Map of Blue Book Balloon

26 September 2022

#Review - Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson

Shrines of Gaiety
Kate Atkinson
Doubleday (Penguin Random House) 27 September 2022
Available as: HB, 448pp, e, audio
Source: Advance e-copy via Netgalley
ISBN(HB): 9780857526557

I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance e-copy of Shrines of Gaiety via Netgalley to consider for review.

In Kate Atkinson's latest novel, set in Jazz Age London on the eve of the General Strike, death comes frequently and often with little sense and little meaning. The Great War may be over but that sense of life being chancy and cheap lingers.

The bodies of young women, apparently drowned, are trawled form the Thames. They receive scant respect - a policeman trying to investigate has to hunt round several sites where a corpse may or not be kept before he finds what he is looking for.

Other young women (girls, really) are trafficked into the back rooms of nightclubs; some fall victim to drug overdoses.

The roads are dangerous, with no training needed before one can drive, and they claim their victim too. 

There is ever present street crime, sometimes spilling over into murder.

And, of course, poverty, hunger and disease consume so many that the victims - whether dead or on their way - are taken for granted, with those sleeping in churchyards or under bridges simply ignored.

I found this plethora of deaths a little reminiscent of Atkinson's Life After Life, largely set in the same period, in which the same character lived (and died) again and again, gradually outwitting Fate as though playing a game and able to respawn aware of future dangers and difficulties. The difference is of course that in Shrines of Gaiety there are no second chances though many would wish there were. The weight of the War hangs over everyone here, whether they took part (Gwendolen, the no-nonsense librarian from York, served as a nurse, Niven, eldest son of shady nightclub owner Nellie Coker, served in the ranks), avoided the war, were too young, or stood and waited, as fathers, husbands, sons, friends and brothers fell to the mud and the wire. (Yes, and lovers too).

That may be the reason for the frenzied pleasure-seeking taking place in the book as the Bright Young Things celebrate their survival, try to bury dark memories, or simply look forward not back - all accompanied by a great deal of moral tutting from the older, Victorian generation. If that gives the impression of the book as being rather loud, don't worry, it's not. The partying is mainly offstage, the story mostly taking place during hungover mornings and on dark nights after the clubs have closed. All the decadence does though make for a vibrant nightlife in Soho, with many lucrative opportunities for those who provide the pleasure, or at least, facilitate it: the book features hostesses in the clubs, sex workers, drug dealers, thieves, and police on the make. And of course young innocents who've come to London to make their fortune.

Gwendolen Kelling is not one of these. A former librarian who lost most of her family in the war, she may be seeking meaning, or she may be missing the emotional pitch of the war, or she may just be good-hearted, practical and eager to help. Or perhaps all of these things. In any case, she's trekked down to London in search of Freda Murgatroyd and Florence Ingram, two young women who ran away seeking careers dancing on the stage. We see (some of) what happens to them, their trials standing in somewhat for all the poor unfortunates dragged out of the river, reduced to selling themselves or dancing in the clubs for hours night after night, or ruined by drugs.

DCI Frobisher, on the other hand, may still be something of an innocent. Sent in to clean up the notoriously corrupt Bow Street station, despite his seniority and service in the police he's still upright and still seems to believe in the redemption of a corrupt Force. He also however believes in the threat posed to morality by such as Nellie Coker and he soon employs Gwendolen to infiltrate the shadier clubs, despite misgivings that he may be putting her in harm's way.

Others are less innocent. Nellie and her brood (not just Niven, but also Edith, Betty, Shirley, Ramsay, and Kitty) and their rivals (the profitable clubs are rich prizes) and a host of others are out to squeeze all they can (pleasure, money, power) from the good times, or are simply ready to do what they must to survive. Atkinson is very good at showing how narrow the margin is between survival and destruction, and how simple acts of care (like Gwendolen saving the life of a gangster in a club or Frobisher giving a half crown to a starving girl) can make a difference. As can little bits of meanness - the theft of a handbag or just looking the other way or not thinking about the plight a young woman may be in.

As she allows the paths of all these people to cross and re-cross in the West End and Soho, Atkinson's abilities to layer an intricate narrative and bring her characters alive really serves the reader here as meetings (chance, planned, and missed) and depictions of characters, places and events knit together to produce a tight and fascinating story. She both creates a powerful sense of a particular time and place and also happily accommodates flashbacks from that time to show earlier years in York, the days of the War or even further back when Nellie was founding her empire.  

Indeed, the book is so well-written and observed that events and plot taking place now are almost immaterial. There isn't a sense in this book of needing to get to the next thing that happens or of waiting to understand why the last thing that happened did. Rather, I wanted to see what these fascinating, alive people would do next, how they would react to things, what their next moves would be. And also, of course, to understand that marvellous picture of a place, a time and an atmosphere.

There is so much in Shrines of Gaiety. A glorious central character in the redoubtable (yet so nice) Gwendolen. A portrait of a place and time a hundred years back, close to ours (the same streets one can walk today, the thrill of seeing celebrities and prominent people behaving badly) but also so strange and different (the overhang of war, foreknowledge of a further war to come).  A matter of fact portrayal of human trafficking and abuse (there are some similar themes to Atkinson's Big Sky in that respect). A sense of... I don't quite know how to put this. Of possibility? Of indeterminacy? Some things that happen here may not happen, or may be open to question, as though - for all the gritty reality - what's being described is a time spent slightly aside from the real world, in which consequences may not follow. Some references to A Midsummer Night's Dream perhaps support that, those radiant, dazzling clubs perhaps a portal to a fairyland where nothing is quite real.

But at the same time, fairyland is a perilous place and "we pay a tithe to Hell". For many in Shrines of Gaiety, consequences do follow. We see the clubs, tawdry and harshly lit, the next morning, we see those bodies in the river and we see the hangovers and the desperate attempts by some to ride themselves of consequences. A shrine is a place for worship and sacrifice and there is plenty of blood in this book.

It's a book I adored, Atkinson at her very best, engaging with themes that, behind the tinsel and glitter, are weighty and important - and entertaining the reader at every turn. 

For more information about Shrines of Gaiety, see the publisher's website here.

24 September 2022

#Review - Full Immersion by Gemma Amor

Full Immersion
Gemma Amor
Angry Robot, 13 September 2022
Available as: PB, 400pp, e, audio
Source: Advance e-copy
ISBN(PB): 9780857669810

I'm grateful to the publishers for an advance e-copy of Full Immersion via Netgalley to consider for review.


Reading Full Immersion was a blast, in two senses. First, it's a gripping, compulsive, skin-crawling SF-horror, the like of which I have rarely seen - so reading it was superb fun. But in another sense of the word, "fun" is hardly the word. Experiencing Full Immersion was like having a shockwave hit me. It felt like being across the road from a collapsing building - except that the immersion lasted most of the book. I don't think I have ever read a story with a more apt title.

The impact of Full Immersion comes from a number of factors, only some of which I can pin down. There's the claustrophobic atmosphere. The story largely takes place in just two rooms, a control room and a treatment room where a woman called Magpie is confined, trussed up in wires, tubes and a harness - while in a full VR simulated environment designed to tease out the motivations for her catastrophic mental health crisis. While in the simulation, Magpie can roam free through endless created vistas, though in reality, she's closely confined.

There is the small cast; the patient, Magpie; a nurse; couple of techs - Evans, and the Boss; a "psych"... and a monster. Building on this sense of enclosure and isolation I might have a stab at defining this book in terms of the Gothic, if it wasn't a waste of time for such a genuinely different story - Full Immersion in a genre in itself - but really, those are relatively minor factors in the book's impact.

More, there is a sense in reading the story of being washed in a tide of horror, despair and loss - all bound up with how Amor takes Magpie's crisis as the central ground, the keystone of the arch, of this novel. Magpie has been through some truly traumatic events - the book concerns themes of suicide, harm to a child, birth (a graphic scene, as birth is!) and post-natal depression. She is still going through traumatic events - though now in that basement, after she reached out in desperation for the experimental "treatment" offered there. 

Which isn't to say she's altogether on board with the idea, as you'll see. As Full Immersion blends reality, obsession, guilt, and a truly insidious foe, the story alternates between Evans and his Boss - she definitely has her own purposes here - and Magpie desperately trying to get her shit together to meet the challenge of this new and unsettling environment. It's a painful read, in many respects, and may be too strong - or raise too many ghosts - for some. But it's written with a great sense of empathy and of compassion, opening up aspects of life which many of us (perhaps thankfully) are unaware of. 

It's also a book that refuses to deal in easy answers. Yes, there is progress here - bought with much pain. But Amor refuses to allow her characters a happy-ever-after ending. All that pain, anguish and guilt won't just go away, she seems to be saying. It's out there. You may meet it. You need to be ready, but you can't be.

All in all, a stunning book, definitely one of my favourites this year so far.

For more information about Full Immersion, see the Angry Robot website here

22 September 2022

#Blogtour #Review - The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson (trans David Warriner)

The Bleeding
Johana Gustawsson (trans David Warriner)
Orenda Books, 15 September 2022
Available as: HB, 259pp, PB, 259pp, audio, e
Source: Advance copy
ISBN(HB): 978-1914585265 

I'm grateful to Karen at Orenda Books for sending me a copy of The Bleeding to consider for review, and to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to join the book's blogtour.

The Bleeding was for me a welcome return to Gustawsson's writing, writing that shows an uncanny ability to link a present-day mystery with events - nearly always bad, troubling events - in the past.

In The Bleeding, it's a triple timeline.

In modern Quebec, Detective Maxine Grant, who's suffering multiple family pressures (a recent pregnancy; a sulky, difficult teenage daughter; and a husband death in tragic circumstances) is called upon to investigate her old primary school teacher, who's apparently killed her own husband in a fenced attack. (Thirty one stab wounds).

In 1949, twelve year old Lina, bullied at school and neglected by her mother who's attempting to make ends meet after her own husband was killed in the War, finds friendship with the mysterious old lady who lives in the asylum.

And in 1899, Lucienne, a wealthy woman in Paris, loses both her kids in a catastrophic fire. Unable to accept their deaths, she turns to Spiritualism for some answers...

I have to say that the way Gustawsson brings these strands together and uses each to reinforce themes in the others, is nothing short of brilliant. Too much detail would spoil the careful unravelling of the plot, but I did find that taken together, the stories (or the story) amounts to a careful and damning study of the treatment of women in society. The details may be different (Lucienne's treatment by her husband, Lina's torment and public ridicule when her period comes, the pressures that Maxine is under) but they fit together to form a coherent and troubling hole.

At the same time, Gustawsson delivers an intricate and convincing police procedural, the darker moments lightened by the presence of Prof Ginette Montminny ('Gina'), a forensic psychologist assigned to unravel the prime suspect's motivations and behaviour. Gina is, we learn in passing, Emily Roy's teacher, so while Emily does not herself appear, we can be assured that Gina knows her stuff. It's a tribute to the skill of the author, and the desperation of somebody here, then, when a certain revelation occurs which I certainly hadn't seen coming and which cast much of the book in a new light.  (The book is excellent value, it will entertain you twice!)

A vivid and entertaining read, which packs in not only policework, male privilege (and betrayal) and an arresting depiction of life in three different epochs (showing not only how much has changed, but how much has not) but also, as if that weren't enough, a disturbing vein of the supernatural and a slightly sulphurous hint of corruption being passed from generation to generation. Innocent blood is both prized and at great risk here and one can't but feel that a final reckoning is coming.

All in all, another fine book form Gustawsson which David Warriner's translation serves excellently, producing English textured just enough to hint at the story taking place in a non-English speaking locale but not so much as to get in the way of a smooth read. 

For more information about The Bleeding, see the publisher's website here - and of course the other stops on the blogtour which you can see listed on the poster below. 

You can buy The Bleeding from your local high street bookshop or online from Bookshop UK, Hive Books, Blackwell's, Foyle's, WH Smith, Waterstones or Amazon. A limited signed and numbered edition with  sprayed edges is available from Goldsboro Books

20 September 2022

#Review - Madwoman by Louisa Treger

Louisa Treger
Bloomsbury, 9 June 2022
Available as: HB, 304pp, e, audio
Source: Advance e-copy, audio subscription
ISBN(HB): 9781448218011

I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance e-copy of Madwoman via NetGalley. I also listened to much of the book on audio, via a subscription service. 

Madwoman, which is based on a true story, reads as a very modern account. There are hints of scandal in an institution - the asylum on "Blackwell's Island" in New York - and an intrepid investigative journalist sets out to penetrate the establishment and expose the truth. It gave me something of a jolt to recall that this was taking place in the later 19th century, when women were far from established in journalism, and sympathy for those with mental health problems was nascent at best.

Indeed, the story is very modern in several senses - Nellie Bly sets out with hopes of righting wrongs and exposing abuse, but a century of institutional scandals will warn the early 21st century reader that little is likely to be done. We should not be too judgemental of our Victoria forbears, perhaps.

More widely, Nellie herself is drawn as a fascinating character. A determined young woman, who has survived crisis after crisis following her beloved father's sudden death and her mother taking up with an abusive man, she is a survivor - who perhaps however sees herself reflected rather too clearly in the Blackwell's inmates. Nellie has already shouldered her way into journalism in provincial Pittsburgh, before making her way to New York in search of bigger stories and more freedom. The Blackwell's Island "stunt" is her attempt to make her mark, for Nellie herself is on her uppers, almost penniless and shut out of the male sanctums of the city's papers. Her ambition is at best tolerated, at worst seen as unfeminine, wrong, in some sense, bound to lead to trouble and perhaps indicative of an unsound mind. It's easy to see how Nellie's plan could go badly wrong. 

What she is doing - having herself committed to the asylum - is a deeply serious step and Nellie finds conditions worse there than she could have imagined. Abusive and vicious staff, scant and poor food, freezing conditions and hideous punishments rapidly take their dehumanising toll - and even worse is threatened. Treger's story, which in its first half explores and interprets Nellie's early life diligently, really takes fire in its second part as it touches on what Nellie might have been thinking and feeling as she was locked all night in a rat-infested cell; forcibly dunked in filthy, cold water; or half strangled by a vengeful nurse after speaking out about conditions. One quickly realises how high the stakes were for Nellie and how ingrained the ill-treatment of inmates was.

It's a fascinating story which resists any temptation to sensationalise, treating all the inmates of Blackwell's Island with sympathy and humanity and bringing these people - who really lived, a century and half ago, and, many of them, died, in that place - back to life to speak to us. The coda describing Nellie's later life is a fascinating glimpse of an intrepid and brave woman.

The audio itself is deftly performed by Laurel Lefkow, who reflects Bly's newspaper vocation, giving the text just a hint of one of the big stories being read out from that day's paper. We're reminded that, in piecing together Bly's history, Treger's first resource will have been her printed articles: this is a woman who found her voice and her freedom through a modern medium, the crusading newspaper, one of the first to do so. It's the perfect pairing of affect and content.

For more information about Madwoman see the publisher's website here.

17 September 2022

#BlogTour #Review - Harm by Solveig Pálsdóttir

Cover for book "Harm" by Sólveig Pálsdóttir. Seen though a veil of snow or ice, a shadowy dark hand.
Harm (Ice and Crime, 3)
Sólveig Pálsdóttir (Translated from the Icelandic by Quentin Bates)
Corylus Books, 27 August (e), 15 September (PB)
Source: Advance copy
ISBN: 9781916379787

I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance e-copy of Harm to consider for review and for inviting me to join the book's blogtour.

Harm takes us back to the world of Guðgeir Fransson and Elsa Guðrún, Reykjavík detectives, who on this occasion are called to the remote Westman Islands where a surgeon has been found dead in suspicious circumstances. Ríkarður Magnússon had recently taken up with a much younger woman, and was on a holiday with her and a group of her friends - people with whom, you'd think, he has very little in common.

The book is unusually written in that, it seems, we know early on what's happened - and the task of the detectives will simply be to uncover the how and the why. And in a sense, we do. Pálsdóttir is scrupulous in following the rules of detective fiction - so that nothing we're shown here about the crime proves to have been a dream or a fiction within the fiction - but at the same time, there is also more here than meets the eye, much more. To begin with, as Guðgeir and Elsa pick their way through the lives and lifestyles of the small group of friends, we see an unexpected side of Iceland - a focus on New Age spirituality and self-discovery, hinted at perhaps one e or twice in earlier books in this series but more fully explored here. It's satisfyingly different from our familiar view of Iceland, now a gleaming land of snow and ice under the Northern Lights, now a dark, noiry place under fun of a volcanic eruption. Rather here we have interior discovery, wellness and spiritual quests.

Diljá, Magnússon's young wife (but don't tell anyone - they're keeping it quiet) stands on the threshold of that realm, a rather sad figure who's lived a difficult life, and the link between many different worlds in this book. She is, or has been, something of an outcast, someone who has found it difficult to make a place in the world for her and her daughter. She won't do well in police custody, we fear.

Then, there's the intricate relationship between Fransson and his wife, daughter, and granddaughter. The book is punctuated by childcare, lost nights of sleep and domestic routines: many of the key conversations take place over meals, either as they are cooked or as they are eaten. 

In a slightly darker vein, we also see the attempts by Guðrún to get her life and career back on track after the traumatic events of Silenced. No spoilers, but you absolutely must read these books in order, starting with The Fox - Fransson now projects a certain degree of calm, but readers of the first book will know that he's also been through trauma For both detectives, that background adds texture and grittiness to the relationships portrayed here, and while Harm is primarily a police procedural with the cops a little more distanced from events than in either of the earlier books knowing the backstory helps to make the main characters truly rounded, involving and human.

That sense of - I don't know, empathy? compassion? - in turn bleeds through to Diljá and her plight. Diljá is in quite a fix. As in the earlier books, Pálsdóttir has a knack for depicting people backed into a corner by society and responding in perhaps unexpected ways. They make mistakes, sometimes bad mistakes, get into trouble. Pálsdóttir's book belie Iceland being a cosy Northern haven, we see the forces of patriarchy at work as well as harsh economic necessity and the invulnerability of powerful men.

Very much a character study and an examination of motivations and consequences, Harm kept the pages on my Kindle humming by and made me hope for more soon about Fransson and Guðrún.

Quentin Bates' translation is clear and idiomatic, well suited to the nuanced storytelling in this book and to conveying the quirks and particularities of the characters.

About the Book

When wealthy doctor Ríkarður Magnússon goes to sleep in his luxurious caravan and doesn’t wake up, detectives Guðgeir Fransson and Elsa Guðrún are called to the Westman Islands to investigate what looks like murder.

Suspicion immediately falls on Ríkharður’s young, beautiful and deeply troubled girlfriend – but there are no easy answers in this case as they are drawn into family feuds, disgruntled friends and colleagues, and the presence of a group of fitness-obsessed over-achievers with secrets of their own.

As their investigation makes progress, Guðgeir and Elsa Guðrún are forced to confront their own preconceptions and prejudices as they uncover the sinister side of Ríkharður’s past.

Harm is the third novel featuring the soft-spoken Reykjavík detective Guðgeir Fransson to appear in English. Sólveig Pálsdóttir again weaves a complex web of intrigue that plays out in the Westman Islands, remote southern Iceland and Reykjavík while asking some searching questions about things society accepts at face value – and others it is not prepared to tolerate.

Sólveig Pálsdóttir

Sólveig Pálsdóttir trained as an actor and has a background in the theatre, television and radio. In a second career she studied for degrees in literature and education, and has taught literature and linguistics, drama and public speaking. She has also produced both radio programming and managed cultural events. Her first novel appeared in Iceland in 2012 and went straight to the country’s bestseller list. She has written six novels featuring Reykjavík detective Guðgeir Fransson, and a memoir Klettaborgin which was a 2020 hit in Iceland. Silenced (Fjötrar) received the 2020 Drop of Blood award for the best Icelandic novel of the year and was Iceland’s nomination for the 2021 Glass Key award for the best Nordic crime novel of the year. Harm (Skaði), published in October 2021 in Iceland, made it to the bestseller list just like the previous books, and is her third novel to appear in English, following The Fox and Silenced.

She has taken part in several crime fiction and literary festivals such as Bristol’s CrimeFest, Newcastle Noir, Aberdeen’s Granite Noir and Iceland Noir. Sólveig lives in Reykjavík.

Quentin Bates

Quentin Bates has professional and personal roots in Iceland that run very deep. He worked as a seaman before turning to maritime journalism. He is an author of series of nine crime novels and novellas the Reykjavik detective featuring Gunnhildur (Gunna) Gísladóttir. In addition to writing his own fiction, he has translated books by Lilja Sigurðardóttir, Guðlaugur Arason, Einar Kárason, Óskar Guðmundsson and Ragnar Jónasson. Quentin was instrumental in launching IcelandNoir, the crime fiction festival in Reykjavik.

For more information about Harm, see the other stops on the blogtour,listed on the poster below and also the Corylus Books website here

You can buy Harm from your local bookshop, or online from Hive Books, Blackwell's, Foyles, WH Smith, Waterstones or Amazon.

Blog tour poster for book "Harm" by Sólveig Pálsdóttir

15 September 2022

#Review - The Jade Setter of Janloon by Fonda Lee

The Jade Setter of Janloon
Fonda Lee
Subterranean Press, May 2022
Available as: HB, 140pp, audio, e
Source: Purchased copy
ISBN(HB): 9781645240624

The Jade Setter of Janloon is a novella set in the world of Fonda Lee's Green Bones saga (Jade City, Jade War, Jade Legacy) which I'd describe as a kind of Godfather-with-magic taking place, in an alternate world, on an island, Kekon, that is rich with South East Asian cultural references. 

Over the course of the three books, the two main clans of Kekon, Mountain and No-Peak, clash and, eventually, come to a new equilibrium. The superhuman abilities of the clan warriors (the Green Bones) are derived from their use of jade, a rare and precious substance that not only provides power but is also therefore desirable as a trophy. The artisans who work that jade are therefore key, and foremost among them is Isin, whose apprentice, Pulo,  is about to have a very bad day indeed.

The Jade Setter of Janloon takes place towards the beginning of the Saga, so several Clan characters appear, as it were, in happier times, before the weight of events and responsibilities - which the keen reader of these books will recall - falls on them. It's good to see that, but also good that the clans are not the focus here. In the main books we have seen how the culture of formalised violence plays out for the Green Bones, but in The Jade Setter of Janloon we see, rather, how it affects the lives of the little people (so to speak). When Isin's workshop suffers a catastrophic misfortune - the loss of a powerful jade weapon, the property of one of the clans - all that Pulo loves is placed in danger, with neither reputation nor safety guaranteed unless he can recover the missing item.

So begins a journey through the dark side of Janloon, showing him how the world of the Green Bones coexists with corruption, systemic racism towards Kekon's Indigenous peoples, and a ruthless trafficking operation. Some of these themes were hinted at in the main novels, but it's refreshing to see them addressed here without the cloak of, as it were, privilege that protects the clans.

It's an engaging and fast-moving story, deeply readable in itself but also fascinating as another glimpse of the well-realised and intricate world that Fonda Lee has developed in these books. I'd strongly recommend The Jade Setter of Janloon, whether you have read the three novels yet or not (as it's set early on there are no spoilers for later events).

For more information about The Jade Setter of Janloon, see the publisher's website here.

13 September 2022

#Review - Rosebud by Paul Cornell

Paul Cornell
Tordotcom, 26 April 2022
Available as: PB, 101pp, e
Source: Purchased copy
ISBN(PB): 9781250765406

I'm always pleased to see that Paul Cornell has a new book out, and I wish there were more of them.

Rosebud is a perfect story, in outward form an account of contact between the crew of a far-travelling spaceship and... well, that would be giving things away but maybe I can say that there are resonances with a certain well-known SF encounter with a black monolith? (And also passing references in the text to Rendezvous with Rama?)

But that's not really the point. 

The point is, I think, the variegated characters in the crew. They comprise, at the time the story takes place,  'by force of law, a balloon, a goth with a swagger stick, some sort of science aristocrat possibly, a ball of hands, and a swarm of insects.. The key here is the reference to law. This is, in effect, a convict ship, the possession of the benighted Company, for whom our heroes - instantiated digitally in a tiny (millimetres in size) ship - endlessly toil, retrieving resources for the dying planet Earth.

The stories of how the five assumed these forms slowly emerge, and of course those bizarre forms end up making perfect sense given the "crimes" for which they're serving time (some ugly flashbacks illustrate what Earth has become and why the Company may not be a fitting sponsor for humanity in the encounter that may be taking place).

It's a clever, thought provoking story that combines a deliberately jarring sensibility with a deep emotional richness both in the backgrounds of the five and in their unlikely friendship (larded though it is with bickering and HR-unfriendly insults). That's a lot to pack in to a bare 100 pages, but Cornell gives the reader more here than many authors do in full-length novels. I was torn between wanting more - why couldn't this be a LONGER book? - and knowing that it's perfect as it is.

Strongly recommended.

For more information about Rosebud, see the publisher's website here.