Book Review – Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky by Robert Newton reviewed by Jill Smith

 

Mr Romanov's Garden in the sky coverLexie felt her whole world was grey. The Commission building, she lived in sucked the life out of her. Her mother was a junkie and mostly not around, and when she was, she wasn’t with her.  It was Lexie’s thirteenth birthday and she planned to celebrate. She raced to the shop, dodging Gordo, the tough bully who was squeezing money out of everyone in the complex. That’s when she spied a lonely figure on the roof. The Creeper was an old guy and Lexie couldn’t just watch him jump from the roof. A couple of days before the Creepers’ dog had been thrown off the roof. She raced up to the top of the building to talk. From then on everything changed for Lexie.

She discovered Mr Romanov was just a lonely old man living in squalor. She decided that she would get his place cleaned up. The managed to get her friend Davey to come and help. They talked to Mr Romanov and discovered he was harmless and had a secret plan to build a roof garden. It was a crazy idea and before they knew it the three of them were putting the boxes together and shovelling in the soil Mr Romanov had been bringing up, bit by bit, over the previous few years. He was called the Creeper because he always Robet Newton Somerset 2017wore a trench coat went out in the early evenings, now they knew why he’d been doing this.

Lexie had a dream to go to Surfer’s Paradise. When her dad was alive they camped in her room and he would lay out maps and ask where she wanted to go. She always said the same destination. It was her dream to get away from a grey world and find one filled with colour. Davey had his own dream destination and now their new friend Mr Romanov had a car and could take them away. The three set off on a road trip after a run in with Gordo, when Mr Romanov got the upper hand he made an enemy that would have repercussions.

The journey takes them to unexpected places. Lexie and Davy discover Mr Romanov is unwell, the old car is unregistered, and the old man doesn’t even have a licence. They learn about friendship and what their real goals are. Lexie keeps going even when she finds out her mother has had an overdose and is in the hospital.

I loved how these three misfits discovered their respective goals were not what they imagined. That returning to the Commission wasn’t so bad. I’m sure that kids of all ages will relate to the feeling of not belonging and trying to find a place to be yourself.

robert newton book reading firefighterI had the pleasure of seeing Robert speak at Somerset Literary Festival earlier this year and to get a signed copy of this book. He is an engaging speaker, as a fellow writer, I loved that he told the kids; ‘I can see me stop being a firefighter but not stop being a writer.’ It is an all-encompassing obsession we share.

This is my Goodreads review: In brief, this is a YA’s coming of age story. Fitzroy Commission units couldn’t be greyer and the friendship forged by simply being able to share the worst cards life can deal out, brilliantly woven into the story. Would Lexie ever get to Surfer’s Paradise? Would Davey get his wish? And why did Mr Romanov have a dream about building a garden in the sky?

 

 

Jack of Spades by Sophie Masson reviewed by Jill Smith©May17

jack-of-spades-final-front-cover-pubLinda is not your normal sixteen-year-old. She is feisty and adventurous in a genteel age when girls are expected to be polite, chaperoned and groomed to marry.

It is May 1910 and her father is in Paris on a research trip. Linda is worried about him. Even more so when she receives a Jack of Spades playing card in the mail. The envelope was not in her father’s hand, or was there anything with it to give her a clue, but, she knows it’s a sign from him, a code they both know. The Jack of Spades is a sign of danger.

Without alerting anyone Linda decides to leave for Paris immediately. She has been there with her father and has friends she hopes to stay with while she searches for her father. She knows his favourite places and where he usually works. Feeling confident in her own competence she leaves Britain.sophie masson bio pic

On arriving in Paris, she is accosted but the thief is thwarted when she is assisted by a gallant young man, who offers to help her.

The illustrations throughout the book are delightful. The Victorian railway station illustration with Linda gathering up her belongings and meeting her new friend is a clue to where the story leads.

What she finds in Paris is intrigue and mystery filled with danger. What was her father really doing? Where is he now? Who can she trust? Her friends are not at home and she has nowhere to stay. A single unchaperoned girl alone in a city. Her new friend offers to refer her to acceptable accommodation and there she meets interesting characters and a scoundrel.

While searching for her father Linda finds a trail of murders and shady characters. Her investigations put herself and her new friends in peril.

This book is a delight with mystery, a budding romance, and a tenacious and inquisitive teenage girl as the lead character. I loved it!

Cover reveal…

Dual Visions new (3)I’ve been working on putting my re-edited edition of Dual Visions with it’s follow up book Vashla’s World together for impending release. Having fun and super excited with the results. Thanks immensely for Kate Russell for the cover compilation and assist from Luka! Doing a happy dance!VW Cover

 

 

 

 

I think the revised Dual Visions cover is great and the Vashla’s World cover is amazing!

What do you think?

Once I’ve pressed the button to say go on these I can get back to editing the great stories for The Ten Penners adventure anthology ‘Mystery, Mayhem & Magic’ which is shaping up to be a brilliant group of stories.

It’s all happening folks!

Books I bought at Somerset 2017…

Here are the reviews I did of a couple of books I bought at Somerset Literary Festival this year. I’ll post a couple more tomorrow. Yes, they are Young Adults books.

Book Review by Jill Smith©Mar17

Starlight Stables – Pony detectives by Soraya Nicholas

Soraya NicholasThis is the first book I bought at Somerset Celebration of Literature 2017! My granddaughters are mad on horses. Not having had anything to do with horses myself, I have to say it appears to me that horses are a lot of work, and each one has a different personality just as their riders do.

I loved this story about Poppy the twelve-year-old who was visiting her Aunt Sophie and Uncle Mark, who run Starlight Stables. Having had a very difficult year with her mum and brother having to move away with the tragedy of losing her father, her trip is to help her be a kid and just go riding.Starlight Stables Pony Detectives Soraya N

Poppy gets the best present she could wish for, her own horse Crystal a Welsh/Arab. The surprises don’t stop there, they introduce her to two new girls who will be working and riding with her helping clean the stables. Millie and Katie quickly become best friends and like Poppy, they have been given the opportunity to have their own horses at the stables to trail ride whenever they want to, in exchange for work and help around the stables. Milly gets to ride Joe who is three-quarters Arab with a mischievous nature, which Poppy discovers suits his rider. Then Katie gets Cody a palomino. The riding lessons commence immediately and the girls learn a lot from dressage riding champion Sophie.

When the girls hear about horses being stolen in the area they decide to find them. That’s when the trouble begins. If they go to investigate they may lose all their privileges and be sent back home. They may even have their horses taken away. The three headstrong girls set out to find the missing horses.

I enjoyed the easy flowing style of Soraya’s writing showing the details of riding, sitting in the saddle and different types of events to train for while pushing the story forward.

Book Review By Jill Smith©April17

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

ophelia-and-the-marvellous-boy coverI love the cover of this book, that’s why I bought it.

The story is as surprising as The Marvelous Boy and the heroine Ophelia. She is small for her age, constantly asking questions and looking at everything from a scientific viewpoint. That hardly works when she makes friends with the boy sent by Wizards to save the world. Everything he tells her about the Snow Queen and magic is unbelievable. She confronts her fears and collects the keys while searching for the boy’s magical sword.

I particularly loved that she didn’t believe in ghosts and is still grieving the loss of her mother when her mother is there, at her shoulder and in her ear, helping her along the way. In a modern world of machines and facts, this is a delightful step into a possible other-world, all very cold and miserable that could be overcome by The Snow Queen. The museum her father works in has very strange exhibits, many who were in fact, the Snow Queens army.

The ending is fitting and a true love conquers all scenario!

I hadn’t been to see Karen Foxlee during sessions at Somerset, however, I did get her to sign the book. (That’s another perk of going to see talented writers at a writing festival.)