tales of the zeppelin artwork by frazer irving
 

The Boy in Winter's Grasp
Available now  - click here

It is Christmas 1914. As Europe descends further into the Great War, Christopher Flyte is sent home in disgrace from his school. He returns to the sleepy English village of Alton. It is there that he meets the mysterious traveller, Bailey - a master storyteller who fills the boy's head with stories of King Arthur's time. The more Christopher hears, the more he suspects that Bailey's stories are more than just simple myths.

Soon, Christoper is a pawn in a game that has been playing out for centuries....

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Ruby In The DustAuthor: Julie Farrell

Reviewed in Books on Jan 2, 2014 by John Scotcher
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A well written 'by the numbers' chicklet, with an unusual quirk and a positive message.

This isn't my usual sort of read.  In fact, it's likely to be one of the very few books of its type that I review on the site.  However the author, Julie Farrell, is been very kind in advising me on the quirks of self publishing in the run up to releasing my own novel later in the year, so buying and reading one of her novels seemed the least I could do.  Thankfully, I enjoyed it.  I would have felt awful if my payback for Julie's help had been writing an unfavourable review.

As you’ll see from the blurb (click the button that says ‘read author’s description’ to read it) we appear to be in the familiar realms of romantic melodrama, a term that often has bad connotations, but here I use it with respect.   Julie works the genre well and adds enough twist to make it stand out from many of its contemporaries.  A romance develops against the backdrop of financial troubles and an evil landlord, but as you would expect our heroes (Nicky and Alex) deal with their adversities with the right mix of emotions, humour and romance to keep us reading until the book’s end. 

Stylistically the novel is light hearted and welcoming.  This style, coupled with its well realised pacing, make it very easy to read.  As I mentioned, this isn’t my sort of read and thus, had there been any parts in the book that I had struggled to get through I suspect I may committed the cardinal sin of stopping before the last page.  Julie’s writing meant that was never an issue. 

To my eye, Julie’s strength is in her characters and in particular the supporting cast.  Nicky and Alex themselves are well realised and believable, as you would expect from the leads in a story, but the characters around them (in particular Alex’s mother and the staff and customers of ‘Ruby In The Dust’) are also very well thought out.  More so than the physical settings of the chapters, they really flesh out the novel.

What sets this story apart from the other occasional novels in this genre I have read is the theme.  This is actually where I had an issue, though not with the theme itself.  Julie’s book has a message and it’s a positive one; the characters must overcome their own self doubts in order to thrive. How?  By finding their own spirituality and philosophy to do so (and I stress spirituality rather than religion for those of you suddenly feeling a bit threatened).  If you visit Julie’s website and watch her videos you will see (as she explains) that she herself has overcome some adversities.  This understandably makes her want to pass on her message and methodology to other people, and it is within the theme where she does so.   To my eye there are just a couple of occasions when the message (as channelled through Nicky’s character) is a tad heavy handed, which for a moment has the effect of making itself too noticeable and thus drawing you out of the story.  The moment passes quickly, but it was at these moments that I found the myself looking up and thinking ‘I’ll go make a tea’ or similar.

The only other issue I had was the fact that the twist (or to be honest ‘quirk’ would be more accurate) of the plot is laid out a little early and with a few too many clues so that its eventual reveal has less dramatic impact than it could.  That does not spoil however, as it is not a quirk that the plot hinges on. 

However, these really are minor observations and certainly not ones that detract from the read as a whole.  If this genre of book is your cup of tea, then do get a copy.  You will enjoy the time you devote to it.  

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