste of honey and pineapples. It’s the kind of book you remember.
*I received an ARC/free copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.*

The Bear and The Nightingale
The Bear and The Nightingale
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful read, 6 Mar. 2017
In essence this is a folk-tale, a Russian fairytale. It combines the darkness of old tales told in front of fires and the magic of ancient myths. It is a book I would buy to read to a child and also to gift to an older reader.
Vasya was born from and into magic. She is and comes, as her mother and grandmother before her, from a long line of magical beings. At a glance Vasya just seems to be a tomboy with a love of the great outdoors.
At a closer look you find a child with more than just an affinity for nature. She can see the guardians, the demons, the creatures lurking in the shadows, and she can also see the powerful beings who control life or death.
She becomes the object of fascination for two warring brothers, each one of them powerful enough to cause fear, hunger and death in a huge scale. She doesn’t understand that until it is almost too late.
Vasja finds it easier to connect to the invisible beings than the living ones around her. Her talents or gifts make her a target for the fearful accusations of those who do not understand or accept the old ways.
I think readers will find themselves captivated by the feel and voice of this story. The feeling of an old Russian master with the flair of a nouveau writer. I really enjoyed it.
*I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher.*

Rupture (Dark Iceland)
Rupture (Dark Iceland)
Price: £4.74

4.0 out of 5 stars The author captures the darkness perfectly, 23 Feb. 2017
What Jónasson does really well is describe the surroundings of his story. He captures the scenery so vividly you can almost imagine yourself walking in his shoes and driving with him towards the scene of the crime.
I could feel the darkness reaching out to envelop me with its cruel cold hands in an attempt to suck me into the vast nothingness he describes in the book.
Not sure if it was a deliberate move by the author, but the last chapter reveals a lot more about Ari, his drive and his character. Let’s just say the policeman and detective facet of his personality wins, even when it comes to making a more humane or perhaps even morally correct choice. The need to solve the mystery and bask in the imagined glory of his revelations is what drives Ari, doing it at the expense of others reveals an interesting side to him. I think this revelation is an eye-opener.
The author creates a Newton’s cradle type of plot with each sub-plot (sphere) striking the stationary plot and thereby pushing another sub-plot upward. Now, the danger in that is when you can’t bring it all back together for some kind of conclusion, regardless of whether it is a satisfying one or a cliffhanger ending.
Jónasson manages to do that, although I do think both plots were strong enough to survive being told individually. I think we will be hearing a lot more from this particular author.
*I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher and author.*

The Fifth Petal
The Fifth Petal
by Barry Brunonia
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.46

3.0 out of 5 stars Obsession leads to murder, 21 Feb. 2017
This review is from: The Fifth Petal (Paperback)
I can imagine being fascinated by an ancestor connected to the Salem Witch Trials, especially if it’s one of the alleged witches. In this story everything revolves around the events during 1692-1693. The characters are obsessed to the point of murder.
Callie returns to the scene of the cause of her childhood trauma only to find that it is still fresh in the minds of everyone. The killer is still at large, despite the police having a suspect and plenty of theories about the why and how.
Said suspect has been suffering from mental health issues since the night of the murders. Rose is convinced all evil is caused by a banshee. A paranormal presence with a taste for blood. Are there dark powers trying to compete for control and attention or is it just the ravings of a mad woman?
To this day Salem profits from their turbulent and violent past. I can imagine it isn’t as amusing or innocent to the locals though. A little bit like Whitby being filled to the brim with goths and ghouls every Halloween, because that is where Bram Stoker wrote Dracula. It’s all fun and games until you have wannabe vampires draped over the headstones in your local cemetery.
It felt as if there was a lot going on, perhaps too much, and the red herring was brought up and beaten to death over and over again. It certainly doesn’t lack zest though.
*I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher via NetGallley.*

Out of Bounds
Out of Bounds
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A well planned slow burner, 18 Feb. 2017
This review is from: Out of Bounds (Kindle Edition)
McDermid likes to slow-cook her stories. She stirs the pot and adds a variety of ingredients as the plot thickens and the story progresses. She takes her time to cultivate it, which is definitely her particular style.
Karen is still grieving for her lover and partner, and that grief is what leads her to the sub-plot aka an important political hot topic of our era, refugees. The author weaves it into the main plot with the greatest of ease.
Karen has got a whiff of a connection leading from a suspicious death to an old cold case. There is just something dodgy about two deaths in the same family but decades apart.
Simultaneously the chance DNA extraction has brought back a hit in the database in an old murder case. So on the one hand she has her hands full with her own case, but she can’t resist meddling with cases outside of her unit. Not exactly the right thing to do if the head honchos want rid of you.
I guess in a way she is delving into as many ventures and mysteries as she can to stop from obsessing about Phil. A coping-mechanism if you will.
McDermid describes the police and judiciary systems of Scotland very well, although it does seem quite antiquated. Then again it might just be the unnecessary bureaucracy of said systems. Of course the flip-side of the coin is the fact there are rules and laws in place for a reason.
Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of Karen and her trusty sidekick The Mint.
*I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.*

The Missing Matisse: A Memoir
The Missing Matisse: A Memoir
Price: £14.39

4.0 out of 5 stars His life was scarred more by his lack of identity than the horrors of WW2, 17 Feb. 2017
The author comes from what one would call French royalty of the art world. He has literally hobnobbed with some of the most talented artists of the twentieth century.
Aside from the historical content and context I thought the way Pierre suffers after the loss of his identity was the most intriguing aspect of the story. It’s as if the name change sends him into a complete identity crisis.
As the story unfolds we hear about the unusual circumstances of his birth, and why he legally was never considered a Matisse. I think his parents, the Matisse family and some of the Leroy family did him a great injustice. Pierre was stuck in a legal loophole, and despite the fact it remained that way throughout his life because of his legal father, I do think both of his biological parents should have stood up for him. I do take the emotional and violent events of WW2 into consideration, however I do think they owed him a conversation and clarification within his real family.
His whole life is subconsciously steered by this identity crisis and he doesn’t find any kind of inner peace until he turns around and tells the world who he really is.
I’m not sure it would have been the same for a boy from a lesser known family. The name Matisse is synonymous with creativity, passion, colour and the diverse world of art. I think Pierre wants people to acknowledge his own talent and also the long line of creative people he stems from. Most importantly he wants the same acknowledgement from the Matisse family, albeit subconsciously.
It is an interesting read, especially from an historical point of view.
*I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher via Edelweiss.*

The Turn: The Hollows Begins with Death (Hollows Prequel)
The Turn: The Hollows Begins with Death (Hollows Prequel)
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The prequel to the great urban fantasy series The Hollows, 16 Feb. 2017
This is the very extensive prequel to The Hollows series by Harrison. Saying that I would suggest reading it after the rest of the series, as opposed to before or as the start to the series. I believe the author recommends doing exactly the same thing on her website.
Why? Well I think the prequel assumes that the reader will know the characters and where the story will eventually lead. Personally I don’t think it does The Hollow series the justice it deserves.
What the prequel does do is inadvertently shed a light on a can of worms called genetically modified crops. In this case it is woven into the deaths, extinction and survival of certain supernatural species and of course just normal old human beings.
It shows the positive side of being able to feed the world, and yet also the dangers of eating something that has had its basic code changed. Hopefully we won’t find out a century down the line.
I am still shaking my head at the whole Trisk and Kal scenario, especially the ending. If, as a new reader, you don’t know where the series ends up then it all might seem a wee bit exaggerated. If you do then you’ll probably have an aha moment or two during the read.
What Harrison does excel at is the bursts of creativity and plotting that any urban fantasy author needs to keep their audience captivated.
*I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.*

Perfect Remains: A gripping thriller that will leave you breathless (A DI Callanach Thriller)
Perfect Remains: A gripping thriller that will leave you breathless (A DI Callanach Thriller)
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Deffo a creep killer, 13 Feb. 2017
When your parents come from two different countries and you have dual nationalities then you could eventually face the conundrum of having roots in two countries and yet being at home in neither. It’s confusing to say the least. It makes you feel like a tree living in dodgy soil, something always feels just not quite right.
In a way I think this describes Callanach. Born in Scotland to a French mother and a Scottish father, he has recently returned to the land of his birth after living in France for many years. He might not have returned of his own volition, but he is determined to make his mark.
On a side note I think he needs to pat himself on the back for remaining calm, despite his new colleagues working against him instead of with him. I think I might have lost my rag, just a wee bit mind you.
Fields has created a killer who in turn has created the perfect crime or rather a nearly foolproof way of getting the police to stop looking for his victims. When the police are looking for a killer, as opposed to a missing person, the emphasis on the investigation is different and so is the direction they focus on.
The author manages to create an easy atmosphere when it comes to the main characters, whilst simultaneously allowing for a ruthless and violent killer. Some of the scenes are quite vicious and uncomfortable, but then murder isn’t supposed to be comfortable. Fields balances the scales between the two very well.
*I received an ARC/free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.*

The Breakdown: The 2017 gripping thriller from the bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors
The Breakdown: The 2017 gripping thriller from the bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors
Price: £2.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Will keep you guessing, 11 Feb. 2017
Well the author certainly has a devious mind that’s for certain. Within the first few pages I already knew who the bad guy was and was certain I knew who the killer was too. About three quarters into the read I decided I was wrong and had a new suspect. Turns out I was wrong on both counts. It was neither of my suspects.
Paris does know how to lead readers on a merry goose chase.
Let me tell you what I liked the most about this story. It was the way the author manages to create a perfect situation of moral wrongdoing even when the act itself isn’t actually legally wrong. A question of conscience one could say, which is something Paris seems to excel at.
I bet a lot of readers will wonder what they would do or would have done in the same situation. Would you have stopped and helped or even stopped the car at all? It’s a dark, wet and secluded area. Common sense and precautionary warnings suggest driving on would be the most sensible thing to do, and yet there is that niggling doubt called base humanity and kindness. Of course cynical me thinks kindness is probably what gets a large percentage of people killed in the first place.
The author creates a convincing atmosphere of fear and paranoia, which is linked to a medical condition and mental health issues at the same time. Everything Cass is going through seems to be exacerbated by her choice to drive away. Of course, it’s a B.A. Paris story so nothing is as it seems.
*I received an ARC/free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.*

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