Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC @lfwrites Reviews #Tudor #HistFic NEST OF ASHES by @TudorTweep #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s review challenge post comes from Lynne, she blogs here https://just4mybooks.wordpress.com/

Lynne has been reading Nest Of Ashes by G. Lawrence

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I’ve always loved historical fiction and have two favourite periods that never fail to catch my attention. The first is WWII and the other is The Tudors. As author Gemma Lawrence states, there is so little told about Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII. It’s a huge understatement to say I was intrigued as to how she would portray a story based on someone about whom so little actual “history” is known. Indeed, following Anne Boleyn as Henry’s queen must surely have been a daunting time for Jane, after all was not Anne the original viper in the nest that led to the break with Rome and to Henry’s marriage with the dignified and most-popular Katherine of Aragon.

Nest of Ashes is the first in a trilogy of Jane Seymour’s life, and it is probably in book one where the author has the most scope to create Jane’s story. The author’s has imagined situations from Jane’s early years that are in keeping with the world she inhabits, its traditions and customs. So believable is her creation that you could be forgiven for thinking it is not historic fact, and so engaging is the story that you are instantly drawn into its fictional realm. The very best of both worlds.

When we meet Jane, she is the only daughter (so far) born to the Seymour couple. Her plain appearance marks her out as a disappointment to her mother who had longed for a daughter to grace the King’s Court as she had once done herself. As such, Jane becomes almost invisible to them, particularly when her brother Thomas is around. For Thomas can do no wrong, and despite Jane’s objections to the contrary, it is always she who is on the receiving end of any punishment. Knowing what we do about Jane’s future, it felt as though Karma was watching over her: the invisible daughter who would be queen.

Jane’s world is shaken for the first time when her beloved brother Edward takes a wife, Catherine. This beautiful and vivacious young woman is everything Jane’s mother had hoped for in a daughter, and the Seymour household is soon captivated by her charms. For Jane, that charm quickly wears off when she realises Catherine is not the sweet young woman she professes to be, but rather is intent on seducing Jane’s (and her husband, Edward’s) father. From here on, all doubt as to Catherine’s true nature is cast aside, and Jane sees her only as making a cuckold of her brother. Being invisible to everyone else in the household, Jane has no-one to tell, let alone anyone who might believe her. Confronting Catherine only makes things worse for her.

Jane can only hope her brother will find a place for her at Court, away from her family and the lies she has to ignore daily. When Edward does come through for her, and Jane is called serve Mary, the King’s sister, only then does her mother recognise how much she relied on Jane.

Jane arrives at Court, quiet and reserved and not at all confident of her position. It is her shy nature that catches the eye of Queen Katherine, who takes a liking to the young woman and appoints Jane to her own staff.

Jane’s mother is torn between fury and pride; Jane has usurped her own position at Court and without all the fuss and fancy. She begs Jane to meet with her cousin, Anne Boleyn, which she reluctantly agrees to; they are never going to be close but who would have thought they would be rivals for the King’s affections?

Jane’s future at Court is about to change her life and the history books. Forever.

As Nest of Ashes came to an end, my appetite for the next book only increased. In today’s society we are used to binge-watching complete series, so biding my time until the next instalment will be a challenge. Suffice it to say, I’m ready when you are, Gemma Lawrence! (No pressure LOL)

Book description

October 1537

At a time of most supreme triumph, the moment of her greatest glory, security and power, a Queen of England lies dying.

Through dreams of fever and fantasy, Jane Seymour, third and most beloved wife of King Henry VIII remembers her childhood, the path forged to the Tudor Court; a path forged in flame and ashes. Through the fug of memory, Jane sees herself, a quiet, overlooked girl, who to others seemed pale of face and character, who discovered a terrible secret that one day would rain destruction upon her family.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC Aidan Reviews Nautical #Thriller JONAH by @CarlRackman

Today Rosie’s Review-A-Book challenger review is from Aidan, he blogs here https://ricketttsblog.wordpress.com/

Aidan has been reading Jonah by Carl Rackman

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I don’t typically enjoy war stories, specifically those set during World War 2. However, Jonah being set at sea made it stand apart from other books I’ve read from the same time period. Being on a ship inherently creates tension, since there is no escape, and Carl Rackman leans heavily into this. Moreover, this novel has very little combat (other than a battle scene at the very beginning), and is more a look at naval life, with a supernatural undertone.

The book focuses on the life of Mitch Kirkham aboard the US Navy destroyer Brownlee. After surviving a horrific battle, the novel explores Mitch’s naval experiences, and through his interactions, other experiences of different characters. It deals with PTSD and bullying, before switching direction with the introduction of ‘The Brownlee Beast’.

I thought that the character of Mitch was excellent, as Rackman made him feel relatable by having him grapple with moral quandaries. He means well, but doesn’t always make the best choices – similar to most real people. Furthermore, it is very easy to feel sympathy for him, as he often gets into bad situations through no fault of his own.

Many of the supporting characters were also good, with my favourite being Doc. While not actually a doctor, he had rudimental medical training as the pharmacologist onboard. I felt drawn to his strong moral compass and his relentless work ethic. While many of the other characters were strong, I would have liked more development of the captain since he appears in quite a few scenes without us really understanding his motivations.

The author’s deep naval knowledge was obvious, but technical vocabulary never impeded my reading. He created a glossary at the end of the book, but I never felt the need to use this, since he did such a good job of making the meaning of new words obvious by the surrounding paragraph. It felt very well blended.

I don’t want to talk about the themes for too long, as I can’t mention some of the most interesting ones in case I spoil anything. However, I found the examination of chain of command very interesting, as well as the somewhat toxic culture that was found aboard the ship. That being said, the main aim of this book seems to me to be to entertain, which it does very well.

The mysterious element of the book is handled very well, and it kept me guessing until the final reveal. The action is also paced very well, with the tension staying with me long after I’d put the book down for the night.

However, I found the ending to be unsatisfying. The pacing was again good, and it felt like a proper climax, but the resolution just felt too perfect. There were also flashbacks interspersed throughout the book that, while I didn’t dislike them, and thought they were very well written, didn’t seem to add anything to the plot as a whole.

Overall, this book was a 5.5 out of 7 for me. It was easy to get into and this ease of reading continued throughout. The few small things I wasn’t a personal fan of are easily outweighed by the well-crafted plot and relatable characters. I would recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers, especially historical ones, as well as fans of psychological horror (since it shares some similar elements, while not strictly falling into that genre).

Book description

The North Atlantic, 1940. A British destroyer pounces on a seemingly abandoned U-boat, leading to a spine-chilling encounter.

Five years later, the US Navy destroyer Brownlee grimly prepares to battle a swarm of Japanese kamikazes at Okinawa.

Mitch “Lucky” Kirkham, a young gunner on the Brownlee, wakes up miraculously unscathed after his crewmates are killed in a fearsome kamikaze strike.

Bullied and resented amid accusations of cowardice and worse, Mitch re-boards his patched-up ship for the long voyage back to San Francisco. All he wants is to go home.

But far out in the boundless emptiness of the Pacific, a strange madness begins to seize the sailors on the Brownlee. Terror, hysteria and suicide torment the men amid sightings of ghosts and a terrifying monster that stalks the ship by night.

Mitch stumbles upon a possible explanation for the madness. But as the ship presses on alone, deeper into the vast Pacific Ocean and the grip of insanity, will anyone listen to him before his famous luck runs out for good?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #YoungAdult #Fantasy HISS (The Unmagic Trilogy #1) by Amaya Ash

Hiss (The Unmagic Trilogy, #1)Hiss by Amaya Ash

3 stars

Hiss is a young adult fantasy story and book one of The Unmagic trilogy. In Arilloa the royal family have magical abilities, which they use to gain respect from the non-magical people. The youngest royal child, Isidor, nicknamed Hiss, has exceptional powers and can create colourful monsters, but few people love or understand him, including most of his family. His teenage sister Leonie is the only one who has the patience to be his friend and companion. But it is not enough and Hiss runs away. He can’t be found, but his monsters start attacking the kingdom and rumours begin of a rebellion.

As the war rages on, it becomes obvious that Hiss, although just a young child, is behind the attacks. Believing that he has been captured and is being forced to send his monsters, Leonie offers to go and rescue him from the enemy. She takes with her just one palace guard, a knifecloak called Armand, and together they set off on a quest to save the kingdom.

I liked the idea of Hiss and his magical monsters they were very colourful and easy to imagine. There is a romance which crosses back and forth between younger teenage and older young adult levels of intimacy which, for me, was a weaker area to this story and might have worked better with lots more tension and promise of more in the next book in the series.

Leonie was a teenager who struggled with maturity and insecurity. She was often a brave adventurer, but her actions in the romantic theme let her down. I thought that there was more room for stronger character development especially after her return to the palace.

Overall I like the magical creatures and their connection to Hiss, but the romantic sub-theme didn’t quite work for me.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

“The true power of magic is not to send random objects careening off across the room. The true power of magic is to make ordinary people bow.”

In Arilloa, the royal family uses their magic to win the respect of the ordinary populace. But Leonie, a princess and second in line to the throne, has a terrible secret: she’s barely magic at all. The only person to ever find out her secret is Armand, a boy training to become a Knifecloak, one of the elite castle guards.

Leonie’s younger brother Hiss, on the other hand, is a child prodigy with greater powers than anyone else in the family, capable of creating monsters out of thin air. One day Hiss goes missing and resurfaces at the head of a rebellion, using his powers to strike against the country and the crown. Monsters against soldiers, magic against normality. Leonie and Armand must find Hiss and stop him while the monster-driven war rages around them.

A Young Adult (YA) / New Adult (NA) novel with elements of both fantasy and romance.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC Frank Reviews THE MEMORY by @judithbarrow77

Today’s review comes from Frank. You can find out more about Frank here https://franklparker.com/about/

Frank has been reading The Memory by Judith Barrow

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When I selected this book for review Rosie pointed out that it was a book that leans “heavily towards women’s fiction”. Now that I have read the book I understand what she means by that. I still think that it is a mistake to categorise readers in this way. I understand the importance of categorising books by genre. That helps potential readers decide whether a book is one they would enjoy. But most readers surely read across genres: they might choose romantic fiction one week, a mystery the next week and a thriller a week later. When you describe a book as “women’s fiction” you are not so much categorising the book as the reader.

To the extent that this book is about a woman’s life it will certainly appeal to women. In my opinion that does not rule out the possibility that it can be enjoyed by a man. What it definitely is not is a feminist account of how women’s opportunities are limited by the demands of men. On the contrary, it is the refusal of other women to shoulder their responsibilities, instead pursuing their own selfish interests, that determine the course of the central character’s life. The principle male characters are portrayed as fundamentally decent men whose support is invaluable to her.

As the book opens we see Irene struggling to care for her mother who has dementia. We are then taken back to the day, 40 years before, when Irene’s sister Rose was born. Rose has Down’s Syndrome and is rejected by their mother, leaving Irene to take on the caring role. As Irene’s life progresses, she moves from caring for Rose to caring for her grandmother, her father-in-law and, finally, her mother.

The book is structured with each chapter opening with a description of what is happening over a period of two days in 2002 as an increasingly tired and frustrated Irene performs various caring functions for her mother before returning to the chronological narrative of Irene’s progress from childhood, through adolescence, to an interrupted career as a teacher and marriage.

Along the way there are descriptions of working class life in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s that those of a certain age will recognise. If you remember Berni Inns and Babycham, or prawn cocktails and fondu sets, there are scenes which will make you smile to remember how we once thought such things were glamorous.

Teachers, too, will find interest in the debates about curriculum and teaching methods that surfaced at the time and are with us still today, especially where they relate to the treatment of children with “special needs”.

There were times when I found the structure irritating, particularly when Irene’s life story reached a day that has enormous significance for her. Not only are the details of the day dragged out across several chapters, but by repeatedly returning to 2002, the shock we know is coming – we can even make a good guess as to the nature of the shock – is delayed a little too long in my opinion.

Is it fair to call it “Women’s Fiction”? It is written by a woman and the central character is a woman. But it is a book that takes a critical look at the lives of women in the second half of the twentieth century. It was a time when women were told they could have it all: a career and motherhood. Like many, Irene, though she craves both, has neither. Sadly, that was, and remains, the brutal reality for many women. Should men read it? Definitely: they need to be reminded of these truths.

4 stars.

Book description

Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.

I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.

Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother’s side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.

Rose was Irene’s little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Coming-Of-Age THE BOY AND THE LAKE by Adam Pelzman

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Boy And The Lake by Adam Pelzman

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For those of you who are in a hurry and prefer not to get too much background information about a book before reading it, I’ll tell you that this is a fantastic novel, one that brought me pleasant memories of the many great novels I read as part of my degree in American (USA) Literature, especially those written in the second half of the 20th century. I had never read any novels by Adam Pelzman before, but after reading this one I’m eager to catch up.

The description of the book included above provides enough details about the plot, and I won’t elaborate too much on it. There is a mystery (or at least that’s what Ben, the young protagonist believes) at the centre of the story, and when he insists on trying to find out the truth, despite his suspicions being dismissed initially by everybody, he sets into action a chain of events that ends up unravelling what at first sight seemed to be an idyllic upper-middle-class Jewish community. Despite efforts to maintain an outward appearance of order and harmony, there are signs of problems bubbling under the surface from early on. Not only the body of the woman Ben finds, but also the relationships in his family (his mother’s mood changes; his younger sister’s death prior to the novel’s action; his uncle’s desperate comedic efforts; his grandfather’s possibly not-so-clean business ethics) and there are also issues with others in the community (the father of his friend, Missy, and his difficulty keeping any jobs; the husband of the dead woman’s eagerness to replace her and his strange behaviour…), coupled with a general agitation and unhappiness with the global situation (the race riots in Newark are important to the plot of the story, and there are mentions of the many traumatic events the USA had experienced in the 1960s, from the deaths of JFK and RFK to the ongoing Vietnam War). If the novel can be seen as a coming of age story, with its customary theme of loss of innocence, it also represents the loss of innocence at a more global level, and there is plenty of symbolism in the novel to highlight that, including two toxic leaks onto the lake, with its accompanying death and destruction. Although the novel has a mystery at its heart, and people reading the beginning might think this will be a mystery novel or a thriller of sorts, I would describe it as a coming of age story cum literary fiction, and it reminded me of Phillip Roth’s novella Goodbye Columbus (the story refers to it, although not by name). It also made me think of Brick, a 2005 film, not so much for its aesthetics and style (although most of the characters in the movie are high school students there is a definite noir/hard-boiled detective story feel to it) but for the way a seemingly implausible investigation ends up unearthing more than anybody bargained for.

Although Ben and his friend Missy are the main characters, there are quite a few others that play important parts, especially Ben’s parents (Abe and Lillian), his sister, Bernice and Helen, the dead woman, both present only through memories and recollections (more or less), his grandparents, the neighbours…  Also, the lake and its community (more of a character in its own right than a setting), New York, and Newark. Ben tells the story in the first person, and he is a somewhat reluctant hero, always worried about what others might think, always analysing what he has done and feeling guilty for his misdeeds (real or imagined), articulate but anxious and lacking in self-confidence. It is evident from the narration that his older self is telling the story of that year, one that came to signify a big change in his life and in that of others around him as well. He is not a rebel wanting to challenge the status (not exactly a Holden Caulfield), but rather somebody who would like to fit in and to believe that everything is as good as it seems to be. However, a nagging worry keeps him probing at the seemingly perfect surface. I liked Ben, although at times he was a bit of a Hamlet-like character, unable to make a decision, wavering between his own intuition and what other people tell him, taking one step forward and two steps back. I loved Missy, his friend, who is determined, no-nonsense, loves reading, knows what she wants and works ceaselessly to get it. Ben’s father is a lovely character (or at least that’s how his son sees him), although perhaps his attitude towards his wife is not always helpful. Ben’s mother is one of those difficult women we are used to seeing in novels, series, and films, who appear perfect to outsiders but can turn the life of their closest family into a nightmare. She is a fascinating character, but I’ll let you read the book and make your own mind up about her.

The story is not fast-paced. The language includes beautiful descriptions, and the prose flows well, following the rhythm of the seasons, with moments of calm and contemplation and others of chaos and confusion. It recreates perfectly the nostalgia of the lost summers of our youth, and it is also very apt at showing the moment an insightful youth starts to question the behaviours of the adults around him, their motivations, and their inconsistencies. I know some readers are not fond of first-person narration, but I thought it worked well here, because it provides us with a particular perspective and point of view, one that is at once participant and outside observer (Ben’s family used to spend their summers at the lake but decide to move there permanently due to the riots).

I found the ending appropriate and satisfying, given the circumstances. The mystery is solved sometime before the actual ending of the novel, but the full dénouement doesn’t come until the end, and although not surprising at that point, it is both symbolic and fitting.

As I’ve said before, this is a great book. I’ve read many excellent stories this year, but this one is among the best of them. It is not an easy-to-classify novel, although it fits into a variety of genres, and it is not for people looking for a standard mystery read, where one can easily follow the clues and reach a conclusion. It is not a fast page-turner, and there is plenty of time spent inside the head of our young protagonist rather than moving from action scene to action scene. If you enjoy beautiful writing, psychologically complex characters, and a story full of nostalgia and a somewhat timeless feel, I recommend it. There is a background of violence and some very troubling events that take place during the narration, but these are never explicitly shown or described, and although there are plenty of disturbing moments (suicide, the death of a child, episodes of drunkenness…), in most cases we only witness the consequences of those. Readers who love literary fiction and coming of age stories and especially those interested in US Literature from the later part of the 20th century should try a sample and see how it makes them feel. I strongly recommend it.

Book description

Set against the backdrop of the Newark riots in 1967, a teenage Benjamin Baum leaves the city to spend the summer at an idyllic lake in northern New Jersey. While fishing from his grandparents’ dock, the dead body of a beloved neighbor floats to the water’s surface—a loss that shakes this Jewish community and reveals cracks in what appeared to be a perfect middle-class existence. Haunted by the sight of the woman’s corpse, Ben stubbornly searches for clues to her death, infuriating friends and family who view his unwelcome investigation as a threat to the comfortable lives they’ve built. As Ben’s suspicions mount, he’s forced to confront the terrifying possibility that his close-knit community is not what it seems to be—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darker forces may be at work.

In The Boy and the Lake, Adam Pelzman has crafted a riveting coming-of-age story and a mystery rich in historical detail, exploring an insular world where the desperate quest for the American dream threatens to destroy both a family and a way of life.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview of Early 13th Century Murder #Mystery The Goldsmith’s Apprentice (The Pitt Family Saga Book 3) by Stephen J. Phillips

The Goldsmith's Apprentice (The Pitt Family Saga Book 3)The Goldsmith’s Apprentice by Stephen J. Phillips

4 stars

The Goldsmith’s Apprentice is the third book in the Pitt Family Saga series.

Set in early 13th century England this book is about the murder of a Goldsmith, one to whom Nick Pitt was apprenticed. Although innocent, Nick is accused of the murder, and a speedy trial finds him guilty.

Nick’s adopted family and his Knights Templar friends set out to prove his innocence and gain the king’s pardon, but there is little evidence in Nick’s favour, and time to save him is running out.

This book was my favourite in the series. The author has worked hard to improve his writing and it shows as the series progresses. The story was entertaining and I was just as eager to solve the mystery and capture the real murderer as were the characters. The Knights Templar have always fascinated me, and once again I appreciated the additional snippets of information about them.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

Being hanged, in early 13th Century London, was a slow and painful process of strangulation. But for a shy fourteen-year-old with little grasp on the ways of the world, it was terrifying. Especially when he was innocent of the murder of which he was accused. Indeed, apprentice goldsmith Nick Pitt hardly understood what had happened to his master, or why he was accused of his callous slaying.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC #RomCom I Love Your Cupcakes by @OlgaNM7

Today’s challenge reviewer is Tovia Inokoba, Tovia blogs here https://chroniclesofawallflower.art.blog/

Tovia has been reading I Love Your Cupcakes by Olga N. Miret.

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Where there are cakes, there’s sure to be romance. I love your cupcakes is a work of fiction that envelops you in the sugary webs of both sensational romance and astounding baking. It’s a book centered on three like-minded creatives; Dulcina or Dulce who is every bit as sweet as her name implies is a lover of books and the goddess of flavors, Adelfa whose chemistry skills have not only brought her fame amongst intellectuals but has also made her a mastermind at calculating measurements and what not in the kitchen and last but not the least; Storm whose creativity and computer genius always has everyone in awe and his looks goes without saying as I would have swooned myself if he didn’t play for the other team. These three creatives teamed up to create what they would later come to know as Literally Literary Cupcakes and Cakes shop. Not only was Storm a creative genius and a computer wizard, he was also a spontaneous force to be reckoned with as it was him who got them into the ‘’Do you have what it takes to be the next baking star?’’ contest where they may or may not have found love.

This author uses flashbacks which such ease and synergy that it’s commendable. She’s able to tell the story with a seamless description and a diction that makes it easy to comprehend. If you’re a fan of romance as well as sugary treats then this sweet romance is definitely for you.

Will Dulce, Adelfa and Storm rise up to the task and prove that they have what it takes to be the next baking star or will dirty Harry be the end of them?

Book description

If you are nuts about TV cookery programs and think chocolate is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, keep reading…
I Love Your Cupcakes is a “sweet” romance, a virtual fantasy high in calories and a fun adventure. Dare to give it a bite!
Dulce, Adelfa and Storm, the protagonists of I Love Your Cupcakes are business partners, friends and share some “interesting” family connections.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s ARC #Bookreview Of Edinburgh #Thriller THE SHADOW MAN by @Helen_Fields @AvonBooksUK #TuesdayBookBlog

The Shadow ManThe Shadow Man by Helen Fields

4.5 stars

The Shadow Man is a thriller set in Edinburgh. We are introduced to Dr Connie Woodwine, an American forensic psychologist and crime profiler. She’s been asked to work with DI Brodie Baarda on a kidnapping case. Connie is also interested in a recent murder case, and she adds her own unusual investigation methods into the mix.

When more kidnappings occur, the pressure to solve the case shifts gears; Connie offers a theory which seems bizarre, and which she just has to prove before time runs out for the victims.

I liked Connie, with her flaws and her brazen personality; she acted unexpectedly and it worked well with the story. The narrative goes back and forth between the police investigation and the kidnapped characters.  Some of these parts were particularly brutal, but no more so than what has come to be expected in this genre of fiction. The story moves at a good pace, and the build up to the ending had a twist which I hadn’t seen coming.

This is the second book I’ve read by this author, and I am still able to say that I can happily recommend her to readers of police crime fiction, or those who like books set in Edinburgh and who don’t mind a bit of  gruesome content.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

He collects his victims. But he doesn’t keep them safe.

Elspeth, Meggy and Xavier are locked in a flat. They don’t know where they are, and they don’t know why they’re there. They only know that the shadow man has taken them, and he won’t let them go.

Desperate to escape, the three of them must find a way out of their living hell, even if it means uncovering a very dark truth.

Because the shadow man isn’t a nightmare. He’s all too real.

And he’s watching.

Due out 4th February 2021 AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC #RomanticSuspense A Critical Tangent by @reily_garrett

Today’s challenge reviewer is Alex Craigie

Alex has been reading A Critical Tangent by Reily Garrett

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Keiki Tallerman, a student in her final year, has a talent for designing drones. In the opening scene she is flying one of her latest prototypes from her student room and communicating through its microphone and camera with her friend Shelly in a field by a wooded area. As Keiki puts the drone through its paces she witnesses Shelly’s brutal murder and becomes a target for the killer.  Past experiences have instilled a distrust in the police which undermines the growing attraction between her and Nolan, the detective whose protective instincts towards her are sometimes at odds with the evidence stacking up against her.

There are so many characters in the beginning that I did find it hard at first to keep track of them. As this is the first in the series, it shouldn’t be a problem in successive books for readers already familiar with them.  The first scene packs quite a punch and sets the tone for the rest of the novel and kept me turning the pages to find out what happened next.

The personalities are well drawn and the spark between Nolan and Keiki fairly zings off the page. The author uses the device of letting different characters narrate the chapters so that you see the situation from a variety of viewpoints and perspectives. Keiki is feisty but vulnerable, Nolan is strong and caring, and the killer is sadistic and terrifying.

The dialogue and interactions between the characters keep the plot moving on but occasionally the language used would pull me out of the scene. “Rare was the occasion she incurred awkward emotions around men” is one example where the vocabulary seemed clunky and unconvincing. This may simply be down to differences between the American and British market and, having said that, these were rare blips in an otherwise fast-paced and genuinely thrilling narrative.

I particularly like the insight I was given into drone technology and police procedure and I’m sure this is the beginning of a gripping series. A third of the way in, I’d have given this book a 3* rating but once the characters kicked in and I became caught up in the plot I rounded it up to a 4.

Book description

She doesn’t trust cops…
He’s an iron-willed detective who doesn’t know whether to cuff her or kiss her.

Keiki Tallerman is a strong-willed tech prodigy whose life is shattered when her drone captures video of her best friend’s bizarre murder.

Experience has taught her good reason to not trust any police officers, especially when the hard-boiled detectives come knocking on her door. Their suspicions narrow when the second of her trio of friends disappears without a trace from their small urban community.

Conflicting evidence at a disturbing crime scene leaves gossamer threads weaving a complicated web of lies and deceit. Every clue Detective Garnett finds steers the investigation to a deep, dark network entangling the young coed in a labyrinth of cunning subterfuge.

Unable to piece the evidence together, Garnett is torn between following the letter of the law and protecting the amateur sleuth determined to clear her name. Add a large dose of mutual attraction and sparks fly.

Can he earn Keiki’s trust in time to save her life, or will the psychotic killer destroy the woman who is crushing his emotional defenses?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #Historical #Mystery Set In 16th Century Poland, MIDNIGHT FIRE by @pk_adams

Midnight Fire (A Jagiellon Mystery #2)Midnight Fire by P.K. Adams

4 stars

Midnight Fire is book two of the Jagiellon mystery series set in Poland during the 1500s. You can read my review of book one here (link).

Set twenty-five years after Book One, Caterina returns to Poland after a married life in Italy. She comes seeking medical assistance for her ailing son, and hopes that one of the queen’s physicians may be able to help.

Queen Bona is pleased to be reunited with Caterina, but her best doctors are with her own son in Lithuania. This is because the queen and her son are currently estranged over his relationships with his mistress. However, the queen is happy for Caterina to visit the royal doctors but she does ask Caterina to act as her envoy in imploring her son, the Duke, to see sense over his desire to marry his mistress. It is a delicate matter, but Caterina agrees for the sake of her own son’s health.

While in Vilnius, an attempt to poison Barbara Radziwiłł, the duke’s mistress, fails, but a servant girl dies instead. Caterina’s reputation for solving mysteries is well-known, and the duke asks her to find the culprit to prevent a second attempt. Once more, Caterina finds herself embroiled in solving a murder case for the Polish royal household.

I enjoyed this story more than I thought that I would; compared with book one in the series, this one had less characters, which helped. Another factor may have been that I was already familiar with many of the names. The mystery was easy to follow with more emphasis on the historical elements than a complex case with twists, so this would probably suit historical fiction lovers more than avid crime fiction readers.

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Book description

In the summer of 1545, Caterina Konarska undertakes the long journey from Bari to Kraków in search of a cure for her ailing son Giulio. In Poland, she finds a court far different from the lively, cultured place she remembers from twenty-five years ago. The old king lies on his deathbed, and the once-charming Queen Bona has aged into a bitter, lonely woman—isolated from power and estranged from the heir, Zygmunt August.

Haunted by memories of a crime she solved long ago, Caterina approaches the queen with caution. Bona promises medical assistance for Giulio, but at a price: Caterina must travel with her son to Vilnius where, in exchange for a medical consultation with a royal physician, she will attempt to dissuade Zygmunt August from marrying his scandal-ridden mistress, Barbara Radziwiłł.

Caterina agrees, but she soon learns that Zygmunt August listens to no one, especially when it comes to his love life. And when a puzzling murder shakes the Vilnius court, the duke immediately suspects his mother’s agents. Caterina is thrust into yet another investigation, but as bodies and clues pile up, she realizes that in trying to clear the queen’s name, she has placed her and Giulio’s lives in grave danger.

The second Jagiellon Mystery, Midnight Fire explores the nature of duty and sacrifice and the unpredictable ways in which personal and political events can trigger buried traumas, with explosive and deadly consequences.

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