Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Book Fair – Reviews #Dystopian Alex Craigie, #YA Angie Dokos, #Contemporary M.C.V. Egan, #SouthernCulture Claire Fullerton, #Pilgrims Noelle Granger

Welcome to the Christmas Book Fair where I will be sharing authors with their recent reviews or new releases. Books make great gifts for Christmas and I hope you enjoy today’s selection.

The first author today is Alex Craigie with my own review for the thought provoking Acts of Convenience a dystopian thriller

About the book

Imagine, if you will, a near future where governments adopt policies that suit them rather than the people they were elected to represent.

Imagine a near future where old age and chronic problems are swept away with expedient legislation. I know; it’s an unlikely scenario.

However, it’s a scenario in which Cassie Lincoln finds herself. It’s a scenario that compels her to take action.  It’s a scenario that leads to despair and danger.

My review for the book on November 3rd 2020

I am now of an age when I do feel concerned when I read headlines about the future burden of the elderly and questions about where is the money to come from to fund their care. Added to that the stories of neglect in some care homes and the impact of the pandemic on those living in isolation from family and friends, it does make you wonder where you will find yourself in ten or twenty years time.

Not everyone can be self-sufficient and having worked all their lives until retirement, laying the corner stones of modern society, surely that is a time of reward not censure.

Alex Craigie’s book is an eye-opener and also a disturbing glimpse of one of the possible outcomes of today’s whispers and mutterings at higher levels in Government, and in the think tanks as they discuss options for twenty and thirty years ahead.

It is a thriller with an unlikely protagonist in the form of a hard-working nurse as she becomes a mother, then grandmother whilst still walking the corridors of the local hospital. She is in the shadows as far as those in charge are concerned and as such she hears and sees things over the years that are troubling.

During those years successive ministers, including Prime Ministers, begin to put progressively more inhumane policies in place that initially seem benign, but have long term consequences on the population as they reach retirement. Personal agendas, ambition and greed are their motivations and not the good of certain sectors of society. A wedge is being driven between the young and the elderly as governmental spin doctors market to one at the expense of the other.

The author lays the groundwork to the outcome of twenty plus years of governmental manipulation in the first third of the book when the pace of the story picks up.

Can individuals or small groups of dissenters have an impact on an entrenched attitude towards the vulnerable in our society? In this novel they certainly do their best, despite at times violent opposition and corruption at the heart of the NHS. There are some heart stopping moments, and times when it seems that reaching a satisfactory ending to the story is unlikely.

The author has created some strong characters and also scenarios that are thought provoking. Despite the slower first third of the book, it did serve to remind us of the insidiousness of the drip feed of discriminatory policies that might go largely unnoticed over twenty or thirty years, it also introduced us to the characters who come together in a fight for justice. The author did a great job of making me consider my old age in a more constructive way.

Read the other reviews and buy the book: Amazon UK – And: Amazon US

Also by Alex Craigie


Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon UK – And: Amazon US – Follow Alex: Goodreads – Alex Craigie via: Facebook

The next author is Angie Dokos with a recent review for her YA novel Roadside

About the book

Zayne finds Serena’s lifeless body off the side of the road one morning. She has been beaten and left for dead. As she recovers, they become the best of friends. It doesn’t take long for Zayne’s feelings to grow stronger. Will the fear of ruining their friendship keep them from taking a chance on love?

One of the recent reviews for the book

Wendy Landsiedel5.0 out of 5 stars Friends and Family  Reviewed in the United States on August 12, 2020

Great YA story that includes strong family relationships and great friends. A fabulous storyline without all of the harsh language. Romance not unbridled lust. Well done Angie.

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK

Also by Angie Dokos

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK –  follow Angie : Goodreads –  website: Angie Dokos WordPress –  Twitter: @AngieDokos

The next author is M.C.V Egan with a review for her novel Defined by Others.

About the book

A word, a single word defines a moment for Anne. She needs to find a new one when her spouse, Frank, leaves her at the age of forty-seven, coming out of the closet literally in a closet.

She finds herself back in her hometown of Skvallerby, Connecticut among her high school friends which she had left in her past.

An inheritance from a frenemy leaves her with the means to meddle and spy on the lives of mutual acquaintances.

In an attempt to run from her reality Anne becomes engrossed in a game of fun and flirtation with her friend and fellow sufferer Connie.

Their fun games turn into a deadly reality. It is no longer a game. Life, death and not even a defining word can stop the reality of manipulation.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Nancy Allen (The Avid Reader) VINE VOICE 5.0 out of 5 stars Games played with people’s lives……  Reviewed in the United States on August 14, 2020

Anne a 47 year-old woman’s husband has just left her for a man. After learning that a long lost friend of hers from her hometown in Florida has died and left her an inheritance Anne takes off to Florida to receive her inheritance and you know just go home for a little while, while she deals with a divorce.

Anne’s inheritance is not quite what she was expecting. No the inheritance was just a laptop and a video explaining about the inheritance. Anne’s friend Amanda has invited her to continue playing her little online game messing with other people’s lives.

The way I saw it was that after learning about Anne’s husband leaving her for a man played a big role in Amanda’s decision to invite Anne to play her game. I think that Amanda thought that playing this little online game would be sort of like a coping mechanism or some sort of therapy for Anne. Not that I agree with it but I do get the why behind it well sort of.

Anne reunites with another of her friends from high school, Connie who is herself dealing with divorce. Anne invites Connie to stay with her in her mother’s home. Anne invites Connie to play the game with her. Connie accepts.

I did make one connection with Anne and that is her connection with a word. I don’t have the same connection with a word as Anne does but I do love words. I love to read so therefore I love words. I remember telling a friend once that if I see a word I will read it. (There is a longer version of this story but I won’t bore you will the details now.)

What drew me to read Defined by Others was the author M.C.V. Egan and her writing. I am always up for reading one of her books actually I believe I have read all of her books now well with the exception of the revised edition of The Bridge of Deaths. I would recommend all of her books even if you don’t read that genre. So if you have not read one of M.C.V. Egan’s books what are you waiting for? Head on over to your favorite place to purchase books and start clicking.

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK

Also by M.C.V. Egan

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Follow M.C.V. Egan: Goodreads –  Website: The Bridge of Deaths – Twitter: @M.C.V_Egan

The next author today is Claire Fullerton with a review for her novel Little Tea, which I can also highly recommend

About the book.

Southern Culture … Old Friendships … Family Tragedy

One phone call from Renny to come home and “see about” the capricious Ava and Celia Wakefield decides to overlook her distressful past in the name of friendship.

For three reflective days at Renny’s lake house in Heber Springs, Arkansas, the three childhood friends reunite and examine life, love, marriage, and the ties that bind, even though Celia’s personal story has yet to be healed. When the past arrives at the lake house door in the form of her old boyfriend, Celia must revisit the life she’d tried to outrun.

As her idyllic coming of age alongside her best friend, Little Tea, on her family’s ancestral grounds in bucolic Como, Mississippi unfolds, Celia realizes there is no better place to accept her own story than in this circle of friends who have remained beside her throughout the years. Theirs is a friendship that can talk any life sorrow into a comic tragedy, and now that the racial divide in the Deep South has evolved, Celia wonders if friendship can triumph over history.

A recent review for the book on Goodreads

Sep 26, 2020 D.G. Kaye rated it Five Stars

A tale that encompasses several topics of life – family, friendship, racism, mental health, and tragedy. Southern fiction at its best. We’re introduced to the triangular friendship between Celia, Renny and Ava, friends from childhood, in a reunion visit up to Renny’s lakehouse where the girls recant stories, memories, and unresolved issues from their pasts, introducing the many characters who played parts in their lives.

Celia managed to leave the deep south and is happily married now living in California, but the girlfriend reunion brings up some painful memories that Celia Wakefield finds herself now having to put closure on, including her ex-fiance Tate whose deep south family wasn’t too accepting of Celia’s close friendship with ‘black people’, – mainly her oldest best friend Little Tea and her family. And once tragedy struck within the plantation, a silent slithering away of Tate occurred.

The story goes back and forth through time – current day at Renny’s lake house in Arkansas where the reunion takes place and back in the 1980s when they were younger girls where we’re taken into Celia’s younger life with her family living in Mississippi on their cotton plantation and the black hired help living on that land in a cottage, becoming closer than most with their white bosses in the still divided south. Thelonius and Elvita and their daughter Little Tea who becomes Celia’s best friend, and ultimately, the love interest of Celia’s brother Hayward – still in a dangerous time for mixed races to show themselves publicly, but accepted within the family – except for Celia’s eldest brother John who comes off racist.

In this story, the past comes back to haunt as it does in real life. Celia must find closure, Ava must choose her happiness between two men, and Renny is the host where everyone meets up at her place to mull over their pasts and solidfy their futures. Renny is the group organizer. And nobody knows the deep dark secrets better than the three girls.

Some wonderful prose to quote from this book. Here are just two:

Little Tea and Celia discussing Tea’s plans after graduating high school: “I know times have changed for people of color, but there’s a residue that’ll stick around forever.”

Celia talking to her brother Hayward about their grandmother’s racism, trying to figure why as someone who came from poverty and now riches, why she didn’t have compassion: “People attack what they fear.” “People always have to have something to look down on.”

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US – And : Amazon UK

Also by Claire Fullerton

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – Follow Claire : Goodreads – website: Claire Fullerton – Twitter: @Cfullerton3

The final review today is for The Last Pilgrim by Noelle Granger, a book I can also highly recommend.

About the book

This book captures and celebrates the grit and struggle of the Pilgrim women who stepped off the Mayflower in the winter of 1620 to an unknown world – one filled with hardship, danger and death. The Plymouth Colony would not have survived without them.

Mary Allerton Cushman was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower, dying at age 88 in 1699.

Mary’s life is set against the real background of that time. The Last Pilgrim begins from her father’s point of view – she was, after all, only four when she descended into the cramped and dank living space below deck on the Mayflower – but gradually assumes Mary’s voice, as the colony achieves a foothold in the New England’s rocky soil.

What was a woman’s life like in the Plymouth Colony? The Last Pilgrim will tell you.

A recent review for the book

Sue Bavey4.0 out of 5 stars An detailed account of the life of Mary Allerton Cushman, a child passenger on the Mayflower  Reviewed in the United States on November 1, 2020

Since 2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth, UK to Plymouth, MA, I was interested in reading this account of the life of Mary Allerton Cushman. Mary was only four years old during the arduous journey made by the separatists, who later became known as pilgrims. Their story is well known in Massachusetts and taught from an early age. I was keen to read this account written for an adult audience and was rewarded by a narrative filled with a great deal of well-researched historical detail. Some of the events were relayed in a slightly unemotional manner, there could have been more excitement during the description of John Howland having fallen overboard and his rescue, and also an episode in which one of the cross beams of the Mayflower cracks during a heavy storm. These events, the illness and death below decks must have been terrifying.

The beginning of the book introduces us to Mary in 1699, as an elderly woman, looking back on her life. We then switch to her father, Isaac Allerton, in whose voice most of the early chapters are written, switching to Mary occasionally, as she gets a little older. When Mary reaches the age of 8 she is put out to live with another family, that of the Governor of the Plymouth colony. Mary’s behaviour is unruly and her father has struggled to tame her since the death of his wife on the Mayflower. This event is useful since the narrator is now a party to the majority of conversations held within the Governor’s house and through these we learn of relations with the local natives, the problems relating to debt which follow the settlers and the subsequent trade deals set up by Mary’s father, which have detrimental effects on his relationship with the governor and eventually lead to his leaving the colony.

It was interesting to hear in detail the processes which Mary must learn in order to become a goodwife: soap making, cooking, spinning flax into cloth and how to catch leeches in a bottle from a river, to name but a few. The author clearly spent plenty of time researching every possible aspect of life in the colony and describes it in an engaging manner. 4.5 stars

Read the reviews and buy the book:Amazon US – And:Amazon UK

Also by N.A. Granger

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK Blog:Sayling Away – Goodreads:Noelle A. Granger – Twitter:@NAGrangerAuthor


Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some gifts to share…thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – Author Updates #Reviews -#Thriller Mark Bierman, #PsychologicalThriller Lucinda E. Clarke, #Dystopian Alex Craigie

Welcome to the Friday’s edition of the Cafe and Bookstore Updates with recent reviews for authors on the shelves.

The first author today is Mark Bierman  with a review for his debut novel Vanished.

About the book

Tragedy . . . heartache . . . how much more can Tyler Montgomery and John Webster take? This missions trip, the “healing” one, has only added fresh layers of pain. Construction of an orphanage in Haiti’s northwest . . . yes. But a doomed rescue operation, human traffickers, human anomalies, extreme personal danger . . . risk of death? They hadn’t signed up for those.

Turning their backs on the crisis, however, is unthinkable, it’s just not who they are.

One of the recent reviews for the book

Pete Springer 4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and Tragic  Reviewed in the United States on April 2, 2020

John and Tyler travel to Haiti from America to volunteer at a Haitian mission. They think they re going to help build an orphanage, but they quickly become embroiled in more sinister matters. A young girl, Chantale, is kidnapped from the local village, and the two Americans try to rescue her. The naive Americans quickly find out that they are in over their heads. Chantale is taken not for ransom, but into the seedy world of human trafficking.

The protagonists travel to a mine on the other side of the country where violence and slavery reign. Faced with the unfamiliarity of language and cultural differences, John and Tyler put their trust in a career thief, Janjak, to navigate through many issues they know nothing about.

Bierman’s fast-paced novel will have you holding on to the edge of your seat. While the subject matter is unpleasant at times, the writing is quite good. I found some of the rescue to be a little farfetched and highly coincidental. The end lacked believability for me. It was an engaging read, dealing with a serious subject.

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US

And: Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Mark: Goodreads

50% of the proceeds from Vanished go to an organization that helps victims of human trafficking.

Amazon US Author Page: Amazon US
Amazon UK : Amazon UK

Connect to Mark via his blog: Mark Bierman WordPress

The next review is for Lucinda E.Clarke A Year in the Life of Leah Brand: A Psychological Thriller

About the book

Leah’s nightmare began the day the dog died.

A few years earlier a fatal car crash took the lives of Leah’s beloved husband and their two babies, leaving her disabled. Life looked bleak. She was approaching forty, unemployed, broke and desperate.

Then she met Mason. He was charming, charismatic, persuasive, and a successful businessman, well respected in the community. His teenage daughter did nothing to welcome Leah into the family, but life is never perfect.

Then, two years into her second marriage, Leah Brand’s world is turned upside down; inanimate objects in the house move, her clothes are left out for the rubbish collection, pieces of furniture change places, there are unexplained noises and hauntings.

As the disturbances increase, everyone accuses Leah of losing her mind. Soon she begins to doubt herself and she starts to spiral down into a world of insanity. Is she going mad, or is someone out to destroy her? And if so, why?

A gripping, psychological thriller for fans of Mary Higgins Clarke and Louise Jensen.

One of the recent reviews for the book

M Ghosh 4.0 out of 5 stars Suspenseful story, brilliant ending  Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 7 March 2020

Set in suburban England, this psychological thriller has a rather routine beginning with Leah, a vulnerable woman recovering from the after-effects of an accident.

Soon after, the routine goes haywire and Leah goes through some very non-routine situations that make her begin to doubt her own sanity.

I loved Leah and felt myself following her with hope and trepidation. The suspense kept me turning the pages, and the ending made me pause and go ah.

This is a beautifully crafted tale, and needs to find more readers.

.Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon UK

A selection of other books by Lucinda E.Clarke

Read the reviews and buy the books:  Amazon US

And : Amazon UK

Read more reviews and follow Lucinda: Goodreads

Connect to Lucinda via her blog: WordPress Lucinda E. Clarke

The final author today is Alex Craigie with a recent review for  Acts of Convenience

About the book

Imagine, if you will, a near future where governments adopt policies that suit them rather than the people they were elected to represent.

Imagine a near future where old age and chronic problems are swept away with expedient legislation.

I know; it’s an unlikely scenario.

However, it’s a scenario in which Cassie Lincoln finds herself.

It’s a scenario that compels her to take action.

It’s a scenario that leads to despair and danger.

One of the recent reviews for the book.

David P Western 5.0 out of 5 stars Too close to reality? A future to fear?  Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 9 March 2020

I’ve given this novel 5 stars because the problems faced in this dystopian near-future setting are frighteningly real. As are the proposed solutions of the various governments in the story. Alex portrays how public opinion can be manipulated by those with money and power. Her concerns for the choices facing society in the not too distant future are clearly played out by a varied cast of characters. Alex has a plot that makes you think and ask, ‘What if…?’

Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon UK

And: Amazon US

Also by Alex Craigie

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon UK

And: Amazon US

Read more reviews and follow Alex: Goodreads

Connect to Alex Craigie via: Facebook

Thank you for visiting today and I hope you will be leaving with some books to read.. thanks Sally.