Book Review – The Merest Loss by Steven Neil #RRBC

Well I appear to have another book review ready for you – I guess there are some advantages to this unemployment lark – now if only I could find the motivation to use the time to write as well as read!  But in the meantime let me tell you about:

The Merest Loss by Steven Neil

lossBlurb: When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon’s mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet? Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet’s friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father? The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet’s relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery. The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It’s pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice.

Rating: 5/5

My Thoughts: I was given this book for an honest review and as this is not my normal genre I wasn’t sure if it was something I was going to enjoy. I found the first couple of chapters a little slow as I settled into the era and got to know the characters but before long I was hooked by the story and eagerly devouring each new chapter.

The story is generally split between two themes – Martin Harryet’s search to discover the identity of his father, and also the life of his mother Eliza Harryet and how she became Harriet Howard one time actress and one time mistress to Louis Napoleon.

This is a well crafted tale with believable, sometimes unlikable, characters, secrets and lies, and lost loves. One of the overwhelming feelings this story left me with was a real sympathy for Harriet Howard, a young woman who had dreams and love, and then had them taken from her at the whim of men who had other uses for her.

If, like me, you didn’t think this genre is for you I would suggest you still give the book a try as it is far more than just a period piece and is a brilliant and enjoyable read.  I would certainly happily read more by this author.

Book Review – Open, Shut by Nonnie Jules #RRBC

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and I have hurt my back! So what else is there to do but get out the sun lounger and relax.. and of course, read!

I started this afternoon’s reading with the short story Open, Shut by Nonnie Jules

OpenshutBlurb: Darcy Lynn has a few problems: her sister, Lola, killed by a drunk driver, leaves her with an eerie message right before her death; her parents are atheists; her father drinks a little too much, and her brother, Bud, is just annoying. But, her most pressing issue is that things are mysteriously opening and closing around her and she hasn’t a clue as to why…or how.

In this short “sad but uplifting story with a wonderful message,” as one reader tags it, Author, Nonnie Jules flexes her writing chops once again, by introducing her readers to a normal, everyday family, whose lives are altered, not once, but twice by unexpected and unusual circumstances.

If you came into this story only believing in things seen with your own two eyes, and things heard with your own two ears, you walk away with a new and refreshing added sense…the ability and the courage to change, based on where your heart leads you.

Rating: 4 / 5

My thoughts: For a short story this certainly covers a long time period, despite that it seems to still flow well and the time jumps don’t feel jarring at all. After the loss of the eldest daughter of the family lives are changed forever.  Despite this being a story of a family finding their faith, not being a religious person myself, I also saw it as a family finding each other again after such a traumatic loss. Lola had done what she could to ensure that happened. A quick, easy read, with an uplifting message.

Book Review – Memoir of a Mad Woman #RRBC

It’s time once again for a review of my latest read – this time it is the short novelette Memoir of a Mad Woman by Vashti Quiroz-Vega

MemoirBlurb:  A novelette from the award-winning author of The Fall of Lilith and Son of the Serpent, Vashti Quiroz-Vega.

Who can explain how madness begins?

This is the story of Emma. Reared by a religious fanatic, orphaned at a young age and sent to a mental institution and an orphanage. Molested and betrayed by the people who should be watching over her…

Who can say that madness has no logic?

During a fight, Emma’s best friend punched her in the abdomen. Since then, Emma has believed there’s something damaged inside of her.

Every month… she bleeds.
She tries to fight it all her life, but the pain and the blood return twenty-eight days later… and the cycle begins again.

But Emma, even in her madness, knows how to take care of herself.
She knows how to make things right…

You may not agree…
But, who can reason with insanity?

Read this tragic but fascinating tale and traverse the labyrinthine passages of madness.

Rating:  5/5

My Thoughts:  This is a well written, but often painful, portrayal of the tormented life of a young woman. With a life consisting mainly of abuse and neglect Emma is driven to the fight for survival with horrific consequences.

While this tale contains many difficult moments I was left with the overwhelming feeling that things could have turned out so differently had she been shown some basic human compassion.

Not an easy read but a well crafted story that is certainly worth reading.