#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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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

Jan Facebook Banner

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

#Author Spotlight Jan Ruth and #BookReview ‘Midnight Sky’

Jan Facebook Banner

As you can see in this banner, Jan Ruth has written plenty of novels, although I have discovered her recently, quite by chance, on Facebook and Twitter. I was drawn in by her by her book of Christmas stories, Home for Christmas, which I read over Christmas, and I decided that I liked her writing style, so I went for one of her full-length novels, Midnight Sky, which is part one  of the Midnight Sky Series, and I contacted her at once for an author spotlight, because I enjoyed it so much, but first my review.

*****

Midnight Sky is a contemporary family drama and romance, with touches of humour, which lighten some of the intense moments.

The plot revolves around the lives of Laura, her partner Simon, and her sister Maggie’s family, on the one hand, and James, a brooding horse whisperer, who is dealing with many personal issues, on the other.

I loved the setting, partly in Chester, but mainly in Rowen, a small village in the Welsh countryside, and the nearby beaches, farmland, cottages, country lanes and Victorian houses, pictured from freezing January, when the story starts, through to the warm summer, when the novel ends. It was also enlightening and heart-warming to watch James at work with his troubled horses on the farm.

Jan Ruth 1

Laura is an interior decorator who works with her partner in a successful business. Life seems to be perfect, but really, Laura is stuck in a dead-end relationship with Simon, whose ex-wife and two children often seem to be more important for him than Laura. Laura would like to have a family, but Simon already has children, and this brings great conflict to their relationship.

Laura’s sister, Maggie, introduces Laura to James’ sister Liz, and Laura and Simon are employed to refurbish their cottages. James is unfriendly at first because he’s against any type of change on his farm, and we’ll discover that part of the reason for his moody nature is that he is still mourning the loss of his wife, Cary, in tragic circumstances, two years earlier.

Laura and James gradually connect, and after some heartache and strife, both their lives become intertwined. Their friendship slowly develops into love, and the novel has a satisfactory ending, however, there is room for a sequel, and I’m delighted to hear that part two is due out this month, and that there’s also a part three. (I’ve already read part two Palomino Sky, since writing this review. I’ll be reviewing here soon)

I enjoy reading character driven novels, and there are plenty of lively and well-drawn secondary characters, such as James’ Bossy sister, Liz, and Maggie’s stoic and secretive husband, Pete. Another vibrant character is Laura’s niece, Jess, a rebellious teenager who has a crush on James, and provokes many of the hilarious situations in the novel, sometimes on the farm, where she helps with the horses, and often at the pub, leading to many memorable scenes!

I highly recommend. It was a pleasure to read.

Especially for lovers of romance, passion, and complex family relationships.

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Midnight Sky Cover EBOOK Palomino Sky Cover MEDIUM WEB

Here’s Jan Roth’s Interview.

  • I’ve read Midnight Sky and Palomino Sky, and I’m looking forward to book three, but could you tell us something about your previous novels?

My previous novels stay with the family-saga theme; they’re a blend of rural and city, business and countryside, with the family dynamic central to the story line. I think my sequels (Palomino Sky and Dark Water) have steered away slightly from the original genre by bringing in a grittier thread as both books feature crime and some suspense.

  • Your fiction has a very contemporary setting, how much of your novels, especially people and places, is based on personal experience?

The places are real, they do exist! I think the characters are a cocktail of people I’ve encountered in my life. As a writer we tend to draw on experience whether consciously or not. Oh, and that goes for the horses and dogs too.
I moved from Cheshire to Snowdonia, North Wales, about fifteen years ago and it kick-started my writing in a big way. I love the landscape here and use it almost as a character in its own right.

  • I know you’re working on part three of the series, when will it be published? What can you tell us about it? Is it the end of the series?

I’m currently writing part three of the Wild Water series, Silent Water and yes, the end of that series. I think three is enough where the main plot line revolves around two characters coming together. I’ve read series where they’ve become too lightweight and watered down even by book two, or the original characters are forgotten and new ones take their place; sons and daughters of…etc. I don’t want to do that. I want to keep the three books tight and rich with story. Part three of the Midnight series will be Strawberry Sky… I do think there’s a lot more to come with James and Laura, Jess and Sam, Pete and Maggie. Their story isn’t quite complete. I’m hoping to start this one next year.
Silent Water will be published spring/early summer.

  • What are you planning on writing after the Midnight Sky Series?

After Silent Water, my current work-in-progress, I’m liking the idea of a set of novellas called The Heart series.First consideration will be Christmas Heart. No, not a fluffy thing, you know me better than that! But it will be – hopefully – funny. I always find hiking groups full of eccentrics and believe me, I’ve done the research! So I have a vague outline around a walking holiday. And Christmas teams well with observational humour. Add some pathos and a few baubles along the way and I think I may enjoy this after writing two full-length, more serious tomes for the previous two years. And for contrast, I like the idea of Celtic Heart and Ancient Heart, exploring the idea of a historical time-slip.

  • I recently wrote a post about the prejudice against self-published authors. You’ve had the experience of working with a traditional publisher and as an independent author, which would you say are the advantages and downside of both types of publishing?

This is a huge subject, and each and every author will have a different experience so whatever I say here applies specifically to me and my material. I think there are still misconceptions about self-publishing, especially amongst the die hard traditionalists who’ve always had an agent or a publisher. There’s also confusion over vanity publishing and those self published books produced to a poor standard. The advantage of a small to medium size publisher is that your material will be edited and published for free. The disadvantages? Everything else. There is nothing a small publisher can do for you which you can’t do for yourself – and thus keep not only the royalties but full control over your material from the covers to your branding. I thought a traditional publisher would know more than me and therefore sell more of my books than I could by increasing my visibility with serious marketing.
Full story here: https://janruthblog.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/publishing-a-lot-of-smoke-and-mirrors/

  • You’re very active on social media, especially on Facebook, where you manage a public group called Readers and Writers UK, how important are social media for writers?

I suspect it as much about establishing support and sharing information amongst fellow authors, as it is to sell books. We’re selling on on-line product, so we need to be on-line, otherwise no one will discover our books!

  • What would you like readers to know about you in a couple of sentences? 

I live in Snowdonia, North Wales. I write contemporary fiction about the darker side of the family dynamic with a generous helping of humour, horses and dogs. My books blend the serenities of rural life with the headaches of city business, exploring the endless complexities of relationships.

Grey Horse

  • You’re a very experienced self-published author, the most experienced I’ve ever had on my blog. Could you tell us about how you became a writer?

The real story began at school, with prizes for short stories and poetry. I failed all things mathematical and scientific, and to this day I struggle to make sense of anything numerical.

My 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, my 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. I went on to successfully publish several works of fiction and short story collections and after a brief partnership with Access Press in 2015, I returned to the freedom of independent publishing.

Fiction which does not fall neatly into a pigeon hole has always been the most difficult to define. In the old days such books wouldn’t be allowed shelf space if they didn’t slot immediately into a commercial list. As an author I have been described as a combination of literary-contemporary-romantic-comedy-rural-realism-family-saga; oh, and with an occasional criminal twist and a lot of the time, written from the male viewpoint.

No question my books are Contemporary. Family and Realism; these two must surely go hand-in-hand, yes? So, although you’ll discover plenty of escapism, I hope you’ll also be able to relate to my characters as they stumble through a minefield of relationships. I hesitate to use the word romance. It’s a misunderstood and mistreated word and despite the huge part it plays in the market, attracts an element of disdain. If romance says young, fluffy and something to avoid, maybe my novels will change your mind since many of my central characters are in their forties and fifties. Grown-up love is rather different, and this is where I try to bring that sense of realism into play without compromising the escapism.

How can readers contact you or find out more?

Jan’s Facebook
Jan’s Twitter

Where can readers purchase your novels? 

On my Website
On Amazon

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Thank you so much for visiting my blog, it was a pleasure to read about your work and your publishing experience. I’m looking forward to reading the Wild Water Series, and the Heart Series sounds intriguing 🙂