#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Strawberry Sky’ by @JanRuthAuthor #Amreading #Amreviewing

Today I’m posting my 5-Star review of Strawberry Sky, by Jan Ruth, a contemporary British family drama.

Reading Strawberry Sky was a pleasure. It was like meeting old friends once again. It is the third and final novel in the Midnight Sky series.

Strawberry Sky is more fast paced than Midnight Sky and Palomino Sky, and as I already had the background and setting, I was quickly involved, once again, in the two sisters, Laura and Maggie’s, complex lives.

The same engaging characters we’ve already met in books one and two, make their appearance once again with an important new addition, Enid, a motherless teenage girl, who applies for a job at their farm bringing both positive and negative consequences.

After a series of unfortunate mishaps and ups and downs, it would seem that James and Laura, are finally on the road to a ‘rosy future’ of marriage and children, renovating the house, their ambitious refurbishing project, and Laura’s design business, but once again, things will not be so easy.

Overprotective Maggie, will make some unfortunate decisions, while her troublesome daughter, Jess, and her ex-boyfriend and father of their child and his violent acquaintances, will continue to wreak havoc in the family.

In spite of their love and supportive relationship, James and Laura will have to face plenty of issues, including James’s pain due to his spinal injury which occurred in book two, and Laura’s obsession with pregnancy, not to mention the constant complications caused by Jess’s behaviour.

The best part of the writing is the characterisation. The proof is that I feel as if I know and the characters and it was sad to say goodbye. I’ll miss Laura’s generosity and optimism, and James’ patience and insight, in spite of his gruffness! I won’t miss some of the others, such as Jess or Maggie!

It’s a satisfactory and realistic ending to the series, because there are no perfect endings; life goes on, we fall, we get up, we survive, we struggle…

Especially for lovers of intense family drama, set in the stunning Welsh countryside.

US Buy Link

UK Buy Link

About Jan’s Books:

She writes contemporary fiction about the darker side of the family dynamic with a generous helping of humour, horses and dogs. Her books blend the serenities of rural life with the headaches of city business, exploring the endless complexities of relationships.

JAN RUTH’s real story began at school, with prizes for short stories and poetry. She failed all things mathematical and scientific, and to this day struggles to make sense of anything numerical.

Her first novel – written in 1986 – attracted the attention of an agent who was trying to set up her own company, Love Stories Ltd. It was a project aiming to champion those books of substance which contained a romantic element but were perhaps directed towards the more mature reader and consistently fell through the net in traditional publishing. Sadly, the project failed to get the right financial backing.

Many years later Jan’s second novel, Wild Water, was taken on by Jane Judd, literary agent. Judd was a huge inspiration, but the book failed to find the right niche with a publisher. It didn’t fall into a specific category and, narrated mostly from the male viewpoint, it was considered out of genre for most publishers and too much of a risk.

Amazon changed the face of the industry with the advent of self-publishing; opening up the market for readers to decide the fate of those previously spurned novels. Jan went on to successfully publish several works of fiction and short story collections and after a brief partnership with Accent Press in 2015, has returned to the freedom of independent publishing.

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#FridayBookShare ‘The Ladies’ Room’ by Carolyn Brown

#FridayBookShare was created by Shelley Wilson for book lovers to share what they’re reading. The idea is to answer a few simple questions about the novel and post on Fridays.

friday-book-share

Today, I’d like to share The Ladies’ Room by Carolyn Brown.

I can’t remember how I came across this book, but I was impressed when I saw it had over 8,000 reviews on amazon.com, and after reading it, I can understand why. It’s a fabulous novel.  

First line of the book.

If I wiggled again, Great-aunt Gert was going to sit straight up in that pale pin coffin and give me an evil glare the way she used to when I was a child and couldn’t sit still in church.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb.

Secrets told in the church ladies’ room are supposed to stay in the ladies’ room. But that doesn’t mean that what Trudy overhears there during her great-aunt Gertrude’s funeral won’t change the rest of her life.

Trudy has a daughter in the middle of a major rebellion, a two-timing husband who has been cheating for their entire married life, and a mother with Alzheimer’s residing in the local nursing home. She doesn’t really need a crumbling old house about to fall into nothing but a pile of memories and broken knickknacks.

Billy Lee Tucker, resident oddball in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, lived next door to Gert, and in her will she leaves him the funds to help Trudy remodel the old house. That’s fine with Billy Lee, because he’s been in love with Trudy since before they started school. And just spending time with her is something he’d never ever allowed himself to dream about.

A beautiful home rises up from the old house on Broadway, and right along with it rises up a relationship. But is Trudy too scarred from what she heard in the ladies’ room to see a lovely future with Billy Lee?

Introduce the main character using only three words.

I’m afraid I need six words today! Trudy starts off by being gullible, good natured,  and submissive, but as the novel progresses, she becomes assertive, brutally honest, and courageous.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

ladies-room

 

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Anyone who likes a contemporary family drama with plenty of heartache, which is also humorous, romantic and uplifting.

Your favourite line/scene.

Everything happens as a result of Trudy accidentally overhearing a conversation by two of her spiteful cousins, while she’s in the ladies’ room. This is what happens after she leaves.

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I walked out of the ladies’ room with my shoulders straight and a fake smile on my face. A lady kept up appearances and never lost her dignity—even when her world had just shattered around her in the stall of the women’s bathroom.

Marty, Betsy, and I were required to ride together in the limousine to the cemetery for the final bit of the service. They were whispering when I crawled inside. At least the fat escaping through the hole in my panty hose reminded me that I had a murder weapon at hand. I could strangle them and then shove half my Snickers bar into each of their mouths after they were dead and swear they’d both choked to death while weeping for Great-aunt Gert. No one would doubt frumpy old Trudy’s word.

“How you holdin’ up?” Marty asked.

“I’m just fine,” I told her.

“Well, you look like warmed-over sin,” Betsy said.

“And you look absolutely beautiful,” I said sarcastically.

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See my full review here on amazon.

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Guest Post @JanRuthAuthor & #BookReview ‘Palomino Sky’ for #RBRT

Today I’m reviewing Palomino Sky by Jan Ruth for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Palomino Sky is book 2 in the Midnight Sky Series. I reviewed book 1, Midnight Sky  earlier this month. I’d like to thank both Rosie and Jan for the opportunity of reading and reviewing.

Jan Ruth Banner Midnight and Palomino Sky

This post includes, the blurb, my review and a guest post by Jan Ruth about her love of horses which figure predominantly in her life and her novels.

Blurb PALOMINO SKY

A golden promise for the future in a lonely palomino mare, but life deals a cruel hand for James and Laura.

James is still running from the past after the loss of his wife, and a devastating accident forces him to face his final demons, but at what cost? Laura is forced deeper into his rural world – a life she once despised – but discovers empathy and hope in the palomino mare she calls Song.

Repercussions abound for Maggie too, when the full extent of her daughter’s dangerous liaison comes to light, leaving the entire family in turmoil. Will James and Laura ever find a golden future, or has life dealt too vicious a blow?

Palomino Sky is the sequel to Midnight Sky, both novels are named after horses on the farm where James lives and carries out his equestrian business.

Palomino Sky Cover MEDIUM WEB

My Review 5-Stars

Palomino Sky is named after another new horse. Liz (James’ bossy and independent sister) calls a ‘showy palomino’. I know very little about horses, and one of the joys of reading these two novels is learning more about them, like discovering that palomino is a coat color in horses, consisting of a gold coat and white mane and tail. Rhian, one of the staff says ‘Jamie reckons she’s a natural at hooking up, a joiner.’ James, the horse whisperer, needs horses like that to help recover the horses he heals from trauma and injury. Palomino is also a metaphor for Laura’s role in the novel. She will have to heal, or ‘join’ James in the second part of the novel.

Palomino Sky moves the story started in Midnight Sky in a much darker way, because there are various dramatic and violent events, which will seriously change the course of all their lives, especially in the case of Laura and James.

In book one, James helped Laura during a traumatic moment in her life, including her break up with Simon, but in book two, it’s Laura who will have to heal James from real physical injury and trauma. I can say no more without including a spoiler.

Maggie and Pete have set up a bed and breakfast to supplement their meagre income at Hafod House, the running of which brings some humorous relief to the dramatic action. I liked the way Maggie’s role as older and wiser sister is heightened, and she actually takes some very important and risky steps to help Laura with her personal issues with the men in her life.

On the other hand, Jess’s role as troublesome teenager, develops into a dangerous troublemaker. A violent boyfriend, and a new crush on James’s twenty-year-old American son, will lead to many unfortunate incidents throughout the novel, including an almost tragic event, which will rock their lives.

There are some beautiful descriptive passages, such as: ‘The sun was dying across Snowdonia, bleeding slowly through a palomino sky,’ which add to the beauty of the novel and enhance the reading experience.

Although the ending is satisfactory, at least for James and Laura, there is still a long road to happiness, and there are plenty of loose ends to tie up in book three, which I’m impatiently looking forward to reading.

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I’ve asked Jan to tell us more about her passion for horses.

Horse Jan 2

SWEET NOTHINGS

My passion for horses, whispering, and the inspiration behind my equine series

Just when you think you know everything about a subject, along comes someone to blow apart a lifetime of assumptions. Monty Roberts’ father was virtually destroyed by his son’s belief in ‘horse-whispering’, as a far more humane and less exhausting method of breaking and training horses. It’s no secret that Monty took a severe beating for it.

A remarkable man, Roberts went on to foster disadvantaged children, using much the same wisdom and insight he’d learnt through studying horses and their social groups in the wild. It’s too easy – and often misguided – to bestow animals with human emotion, but maybe trust is rooted in the same place in humans as in horses, and observation and interpretation is all that’s required to make a valuable connection, regardless of language. And isn’t whispering usually far more effective than shouting? Much the same as writing good fiction; and if we’re talking analogies there’s nothing worse than clunky dialogue. Is Natural Horsemanship simply natural dialogue?

Guido Louis Leidelmeyer: “In the words of the horse: ‘Listen’ by observing me, and communication between us will come naturally and silently. In my words: Can I help you do that?”

Horse Jan

As with most things that work well, it’s based on a simple concept of alignment with nature. Horses like to hang in a crowd (herd), follow the leaders – usually the older mares – and be out in the open simply because if there’s a predator, they’re more likely to bolt, than stand and fight. That’s about it. If a horse is singled out he is more likely to turn to us without fear or aggression once he comes to realise that we are not predatory, and as a surrogate leader can offer the ultimate protection. And that’s where the ‘following’ or ‘joining-up’ comes in.

This principle works with wild/un-handled horses as well as re-training by reiterating the relationship of horse and leader for equines who have formed bad habits, or those with anxiety issues.

Actually, most bad habits stem from anxiety and a lack of leadership. It’s a little like your pet dog – and dare I say children, too? – needing to know they’re safe and secure place in the family pack, although the body language between dogs and horses is rather different. Flattened ears in a dog is more likely to mean subservient greetings whereas a horse … well, watch out!

Not everyone agrees that these principles are quite so cut and dried, and as is often the case with a lot of unquantified skills, there is perhaps some sixth-sense at work gleaned from years of experience. There are many equine behavourists who claim the ‘following’ principle is flawed. But the proof is in the pudding.

I’ve watched Guido use these techniques on a couple of riding-school horses – both of whom he’d never ‘met’ – with amazingly fast results: 20 minutes to resolve a problem with electric clippers on a mare which had for some 12 years, aggressively avoided the issue. The owner was quite rightly, open-mouthed. But the problem isn’t solved in its entirety, as Guido explained: Tilly’s owner needed to learn and understand the process for herself, and as is the case with most success stories, a certain measure of self-belief is required. It’s this psychological leadership which is perhaps where the sixth-sense bridges that gap between human and equine.

Grey Horse

Horses have been a lifetime’s passion for me. No surprise that they feature in most of my novels, more so in MIDNIGHT SKY and the sequel: PALOMINO SKY. Both books draw on the principles of horse-whispering and the power of self-belief – but I take on this theme in a fictional sense rather than a technical sense. It’s so easy to swamp the narrative with too much unwanted detail. And yet, it’s the minutiae of life which underpins the storyline in PALOMINO SKY. As with horse-whispering, it’s the observation of perhaps something seemingly inconsequential which can change an entire situation. If you’re not horse savvy or enjoy only a passing interest, I’ve tried to portray the equine aspect as secondary to the storyline in these books. On the other hand, horse enthusiasts will hopefully embrace the setting!

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Thank you, Jan, for a fascinating insight into ‘horse-whispering’. I can see how this idea of life and social interaction seeps into your novels. The balance between love, leadership, and a sixth sense helps repair some relationships in your novel, and a lack of balance certainly leads to family drama and conflict; I’m thinking especially of Jess here 🙂

If you’d like to read the Midnight Sky series here are the links:

MIDNIGHT SKY is currently 99c US

PALOMINO SKY: US

MIDNIGHT SKY is currently 99p UK

PALOMINO SKY: UK

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You can also find out more about Jan Ruth on Facebook or follow her on Twitter