Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #RegencyRomance The Viscount’s Unconventional Lady by @VirginiaHeath_

The Viscount's Unconventional LadyThe Viscount’s Unconventional Lady by Virginia Heath

5 stars

The Viscount’s Unconventional Lady is book one of The Talk of the Beau Monde series of Regency romances.

Faith Brookes is a painter and the daughter of famous portrait artist Augustus Brookes. Faith will start the background for her father’s latest commission, a family portrait for the Earl of Writtle. Recently the Earl’s son, Piers, has been the victim of society gossip and shunned by many after a scandalous divorce. Faith already has a preconceived opinion of him, and she allows her anger about his apparent treatment of his wife to show when they meet.

However, the newspapers have only reported one side of the story and while Faith works on the canvas for her father, she begins to learn more about Piers and finds that he isn’t all that the rumour-mongers make him out to be.

Piers is fascinated by Faith; the woman creates her own dress style and has an unusual sense of wit. But he doesn’t want his heart broken again so soon after the breakdown of his marriage, while Faith has her own reasons to be cautious about forming anything more than friendship with a Lord.

I enjoyed losing myself in this story for a few hours of pure escapism; I was quite happy to be drawn into the Regency era and to forget the real world for a while. Virginia Heath always writes characters that I want to befriend, and this is another winner for me from this author. I shall look forward to reading the rest of the series.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

The notorious viscount

And the most gossiped-about lady…

After years as a diplomat in the Napoleonic Wars, Lord Eastwood is reluctant to return to London society. His scandalous divorce has made him infamous, not to mention cantankerous! To halt the rumor mill, he should marry a quiet noblewoman—instead it’s bold, vibrant artist Faith Brookes who’s caught his attention. They are the least suitable match, so why is he like a moth to a flame?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #WW2 #Histfic WHILE PARIS SLEPT by Ruth Druart

While Paris SleptWhile Paris Slept by Ruth Druart

3 stars

While Paris Slept is World War Two historical fiction, and is the story of two Parisian couples.  David and Sarah were loaded onto one of the last trains to Auschwitz; in desperation Sarah gave her newly born baby to a railway worker before she was forced onto the train.

Jean-Luc repaired the Paris railway lines used to transport Jews to the work camp; he hated working for the Germans and wanted to do something to stop them. When a French women desperately forced her baby into his arms before she was herded onto one of the trains, he vowed to look after it. On that day he shot a guard. Fearing the Germans, he left Paris with his girlfriend Charlotte; they went south, escaping to Spain and then America with baby Samuel.

Years later David and Sarah searched for Samuel; they wanted him back, but taking a nine-year-old away from all that he knew was handled badly and didn’t work out the way that they hoped.

The story moves back and forth between several characters in two timelines: 1944 and 1953. The ending tugged on my emotional strings, but I’m afraid that it was the only part of the book which I empathised with.

I’m a fan of books set in this era, but this book didn’t work for me; too many convenient events and situations made this feel like I was hearing about someone else’s story, rather than believing the one being played by these characters. Where was the grit, tension and real fear of arrest from the Germans? Where were the emotions and despair which surrounded the horrors of Auschwitz?

This is a long book, told from multiple points of view; I found myself frustrated by parts which added very little to the story, while other areas glossed over important facts. For instance, the escape through France and across The Pyrenees would have been fraught with terror and hardships, while I doubt very much that you could have walked into the house of a resistance member with ease. Once they got to Spain, it would have been extremely dangerous in the foothills, yet our heroes were welcomed into the first farmhouse that they came to.  

A good story potentially exists within the covers of this book; I just wanted it to have deeper character development and a bit more work on making the plot plausible for my liking. I’m sure that there will be readers who will find this story lovely, but I found it disappointing.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

A family’s love is tested when heroes-turned-criminals are forced to make the hardest decisions of their lives in this unforgettably moving story of love, resistance, and the lasting consequences of the Second World War.

After. Santa Cruz, California, 1953. Jean-Luc and Charlotte Beauchamps have left their war-torn memories of Paris behind to live a quiet life in America with their son, Sam. They have a house in the suburbs, they’ve learned to speak English, and they have regular get-togethers with their outgoing American neighbors. Every minute in California erases a minute of their lives before — before the Germans invaded their French homeland and incited years of violence, hunger, and fear. But their taste of the American Dream shatters when officers from the U.N. Commission on War Crimes pull-up outside their home and bring Jean-Luc in for questioning.

Before. Paris, France, 1944. Germany has occupied France for four years. Jean-Luc works at the railway station at Bobigny, where thousands of Jews travel each day to be “resettled” in Germany. But Jean-Luc and other railway employees can’t ignore the rumors or what they see on the tracks: too many people are packed into the cars, and bodies are sometimes left to be disposed of after a train departs. Jean-Luc’s unease turns into full-blown panic when a young woman with bright green eyes bursts from the train one day alongside hundreds of screaming, terrified passengers, and pushes a warm, squirming bundle into his arms.

Told from alternating perspectives, While Paris Slept reflects on the power of love, loss, and the choices a mother will make to ensure the survival of her child. At once a visceral portrait of family ties and a meditation on nurture’s influence over identity, this heartbreaking debut will irreversibly take hold of your heart.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Biographical #historicalfiction The Other Mrs. Samson by Ralph Webster

Today’s team review is from Judith. She blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Judith has been reading The Other Mrs Samson by Ralph Webster

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I chose The Other Mrs Samson because it covered both historical and memoir genres. It’s a story that stretches through decades and settings; from the middle of the nineteenth century to the time of the First World War, the mid twentieth century and World War Two to the present era, and from the United States, to Germany and France.

The book’s appeal to me was the description of the intriguing, yet so different, life and love stories of two women for one man with so many settings across a great spread of years. I was keen to start reading the book.

But I struggled with it. And I have struggled to review it as well.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the author has carried out extensive research to provide a background to the story: the Jewish community in San Francisco at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century, conditions in WW1, the growth of Nazism and the dreadful effect on the Jewish people.There is much detail about the politics of the time and the impact on the economics of the societies, the suffering caused through the conditions during the great wars.

And we follow the stories of the two women, Hilda and Katie Samson, who, in different decades, both meet and then marry the same man, Dr. Josef Samson. These are recounted through papers that were found by the narrator in a secret compartment in a black lacquer cabinet; the memoirs of Katie, a friend of the narrator.

The novel relates the difference between the two women, their lives and their emotions; their reactions to events. And this is where I had the problem. Let me say that I enjoyed the start of the book; the finding of the papers and, to a much greater extent; Hilda’s story, which was fascinating. But the enjoyment palled slightly when I came to the story of Katie. Where I felt the narrator’s words brought of the character of the first Mrs Samson alive on the page, for me it wasn’t the same with the second. Initially, I was engrossed in Katie’s tragic early life, set against the so-called decadence of the twenties, the economic downfall in America, the insidious evil of the Nazi party in Germany. As I said earlier, the reader learns so much of the conditions throughout the world, but I also felt the all characters became less rounded, almost an after thought, in the telling of their stories. And, I’m afraid, the author lost me; I skipped through many pages ( then went back to read, because I didn’t think I’d given it a fair shot). It’s not something I normally do, and certainly not something I’m proud of, but it felt almost like an historical explanation of what was the world rather that following the characters.

I think my problem with The Second Mrs Samson is that I like character driven stories. And I felt that Ralph Webster missed a chance to develop both the main and some minor characters in his quest to write such a brilliantly detailed historical setting.

But, after all, reviews are always subjective and I would recommend The Second Mrs Samson to readers who enjoy historical novels.

3.5 stars

Book description

Surviving two wars, sharing one husband, searching for answers.

A secret compartment in a black lacquer cabinet left in an attic reveals the secrets of two incredible women: Hilda, born and raised in one of the wealthiest Jewish families in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, and Katie, whose early life in Germany is marked by tragedy and death. Their lives are forever entwined by their love of the same man, the brilliant and compassionate Dr. Josef Samson.

From the earliest, rough-and-tumble days of San Francisco, through the devastation of the Great War in Berlin and the terrors of Vichy France, and then to a new yet uncertain life in New York City, their stories span the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. In the end, one of these women will complete the life of the other and make a startling discovery about the husband they share.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Memoir Viking Voyager by @Sverrir_Sigurds

Today’s team review is from Frank. Find out more about Frank here

#RBRT Review Team

Frank has been reading Viking Voyager by Sverrir Sigurdsson

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If you are seeking proof of the old adage that travel broadens the mind, look no further than this informative memoir. Sverrir Sigurdsson is an Icelander. For him and his fellow countrymen travel is in their DNA, from their Viking ancestors who colonised most of Northern Europe and parts of North America long before Columbus.

Sigurdsson begins his story with the history of each of his parents. Like most of their generation of Icelanders in the early ears of the twentieth century, they were self-sufficient, dependent upon farming and/or fishing for their livelihoods. Both are of course subject to the vagaries of climate, especially so for a small country close to the Arctic Circle where winter can last for half of each year. Having thus provided a brief but comprehensive overview of the history and geography of Iceland, he describes the two educational institutions he attended in the 1940s.

Like many of his fellow countrymen he completed his education in a neighbouring country. In this case Finland. Once again we are given an insight into the history of that nation and its relationship with Russia. Sigurdsson studied architecture. He began his career as an architectural draughtsman, designing details of windows, staircases and doors for apartment blocks whilst studying in the Finish capital, Helsinki.

After graduation he received an offer of a job in Kuwait. I won’t spoil the story for readers by continuing with the details of his career and travels. Suffice to say that he secured a number of roles within the World Bank, overseeing the construction and provisioning of schools and colleges in several developing countries. Each gave him the opportunity to explore his surroundings and absorb local history and culture. And it brought him to his ultimate destination, the USA – specifically Washington DC, location of the Bank’s headquarters.

Following retirement he designed and built his own house on the shores of Chesapeake Bay.

The writing style makes this book easy to read. No doubt this is down to his co-author, his second wife, the journalist and novelist Veronica Li (there is a chapter devoted to a frank account of the breakdown of his first marriage). At the end of the book is a handy guide to pronunciation of the Icelandic language.

There is a great deal of difference between travel, as exemplified here, in which the traveller gains new insights and knowledge about the places he or she visits, and tourism. All too often the latter involves returning repeatedly to a familiar place in order to luxuriate in pleasant surroundings. In Sigurdsson’s case, the former is a by-product of a life dedicated to improving the opportunities of others.

 On television Michael Palin, Joanna Lumley, and others share their travels with us. In this book Sigurdsson and Li have done the same. Until we are once again able to travel as freely as we did before the advent of Covid 19,  we have the joy of books like Viking Voyager to entertain and inform us.

Book description

This vivacious personal story captures the heart and soul of modern Iceland. Born in Reykjavik on the eve of the Second World War, Sverrir Sigurdsson watched Allied troops invade his country and turn it into a bulwark against Hitler’s advance toward North America. The country’s post-war transformation from an obscure, dirt-poor nation to a prosperous one became every Icelander’s success. Spurred by this favourable wind, Sverrir answered the call of his Viking forefathers, setting off on a voyage that took him around the world. Join him on his roaring adventures!

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Cosy #Mystery SAINT VANDAL’S DAY by @dehaggerty

Today’s team review is from Alex.

#RBRT Review Team

Alex had been reading Saint Vandal’s Day by D. E. Haggerty

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5 twinkling stars

I received a free copy of this book as part of Rosie Amber’s Review Team. The opinions are honest and my own.

I’ve not read anything by D.E. Haggarty before and didn’t know what to expect. What I didn’t expect was to be so amused and entertained that I read this in one complete chunk and with a big grin on my face.

The story is the seventh in the series and concerns Callie’s Bakery and someone’s attempts to discredit it and spoil Callie’s imminent wedding. To be honest, I worked out quite early on who was behind the threats, vandalism and unpleasantness but that didn’t spoil the story for me at all.  The book is well-written and the dialogue positively sparkles off the page. The relationship between the three women is a delight and I did like the romantic touches between them and their respective partners. The pace never flags and I was kept enthralled throughout.

My only regret is not having come across this series earlier. This is the last in the series and as such it touches on what’s happened in the earlier books. I’d recommend starting with the first book! I may still go back and read the others because this one certainly brightened my day!

And for all those bakers out there – all the delicious cupcake recipes are listed at the end of the book so you can make your own.

Book description

St. Valentine’s Day is THE perfect day for a wedding. Unless a vandal is trying to ruin your life that is.

Callie is finally getting her dream wedding. On St. Valentine’s Day no less. Only a vandal is determined to destroy her bakery before the wedding can occur. Anna, self-proclaimed best cupcake baker this side of the Mississippi, is not letting anything happen to the cupcake bakery. No way. Barista extraordinaire Kristie jumps at the chance to help as well. Together the three women launch a mission to find the jerk who thinks it’s okay to attack the bakery.

Will the gals of Callie’s Cakes find the vandal and save the cupcake bakery before Callie’s dream wedding is ruined?

Cupcakes not included, although recipes for all the delicious cupcakes Anna bakes are. 

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #ContemporaryFiction A RAINBOW LIKE YOU by Andréa Fehsenfeld @acfcreative

Today’s team review is from Olga. She blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading A Rainbow Like You by Andréa Fehsenfeld.

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This is my first experience reading this author’s work, although it is evident that she is no newcomer to the world of writing, even if this is only her second published novel.

This is not a mystery novel, so I’m not sure spoilers, as such, apply, but I still think the official description includes sufficient information to give prospective readers a good sense of what it is about. I’m not a big reader of pop, rock, or music fiction in general (I read Daisy Jones & The Six some time ago and loved it, but the setting and the narrative style are very different), and it is not a world I’m particularly close to. I’m not a big reader of romance either, and yes, there is a romantic story as well (or more than one: Adrian, the protagonist, is trying to recover from a breakup, a pretty devastating one, and during the novel he meets somebody) and one that is pretty close to insta-love (not a favourite of mine either), but despite all that, I enjoyed this novel, perhaps because it is about more than that, although both elements play a big part in the book. For me, the novel falls under what I’ve come to think of as “adult coming-of-age” stories, or perhaps “growing-up” stories, those where characters —who are grown-up when it comes to their chronological age but perhaps don’t act accordingly— usually get confronted by something (a personal tragedy and/or a person they come across) that makes them take a good look at themselves, and they come out of it a different (and usually better) person. In this case, Adrian was driven by music from a very early age, left high school and focused all his efforts on that, becoming the leader of an incredibly successful rock band. He also married young and seemed to have everything, but that is not the whole picture. When we meet him, he is far from happy, and although he is touring with the band, there are many problems brewing, both in his personal and his professional life: with members of the band demanding more of a saying in what happens; divorced from his wife after a pretty traumatic even; he recently and suddenly lost his mother also and hasn’t recovered from that; his relationship with his father seems broken beyond repair; he got into trouble with alcohol during a twelve month period in Mexico (and he doesn’t seem to be over that yet); and he seems to be at a creative standstill, totally unable to write new songs. And then, he finds Hastings, a teenage girl who has run away from her foster parents’ home and is hiding in his bus. And yes, you’ve guessed it, this encounter (and a woman she meets later on) will change his life.

I have talked about Adrian, who is not only the protagonist but also the narrator of the story, which is written in the first-person (so people who dislike first-person narration have been warned). Apart from what I’ve mentioned, he comes with other quirks: he is colour blind (that makes for a great contrast with Hastings, who has synaesthesia, or, to be more precise, chromaesthesia, whereby she perceives colours, in her case when she hears music), has some obsessive personality traits and a fear of contamination (he talks about his OCD, but it’s never clear that he has seen anybody or been given a formal diagnosis, and as a psychiatrist, the description of his behaviours would not warrant it), and can be totally lacking in insight as to his own behaviour and motivations. He drinks too much; he doesn’t listen to anything that he perceives as criticism and gets very defensive when taken to task, and seems unable to let go, forgive, or forget. He is an interesting character, because he is flawed and is forever trying not to be the typical rock star who misbehaves constantly, although he doesn’t always manage, and he is far from consistent. The other members of the band are quite diverse, and are like a family to him, friends and brothers, as most of the people he knows and connects with seem to belong to the same world or be part of his entourage (the security man, his agent, the owners of the music company, the bus driver…). We only get to meet the rest of the people from his perspective, and he is not always a good judge of character. They add to the background of the story, but I wasn’t sure any of them came to life as individuals for me, apart from Hasting (and Sasha-Rae, although less so). Hastings, though, is wonderful, a unique creation, and one of those characters that you read about and you wish were real and you could meet. She is very special, and I won’t say a lot more about her not to ruin the novel, as she hides quite a few things that help make her who she is (and affect the novel’s course as well). There is a pretty nasty reporter as well, but you’ll be happy to hear that she gets her comeuppance (in one of my favourite scenes from the book).

I’m not always convinced by first-person narratives, although I’m not against them per-se, and in this case, I think it works pretty well, because we need to understand the character and see things from his perspective, even if we have nothing in common with him and might never have done the things he does —he has a talent for making the wrong decision—, and although I have talked about his lack of insight, he is not an unreliable narrator. He calls things as he sees them, and we can make our own minds up about them, without tricks. I enjoyed the style of writing, and the use of similes and metaphors work very well to give readers a quick insight into Adrian’s opinion of people and places. The protagonist is not called ‘Jazzer’ for nothing, and his voice comes across quite clearly, with very funny moments, and some very touching ones as well (yes, be prepared for tears).

Here, a few random examples of my highlights:

“Ex was the equivalent of eight elephants when it came to not forgetting.”

“With the door peeled open, she cowered deeper into the closet, like a vampire avoiding the sun… if vampires were black girls … who wore headbands and jeans.”

“The real estate of her features reminded me of Nina Simone: the nose of a boxer, swollen from one too many hits; a generous mouth better suited to a larger face.”

“Sven, our tour manager, arrived with breakfast. Imagine a Swedish version of The Rock, minus any charisma, and that’s our Svennie.”

I’ve referred to the ending before (yes, a bad character gets her comeuppance), and the romance part of the story ends up like a romance should. I’ve also referred to this as a growing-up story, so you probably guess that the character learns a lot about himself. That’s also true. But be warned that the lesson is a hard one. Although it is an inspiring story and feel-good story overall, there are sad moments, and I’ve pre-warned you that there might be tears (or moments pretty close to).

Any warnings? I’ve mentioned use of alcohol, and there are plenty of references to drug use, some violence, sex (there is more talk than anything, and there is nothing too explicit, but yes, there is some, and at least one of the scenes and a minor plot-point I felt didn’t add much to the story, but that’s my personal opinion), also upsetting events referred to, and chronic illness that also features (the author does a good job in her acknowledgements at providing extra information and resources to people who might want to know more about some of the topics). Although I felt the story might be suited to new adult readers as well, they need to be aware of those issues, as should the rest of readers.

In summary, this is not one of my usual genres, but I’d recommend it to people who enjoy reading about the music business (rock bands in particular. The author explains in her acknowledgements her process of research, and she definitely did a good job), who like first-person narratives, who enjoy unique characters, and/or are looking for a story of growing-up, redemption, and a hopeful and feel-good read. There is fun, laughter, tears, and heartache, but there’s a rainbow at the end. (The book includes quite a lot of extra materials, like the covers of the band records, illustrations/pics of the members of the band, and even a link to listen to the song that shares its title with the book. They are all worth a look and a listen).

Book description

An iconic rock star with everything to prove. A teen runaway with nothing left to lose. When their fates intertwine, the most unexpected journey unfolds.

Adrian ‘Jazzer’ Johnson’s gilded rock and roll career is the stuff of legend. From out of the dive bars of Long Beach, this high school dropout rocketed his band to the pinnacle of success. But after a whirlwind decade ended with him broken and questioning, Adrian disappeared.

Now back on tour after a year in exile, Adrian’s still struggling and under pressure to deliver his next hit. The last thing he needs is to find a teen runaway hiding in his tour bus. As it turns out, Hastings Sinclair is a synesthete who can see music in color. But her offer to help color-blind Adrian unpack his creative block upends their lives in ways they never imagined.

Because Adrian’s troubles run deep—beyond what any song can fix—and Hastings hasn’t been upfront about hers. When calamity strikes, a perfect storm of fates unleashes and caught in the crossfire are Adrian’s band mates, a fame-shy beauty he falls hard for, and a scheming journalist with a vendetta. With everything he values suddenly on the line, can Adrian reconcile his own brash history? Or will he be forced to face the music in a way he never has before?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #SpeculativeFiction TOKYO MAYDAY by Maison Urwin

Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Tokyo Mayday by Maison Urwin

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The human race.  Migrating here and there for centuries, back and forth, whilst objecting to the influx of others.  Like migrating birds.  Like herded sheep.’

I love to read other authors’ view of the near future, and Tokyo Mayday is a clever and inventive slant on the subject.  In the 2050s, climate change, political/civil unrest and technological advancement have turned the US and the European states into third world countries, with poverty and lack of jobs.  The world’s greatest superpower is now Japan.  Outside the cities, economic migrants are kept in holding camps, hoping for work, but now many of these migrants are white Europeans and Americans.  

Jordan May and his family are offered the chance to live in Tokyo, which means a good job for Jordan at Matsucorp, the top car manufacturer in the world.  When they arrive there from England, however, they discover that all is far from utopian.  They are to live in a shared house, and both Jordan and his son, Alfie, immediately become aware of the opposing factions in the country – the far right who want to keep Japan for the Japanese, headed by the mysterious Yamada, and the movement for better treatment of migrants, more equal wages and fairer treatment for all, which grows in popularity amongst idealistic young people and the low-paid workers from the West.  As a skilled worker, Jordan sits between the two.

Manipulating all players is the mysterious Stepson Struthwin, advisor to the owner of Matsucorp.

It’s clear that the author is well-versed in Japanese culture; the detail provided by his insight is an added point of interest while reading this highly original and probably plausible look at the future.  His writing style is spare, which I liked very much, and the characterisation works well, throughout.  The picky might complain about a certain amount of ‘telling not showing’, but my view is that if it works well, who cares – and in Tokyo Mayday, it does.  

The book held my interest all the way through, with some good twists near the end that I hadn’t anticipated.  No complaints; this is a definite ‘buy it’ recommendation, for anyone who loves this genre as much as I do.

Book description

This is Maison Urwin’s debut novel, which follows the ordeal of a family’s economic migration from the Federal Republic of England & Wales to Tokyo.

The power is in the East.

The Federal Republic of England & Wales is in crisis.

Western economic collapse has led to mass economic migration to China, Korea and especially Japan. Jordan May is offered a transfer with Matsucorp and takes wife, Shaylie, and son, Alfie, to a new and bewildering life in the Orient. The book is set in the 2050s when, following the end of capitalism in Europe, the Far East is now considered the developed world. Society in the West has fallen apart and the East Asia is the destination of choice for economic migrants who are prepared to take risks and endure prejudice in the search for a better life.

The May family emigrates from Harwich, England to Japan and husband, wife and son battle discrimination, are embroiled in political activism and forbidden romance, are targeted in racist attacks and are endangered by unwitting gangland involvement. As the climax approaches in a violent political demonstration on the streets of Tokyo, we begin to discover the extent to which a mysterious, wiry Englishman has manipulated each of them.

This work of speculative fiction sees the Mays thrust into industrial politics, illegal unionisation and hostessing. Teenage love and the organisation of a mass demonstration take place against a backdrop of racial tension and the rise of the far right.

Could Shaylie’s life be in danger? Is the mafia involved?

And just who is the Machaivellian Stepson Struthwin who sits on Matsucorp’s board and has such a hold over the lives of those around him?

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Rosie’s#Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction THE SINS OF OTHERS by Florian Schneider

Today’s team review is from Sandra. She blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading The Sins Of Others by Florian Schneider

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The Sins of Others is described as fiction, however, it reads more like a biography or memoir. Each of the eleven chapters deals with a different episode in the lives of Ingrid Heimlich, a left-wing terrorist in the 1970s, and her son, Ben, a photographer living in Los Angeles. The timeline covers the period from 1945 Berlin where Ingrid’s mother, Marlene, is starving and hiding from the Russians, to 2018 as Ingrid lies dying in a German hospital. The intervening chapters focus on specific events, allowing us to gradually piece together the stories of  Ingrid and Ben’s lives.

Ingrig was a hard character to empathise with as she did not seem to have changed much over the years, and was still using the same tired political arguments at the end of her life as she had in her youth. Ben was a more interesting character who had worked hard to improve his life, and was lucky enough to have found a partner to share it with.

I suspect that English isn’t the author’s first language as often the narrative had a stilted quality, with the word order in some passages reminiscent of German, but maybe this was deliberate? There was also a high number of obscure words used, where a simple one would have easily sufficed.

A much larger hindrance to the smooth flow of the narrative was an overuse of parenthetical dashes. The large sections of text enclosed within these dashes really slowed down and interrupted my reading; I often had to go back and reread whole paragraphs to get the sense of what the author was trying to say.

On a positive note, I thought that the historical background was thoroughly researched, and painted a fascinating picture, particularly of Berlin in the months leading up to the end of WW2.  It was just a shame that the disjointed narrative made it a struggle to read.

Book description

1993. The war-torn Bosnian countryside. Jane Abbott, a seasoned English conflict zone photographer who is no longer easily surprised, is surprised. Stunned, in fact, to’ve come across the son of the notorious Ingrid Heimlich—who, until her traceless disappearance twenty years ago, had been the world’s most infamous leftist terrorist. Ben Heimlich, the stranded German kid and wannabe reporter she has picked up by the roadside, is either fearless or incredibly naïve—though probably naïve—and were it not for the platoon of Serbian partisans who intercept them on their way, she’d pestered him incessantly with questions of his mother’s whereabouts. 1994. Still reeling from the horror he had seen in Bosnia—and, as ever, wondering where in the world his mother is—Ben Heimlich moves to the United States and settles in the sparkling neighborhood and allegory known as Hollywood. As he gets older and, eventually, more affluent, Ben realizes that, no matter how ostensibly successful he’s become, he can’t escape his lingering despair. When he meets Isabel, who’s left her own traumatic early life in Mexico behind to make a new beginning in Los Angeles, his life takes a dramatic upward turn. Chapter after chapter, Ben and his mother’s backgrounds and personae are illuminated from a multitude of angles by, among others, a former student activist aboard a hijacked airplane on a dusty stretch of tarmac in the capital of Libya in 1971; an aging homeless actor in Los Angeles still waiting for his break in 1994; a young girl who stumbles through the smoldering ruins of Berlin in 1945; a US State Department operative who interferes with sovereign states all over South America; the involuntary teenage wife of an imperious Sinaloan drug lord who attempts to flee her gilded cage; and the ninety-something-year-old son of German immigrants who’d fought for the United States against his parents’ onetime countrymen in World War II.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Cozy #Mystery SAINT VANDAL’S DAY by D. E. Haggerty

Today’s team review comes from Sherry. She blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sherry has been reading Saint Vandal’s Day by D. E. Haggerty

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I read this book in about an hour and a half. There was a breeziness about it that was appealing. It had a lot of fun parts and I definitely loved the recipes in the back. The cupcakes all sounded really, really good. 

The main character, Callie, was charming and likeable and I enjoyed her relationship with her friends and her fiancée. Most of the characters seemed to be people you’d actually meet on the street and enjoy a chat with. The mystery of the whodunit wasn’t that hard. I pegged the culprit from the first scene the character appeared in. The reason for the actions wasn’t as easy to figure out, though. I had a different motive in my mind, so credit to the author for that.

I did not care for some of the behavior of the character who owned the bakery with the main protagonist. She was the one who baked the cupcakes and she was very volatile and almost unbelievable as a character—she seemed almost like a caricature instead. She truly became annoying before the end of the story.  Out of control, having to be held back from attacking people, stalking, and threats of violence when anyone criticized her cupcakes seemed over the top to me. The parts where she was trying to help the protagonist not cheat on her pre-wedding diet seemed unkind and almost rude the way she snatched food from her friend’s hand. It may just be me, but that rubbed me the wrong way.

This was the last of the series of seven stories, and while I enjoyed the time I spent reading it, it didn’t appeal enough for me to go back and read the others in the series.  There were a number of allusions to the other stories in this short book, but the references were enough for me to guess at how they unfolded so I don’t find it necessary to read them. And sadly, I’m not sure I could handle that baker in other tales. She was the one part of this book that made me bring this rating down to a 4 rather than a 5.

Book description

St. Valentine’s Day is THE perfect day for a wedding. Unless a vandal is trying to ruin your life that is.

Callie is finally getting her dream wedding. On St. Valentine’s Day no less. Only a vandal is determined to destroy her bakery before the wedding can occur. Anna, self-proclaimed best cupcake baker this side of the Mississippi, is not letting anything happen to the cupcake bakery. No way. Barista extraordinaire Kristie jumps at the chance to help as well. Together the three women launch a mission to find the jerk who thinks it’s okay to attack the bakery.

Will the gals of Callie’s Cakes find the vandal and save the cupcake bakery before Callie’s dream wedding is ruined?

Cupcakes not included, although recipes for all the delicious cupcakes Anna bakes are. 

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Scifi The Rings Of Mars by @RachelFoucar

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Rings Of Mars by Rachel Foucar

The Rings of Mars was a pleasant surprise. I do love science fiction (having been groomed to it at my father’s knee) but I all too frequently find modern science fiction lacking the elements of a good read. The Rings of Mars is a good read, even if I disagree with some of the science – or the lack thereof.

The story opens with Jane Parker standing in line, one of five hundred people selected from millions who applied, to board a shuttle to take them to a ship, the Sleipnir, that will carry them to Mars. It seems she doesn’t know why she was selected, and this was a one-way trip for everyone. Although not clearly stated at first, the colonization of Mars is necessary because, according to the group funding it, Earth has become too polluted to sustain life much longer.

During the shuttle trip and her arrival on the Sleipnir, the reader is introduced in separate chapters to the people who will become her friends: Danni, a native American; Pat and Kaitlin, two bona fide astronauts; and Mark. And then Jack, whose alias is Alex, clearly being sent to sabotage the trip.

The ship is huge with a cylindrical center portion around which three rings rotate, creating gravity for the passengers who will live and work there. The description of the ship was interesting, along with the segregation of the passengers into various departments for their work assignments (agriculture, cleaning, cooking, etc).  Food and its supply, entertainment and diversions for the passengers, and the living quarters were nicely described, along with the weightless environment that some would work in.

Tension begins with the explosion and destruction of the space station from which the Sleipnir has just departed and the decision whether to continue on or abort the mission.

The middle of the book slows a bit as Alex inserts himself into the life of the crew with a bent for destruction, but speeds up as Jane reveals herself to be an agent sent on the trip to stop him and whatever he’s planned. Why must the Sleipnir be sabotaged? Will Jane be able to stop Alex or will the ship and its passengers be destroyed?

Some of the characters are drawn well and can be visualized, others are a little fuzzy. Jane is clearly a badass, and that role she fills to perfection. I love that there is a strong female protagonist, especially since many of the other women characters are weak and/or not very perceptive. A few characters die unexpectedly and shockingly and there are plenty of plot twists and turns created to amp the tension. In addition, the descriptions of the ship and the limitations it exerts on the lives of the passengers, along with the drudgery of the day to day work, are compelling.

I wish there had been more discussion amongst the characters as to why they decided to leave Earth forever. There would have been a richness added to them through those conversations. There is really no mystery to Jane’s pursuit of Alex, since it is clear why he is there, only her growing irritation of not being able to catch him in his various acts of sabotage. And I must admit total frustration with the captain of Sleipnir, who seems unaccountably unwilling to accept that a saboteur is on board.

There were a few other minor things that itched due to my interest in space travel. For example, the ship had windows, and I wondered how those, along with the ship’s construction would protect the travelers from cosmic rays and solar activity during the trip.

The Rings of Mars was an enjoyable read and should attract the attention of science fiction fans, especially those who like a strong female in the lead and good tension.

All in all, the author has done a very creditable job for her first novel.  She has a real future as a writer and I hope to read more from her.

Book description

For most people, colonising Mars is the opportunity of a lifetime. A chance for adventure. But for Jane, it’s a chance to escape her old life.

As the Earth grows more inhospitable, humanity’s best hope for survival is to start again on Mars. Jane Parker was lucky enough to be chosen from millions of applicants to join the first ship of colonisers. But before the crew of the Sleipnir can begin taming the red waste, they have to survive the voyage over. And there are those who would rather they didn’t reach their destination.

Trapped on a ship with a deadly saboteur, Jane will be forced to use her unique skills to keep the crew of the Sleipnir and her new friends safe. But will Jane be able to get the ship to its destination and keep her past a secret?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS