Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Scifi Inside Out by @ThorneMoore

Today’s team review is from Alex.

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Alex has been reading Inside Out by Thorne Moore

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I bought my own copy of Inside Out for my review on behalf of Rosie Amber’s review team.  The following is my own, honest opinion.

There are some authors that you can trust not to disappoint and Thorne Moore is one such author.

Although Inside Out is set in the distant future and therefore officially classified as Science Fiction, the power and strength associated with the author’s skill in her earlier books, set in the past and present, is undiminished. 

The characters’ very human strengths and weaknesses, increasingly exposed during their long voyage in the claustrophobic setting of the ISF Heloise, are brought to vivid life. Thorne Moore’s ability to make you see things from different perspectives is masterful and often poignant.

The seven travellers who have signed up for the eleven-month journey to Triton in the expectation of becoming unimaginably wealthy, eventually show their true colours as they face dangers from both outside their spacecraft and within. Gradually their adopted personas are stripped away until we see them for the people they really are.

The plot is tight and expertly constructed to provide some delicious surprises that I didn’t see coming. There’s hardship, excitement, danger, a touch of romance, and there’s tragedy. There’s also a rich seam of a witty, wicked and dry sense of humour that had me smiling for much of the book and twice made me laugh out loud–very few books have succeeded in doing that!

Whatever your chosen genre, if you like well-drawn characters, superb descriptive writing, a gripping plot and sparkling humour, this is a book for you.

5 stars

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Triton station, Outer Circles headquarters of Ragnox Inc, on the moon of Neptune, is as far as the intrepid can go. It’s a place to make money, lots of money, and for seven lucky travellers, bound for Triton on the ISF Heloise, that’s exactly what they intend to do.
Maggy Jole wants to belong. Peter Selden wants to escape. Abigail Dieterman wants to be free. Merrit Burnand wants to start again. Christie Steen wants to forget. No one knows what David Rabiotti wants. And Smith, well, Smith wants everything.
Does it really matter what they want? The journey to Triton will take them eleven months – eleven months to contemplate the future, come to terms with the small print of their contracts, and wish they’d never signed. But changing their minds is not an option.
Sometimes it really is better to travel… than arrive. 

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Shortstories Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde

Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading Backstories by Simon Van Der Velde

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3.5 stars


This is a novel idea – a series of easy-read short stories, each one an imagined snapshot of the early years of well-known person, but ‘the reveal’ doesn’t come until the end, so you can have a good time guessing the identity of the main character as you read.  


They’re clearly well-researched; I guessed all of them except one (Past Time), which was about someone I’d heard of without knowing anything about their life; however, I was able to do ‘swapsies’ with another member of the review team, as I knew a couple that she didn’t!  


Slight downsides – I found some were made too obvious; I’d have an idea who it was, then instead of there being a more telling hint at the end, it was given away too early or spelled out in black and white, and then underlined (metaphorically).  Not all of them, just some.  Also, the nature of the theme does rather tempt one to rush through to spot the clues, rather than just reading the story at a normal pace.  They’re all nicely written but, for me, lacked that ‘X’ factor.  This is, of course, only down to personal taste.


My favourites were The Blank Face, Preserved in Amber and Tonight’s The Night.

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Dreamers, singers, heroes and killers, they can dazzle with their beauty or their talent or their unmitigated evil, yet inside themselves they are as frail and desperate as the rest of us. But can you see them? Can you unravel the truth? These are people you know, but not as you know them.Peel back the mask and see.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Tudor #Histfic Essex: Tudor Rebel by @tonyriches

Today’s team review is from AJ Lyndon. Find out more about her here http://ajlyndon.com.au

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

AJ has been reading Essex: Tudor Rebel by Tony Riches

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Genre – Historical. This is the second book in Tony Riche’s Elizabethan series.

The story is set in England during the later years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. It follows the life of Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, from his father’s death in Ireland in 1576, leaving him “the poorest earl in England” to his own death in 1601.

It is peopled with a wide range of historical characters including Robert’s cold, distant and ambitious mother, his sisters Penelope and Dorothy and his younger brother Wat. Queen Elizabeth herself, an ever-present background threat, is onstage at times, along with Drake, Raleigh and the queen’s favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who becomes the young Robert’s stepfather and friend.

Each chapter is from a different time period, chronicling every twist and turn of Robert’s life, year by year. It describes in great detail his childhood separation from his family, his increasingly difficult relations with the powerful Cecils, his warm relationships with his sisters and supporters such as valet Anthony Bagot and lifelong friend Gelly Meyrick.

As the growing boy becomes a young man, he transforms from impoverished ward of the Cecils to an ambitious young courtier who quickly supplants his stepfather in the dangerous position of the queen’s favourite.

From the first chapter, I was impressed by the everyday details of 16th century life from lace coifs and beeswax candles to manchet bread and the steps of the galliard.

“After three quick hops with alternate feet, on the word cadence, Robert jumped, landing with one leg ahead of the other, in a move called the posture.”

Every intrigue Robert participates in throughout his life is described, from the ongoing military campaigns and plotting by and against the Spanish, to the many court intrigues and rivalries of the Elizabethan court.  The end result is a wealth of convincing detail which left me with a much greater knowledge of this famous nobleman, courtier and military general.

Despite being surrounded for most of his life by those who seek to guide him, Robert remains prey to others who, jealous of his position at court, seek to profit from him or to oust him. Somewhat surprisingly for the modern reader, having been born the poorest earl in England leads Robert, in the author’s portrayal of him, into a lifelong and fruitless quest to restore his fortunes. He is hampered by his inherited love of gambling, by his fondness for beautiful women, and by the cynical use the queen makes of her leading courtiers. In his anxiety to please her, Robert is led further and further into debt as he repeatedly raises troops at his own expense to fight military campaigns.

I could not fault the historical detail.  The author resists the temptation of describing only the romantic side of the era. London’s Strand is already dominated by great houses, but St Paul’s cathedral has only a broken spire and the sound of bear-baiting drifts across the Thames. Yet Robert Devereux himself remained elusive. Despite the many dramatic events described, it was only in the closing scenes that I felt the emotion behind this doomed and tragic figure.

Like many established historical novelists, Tony Riches sticks closely to the facts and includes as much as possible about his subject. It might be interesting if he adopted a slightly different approach, focussing on a few of the major episodes. This would give him the opportunity of bringing each event to life, even if it means taking chances, rather than risking it being overshadowed by a swift transition to the next. 

This is the first novel I have read by this successful author, but it will probably not be the last.

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Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, is one of the most intriguing men of the Elizabethan period. Tall and handsome, he soon becomes a ‘favourite’ at court, so close to the queen many wonder if they are lovers.

The truth is far more complex, as each has what the other yearns for. Robert Devereux longs for recognition, wealth and influence. His flamboyant naïveté amuses the ageing Queen Elizabeth, like the son she never had, and his vitality makes her feel young.

Robert Devereux’s remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ContemporaryFiction Set in #Dublin Clementine Lane by @BrunkardEoghan

Today’s team review is from Karen. She blogs here https://mytrainofthoughtson.wordpress.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Karen has been reading Clementine Lane by Eoghan Brunkard

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This book introduces you to the residents of Clementine Lane. A planned drugs rehabilitation centre unites them and the snobbish residents of a neighbouring road.

With “Clementine Lane”, Eoghan Brunkard has created an intriguing story about the lives of those affected by the planned drugs rehabilitation centre in the heart of Dublin. Most characters are complex, all are realistic with all virtues and flaws. The story comprises a variety of craftily elaborated characters with sufficient depth and interesting interactions until the last page. Eoghan Brunkard introduces each character and place with care, the reader gets to know them pretty well. I had a great time reading “Clementine Lane” – it is an intriguing read that led me right back to the town I truly miss. I was immediately drawn into the story, soon keeping my fingers crossed for two very special characters. For me, “Clementine Lane” is memorable contemporary fiction with a high degree of authenticity. It is a story to read again.

This is for you if you like contemporary fiction with well-elaborated characters, a touch of history and politics, food for thought, and if you are interested in seeing more than visitors normally see on a city trip.

4 stars

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No man is an island…. but in Dublin an inner-city lane can be just that. Welcome to Clementine Lane, where everyone knows everyone’s business and respectfully keeps it to themselves and everyone else.

A drugs rehabilitation centre is set for development on the lane, prompting the locals and their snobbish neighbours from the next road over, to unite in protest. This fragile alliance is forced to take on the combined weight of the Political and Media realms, when an addict dies in suspicious circumstances.

Elsewhere, a dark past that has haunted the lane for a century intertwines the fates of a teenager and a homeless alcoholic. Is it supernatural? Or is reality that bit more frightening?

Finally, a man from a well-heeled part of the city blows into the lane, full of confidence and short on affection for his neighbours. When confronted with an impending loss, his friends fade into the digital world, leaving him to face this problem alone; but then, no man is an island….

Clementine Lane is a humorous and poignant panorama of contemporary Dublin.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Scifi Inside Out by @ThorneMoore

Today’s team review is from Judith. She blogs here https://judithbarrowblog.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Judith has been reading Inside Out by Thorne Moore

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For many years I have admired Thorne Moore’s work. She has written in various genres but, threaded through all, there is always a psychological mystery: a need to know why her characters have acted in a certain way, what were the circumstances that “upset the applecart”, as I like to think of it. The mystery may have parallel themes of crime, or the introduction of historical or contemporary, events, or the exploration of relationships, but there is always the psychological ‘why’ lurking. I think this is one reason I have always been gripped by her stories and the intricate ways they move along.

And this smooth progression of the plot is often reinforced by the background of the novel, whether it’s of the countryside and life at a certain era, an old house that’s been lived in by generation, or myths and legends. And, as an added extra, to give atmosphere and emotion to these settings, there are always short evocative descriptions of the weather to reflect the mood of the scene. Wonderful!

So, I have to admit, I was surprised and not a little perturbed to hear she has delved into writing Science Fiction. After all, one of this author’s greatest qualities is her innate ability to bring setting to life, by just a line or two of description that instantly evokes a sense of place and an immediacy to the background that her characters move around in.

I mean, a spaceship in Outer Space! No weather, no interesting ‘moving around settings’ for the characters, no historic background, no real characters (Maybe ET-Type aliens?).

Yes, yes, I know; I have little knowledge of the Sci-Fi genre. Which I was to learn. Very quickly.

It is at this point I always say that I don’t give away spoilers.

But what I will say is that Inside Out is not just science fiction, it is a story that includes all that I admire of Thorne Moore’s writing..

There is mystery and intrigue. Excellent individual dialogue from the brilliantly rounded main characters, all with their own back stories and reasons for being on what initially seems to be a luxurious cruise liner for rich, middle-class passengers. (I say “luxurious” but there is a ‘wait and see’ moment – and that’s all I will say about that). Together, with a cast of minor characters as foil to the main ones, there is crime, danger, adventure, humour, and even a little romance. And … there are brilliant settings: of the layers and decks of the ship, of the various planets that the ISF Heloise docks at, and of a chilling description of outer space. And, then, ultimately, we land on Triton, the destination of the group of main characters, where we are made aware of the truth of life with Ragnox Inc.

Just here, I was very tempted to write, Dum De Dum Dum Dah here, but I won’t.

All I will say, is that Inside Out is a novel I thoroughly enjoyed and one I would recommend to any readers who enjoys character-led stories – whatever the genre.

Desc 1

Triton station, Outer Circles headquarters of Ragnox Inc, on the moon of Neptune, is as far as the intrepid can go. It’s a place to make money, lots of money, and for seven lucky travellers, bound for Triton on the ISF Heloise, that’s exactly what they intend to do.
Maggy Jole wants to belong. Peter Selden wants to escape. Abigail Dieterman wants to be free. Merrit Burnand wants to start again. Christie Steen wants to forget. No one knows what David Rabiotti wants. And Smith, well, Smith wants everything.
Does it really matter what they want? The journey to Triton will take them eleven months – eleven months to contemplate the future, come to terms with the small print of their contracts, and wish they’d never signed. But changing their minds is not an option.
Sometimes it really is better to travel… than arrive.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Food and Travel Adventure Cucina Tipica by @andrewcotto

Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading Cucina Tipica by Andre Cotto

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4*

New Yorker Jacoby Pines takes a trip to Tuscany with his girlfriend, Claire, a travel/food writer. He’s not having the best of times: a drunken text sent to the wrong person lost him not only his job but any prospect of getting another in that field. Being unemployed is not doing much for his relationship with ambitious, status-orientated Claire. A frustrated former musician, Jacoby has no family, feels insecure, useless, and worried that he and Claire are nearing the parting of ways – particularly concerning their very different reasons for wanting to go to this part of Italy.

The adventure side of the story is fairly low-key, with some interesting relationships and amusing situations. The descriptions of the area and the food probably make up half the book, and I enjoyed these to a certain extent, but I don’t eat meat and dairy and am not a ‘foodie’ (I think knocking up a vegetable chilli with a ready-made sauce is cooking), so it was a bit wasted on me. If of the gourmet persuasion, though, you will adore this.

I liked: 1. Jacoby’s realisations about himself, that he was at home in rural Italy and was not a New Yorker at all, and his observations about his previous wealth-orientated, competitive lifestyle – according to Claire, the ‘real’ world – and the ex-pats of ‘Chiantishire’. 2. The depiction of the place itself, the people and the way of life. 3. The characterisation and dialogue. 4. The writing style. 5. The outcome.

I was less keen on: 1. The food detail. 2. Some of the dialogue being written in Italian. Obviously it was necessary for authenticity, but as I can’t speak it, I didn’t actually know what they were saying. Sometimes I could guess, but more often not.

My only other comment is directed at the publisher – does this book not deserve to be wrapped in colour? I can imagine a cover splashed with luscious olives, lemons, bottles of red wine, pizza dripping with tomatoes and olive oil, sunshine and blue skies, that would leap out at those who long for a Tuscan idyll.

To sum up: a rather lovely book in many ways; not quite my thing but if you do fancy it, there’s a sequel, too!

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Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure is the story of Jacoby Pines, a disheartened American who arrives in Italy on vacation and decides he never wants to leave. What follows is a food-filled, wine-soaked, travel-laden adventure about one man’s quest for an antiquated existence in the modern world.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Thriller If She Dies by @ErikTherme

Today’s team review is from Sandra. She blogs here https://www.firthproof.co.uk/index.php/book-reviews

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Sandra has been reading If She Dies by Erik Therme

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If She Dies is the harrowing tale of a mother’s grief, and shows how couples can be affected very differently by the loss of a child; in fact, a lot of relationships don’t survive this kind of stress. Nine months after losing their daughter, Lily, in a tragic accident, Tess and her husband, Josh, are on very different pages when it comes to dealing with their loss. Tess is slightly unhinged, behaving in an obsessive way and lying to her husband about what she does all day. Josh has a different way of coping and seems, unreasonably, to expect Tess to move on and return to how she was before.

Erik Therme has managed to get inside Tess’s head and give the reader a convincing portrayal of her grief. The story is told solely from Tess’s point of view, and this first person narrative really ramps up the atmosphere of paranoia, and emphasises that she is hanging on to her sanity by a thread. Despite her strange behaviour, I had great empathy for Tess and her situation. This story was not always easy to read, but perfectly captured the sense that she was on the edge and could go either way.  

The pace is uneven with a very long stretch at the beginning to set the scene, and then the story did not go in the direction that I expected it to, which was not necessarily a bad thing. If She Dies does not really fit into the psychological thriller mould and is, in fact, quite difficult to categorise. I had not read anything by this author before so did not know what to expect, but will definitely look out for some of his earlier books.

It is well written with believable characters, some likeable some not. I know Josh was hurting too, but I found it hard to feel much sympathy for him. There was such a gulf between him and Tess I’m not sure they would ever be reconciled. In this respect, the ending was unsatisfactory; I would have liked some kind of epilogue to find out if their relationship survived.

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Nine months ago, Tess’s five-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident. The driver, Brady Becker, was sentenced to two years in prison. It didn’t make Tess’s pain go away.

Brady also has a daughter: A twelve-year-old named Eve who walks to Chandler Middle School every day. Tess knows this because she’s been watching Eve for the last three weeks. It isn’t fair that Brady’s daughter gets to live, while Tess’s daughter does not.

When Eve goes missing, all eyes turn to Tess, who doesn’t have an alibi. But Tess isn’t guilty.

Or so she believes.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #HistoricalMystery The Book Of Skulls by @davidwhutchison

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

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Olga has been reading The Book Of Skulls by David Hutchison

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As I know we are all busy and I can go on and on with my reviews, I leave you the summary recommendation first, and then, you can go ahead and read the more detailed review, or not. This is a fun and easy to read historical mystery novel, set in Edinburgh in the Victorian Era, with some touches of horror and Gothic, a diverse cast, and fully adapted to modern sensibilities. I particularly recommend it to readers interested in the history of women in Medicine, those who love a Scottish setting, and those who enjoy a good adventure  that doesn’t get too caught up in procedural details. It is also the first of a series, so if you strike it lucky and love it, you’ll have more to come. I will also recommend it to older YA and NA readers, as long as they don’t mind (or like) a gruesome story. (Although I don’t want to give much of the story away, I’ll let you know that there are headless corpses aplenty, so you’ve been warned).

I had never read any of Hutchinson’s books before or seen his artwork, but there is little doubt that he is a multitalented individual (the cover and the illustrations inside the book are also his, and I loved them as well), and I know we’ll cross paths in the future.

The description of the book does it justice, and because of the mystery side of the story I want to make sure I avoid spoilers and say too much. In his biography, the author describes the book as “a BAME and LGBQT story of hidden identity and murder, inspired by Edinburgh’s murky medical history” and that contains plenty of information as well. If I had to highlight something is that it made me think of the type of stories and novels written at the time the book is set in, with plenty of adventures, excitement, dangers, very bad baddies, very resourceful heroes (and heroines), some Gothic and gore elements, which were not always a hundred per cent realistic and required a degree of suspension of disbelief perhaps greater than we are used to with mystery or thrillers nowadays. When we are first introduced to the main protagonist, Liz, her orphanage made me think of Jane Eyre, but there the similarities end. There are other characters and situations that brought to my mind other novels of the period, but I can’t go into detail without revealing too much of the plot, so I’ll keep my peace.

This is a solid historical novel and offers plenty of information about the period, some of the important figures in women’s fight to gain entry into the Faculty of Medicine, and other historical events and locations of the Victorian Edinburgh, including language and turns of phrase that add authenticity to the story. I have mentioned the diverse cast of characters, and the author’s description also highlights that the two female protagonists are from non-white ethnic backgrounds (they aren’t the only ones), and there are LGBT characters and themes integral to the story as well, but although prejudice is quite evident and something the protagonists struggle against, this is not a book that reflects and portrays the views of the time as realistically as possible but rather one that reflects the spirit of the time whilst avoiding what most readers nowadays would find repugnant. Even the “bad” characters are not as vocal and nasty as they would have been at the time in their epithets (and some of their actions), and I felt that the novel would be unlikely to offend modern sensibilities (as is to be expected, the most enlightened individuals are the main protagonists and their friends).  I don’t mean that the topics are not serious and even shocking at times, especially for those not familiar with the era and its mores, but it is a good entry point read with plenty of characters determined to do the right thing we can root for.

Liz is a fantastic character. A self-made woman, she wants to become a doctor more than anything, but she sticks to her morals as well and thinks of others before she thinks of herself. She is very lucky (chance plays a big part in the story, and she has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, as well as a pretty lucky star), and despite her enemies (she comes across a few, and there are some surprises as well) from the beginning meets a cast of characters that will be fundamental to the story and are mostly there to help her achieve her goal. Amulya Patel becomes her friend and peer, and together they fight the prejudice against women they find at the medical school. We don’t know much about Amulya’s background, although we get some hints about her history and her circumstances, and the same is true for most of the other characters, whom we meet mostly as either helpers or hinderers of Liz’s adventures and quest to become a doctor. I liked Liz and Amulya, and many of the other characters they meet (Campbell, Hector, Charles and Florian in particular), but this is a novel where we learn about the characters from their actions more than because we get access to their thoughts or psychological processes, for the most part. As this is the first novel in a serial, it is likely that we will get to learn more about the characters in future books, so it is not a big problem but rather gives us something to look forward to.

The story is written in the third-person, sometimes omniscient and sometimes from the point of view of one of the characters (plenty of them, even minor ones, get a chapter or a part of a chapter narrated from their point of view), and that gives us a pretty varied perspective while avoiding head-hopping, as each episode is clearly delimited. This also helps maintain the element of mystery, and although we don’t need to get to the end of the novel to learn what is happening (there are quite a few reveals and twists) and some of the secrets and surprises we might guess in advance, there are plenty more to come before the final page. I feel this story works well within its genre, as it alternates the investigation of the mysterious deaths with the story of Liz and Amulya’s adventures as medical students, and manages to keep a good pace and also to maintain the mystery. However, it might not work as well for readers used to modern police procedurals, because we have a lot depending on coincidence and chance, and I felt that the timing of the investigation didn’t always match the other events taking place, as Liz’s studies and knowledge seem to advance at an incredible speed while the investigation progresses at a much slower pace. As long as one is happy to work within the parameters of the story and stretch a little the suspension of disbelief, this is a rollicking good read.

With all those caveats in place, I confess to having had a great time reading this novel. I loved the ending, and I look forward to reading more novels in the series and, hopefully, catching up on the adventures of Liz and her friends in the future.

I’ve summarised my recommendations before, and as far as warnings go: there are gruesome murders; there is discussion of illnesses and medical procedures, evidently; there are historical events and descriptions of life in the period that are not always pleasant, but, as I said, I feel the book is adapted to modern sensibilities, and it successfully manages to be faithful to the period while avoiding reproducing some of the least savoury aspects of the era.

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A Victorian tale of gender-bending, hidden identity, obsession and gruesome murder, set in Edinburgh’s Old Town.1875. Liz Moliette; a poor orphan of unknown heritage, and Amulya Patel; from a wealthy Indian family, are the only female students at the Edinburgh Medical School, where a hostile attitude towards women is driven by Professor Atticus. However Liz and Amulya have allies in fellow student Campbell Preeble, The Reekie reporter Hector Findlay and the charming Dr Paul Love.In dire need of funds, Liz becomes assistant to gruff lecturer and police surgeon Dr Florian Blyth. When a series of grisly murders take place the doctor and Liz help Inspector Macleod in his investigation, which leads to the Edinburgh Asylum, the Burry Man festival and the quack science of phrenology. The search for the killer comes dangerously close to Liz as she uncovers her own family secrets.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalMystery Foxe And The Path Into Darkness by William Savage @penandpension #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

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Noelle has been reading Foxe And The Path Into Darkness by William Savage

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I had been awaiting this latest Ashmole Foxe mystery since the author told me it was on its way. I am an unrepentant fan of this mystery series, and I bought a copy for review.

Ashmole Foxe Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller in Norwich, England, during the Georgian era. He is well-to-do from the sales of his bookstore and also his ability to find and sell rare books for significant profit. All of this he finds mundane, and over the years he has acquired a solid reputation for solving murders, which has become his raison d’etre. 

The story:

Ashmole Foxe is tasked by the City Alderman to locate the mayor of Norwich, Robert Belton, who seems to have disappeared. Belton is well limned by the author as a middle aged man who became mayor by luck rather than talent, since the title and the task is awarded traditionally by seniority. The unexpected deaths of several more senior alderman moved Belton to the top of the list.  It is clear even to Belton that he is not worthy of the job, being regarded as a lightweight by the other Alderman, and furthermore, not having the wealth required by a Mayor to pay for the traditional mayoral social duties. His wife thoroughly dislikes him, and he has taken a prosperous business handed to him at his father’s death and run it into the ground with poor management, theft, and disinterest. His attempts as mayor to make changes in Norwich are met with resistance from his fellow Aldermen, and he does what he usually does – drops whatever he is fixed on and moves on to something equally unlikely to succeed. This is the man Foxe is to find, even though it is clear that his wife doesn’t want him found and the Aldermen are only asking because of the difficulty in not having a mayor to lead the city.

The job comes at a perfect time for Foxe, who has been listless and bored for several months, all of the women in his life – none of them truly serious relationships – having moved on. In the course of receiving this task from Alderman Halloran, a close friend, Foxe is reacquainted with the younger of the two nieces who live with Halloran, Miss Lucy Halloran. Both nieces have recently returned from an extended stay in Paris, and Lucy has morphed from a “dear, awkward, wayward, unconventional and bright” girl to a desirable and beautiful woman in Foxe’s eyes.  Foxe is instantly smitten and rendered speechless. Lucy displays some of her youth in berating Foxe for not having corresponded with her in Paris, souring their initial meeting.

The two story lines become intertwined as Foxe soon discovers a complex tangle of events with no real leads. He makes little progress, reaching one dead end after another, until Lucy helps him find the right threads. As usual, he uses the street children of Norwich, Mrs. Crombie, the manager of his bookstore, and Mistress Tabby, an herbalist and Wise Woman, to help him track down clues and news. The descent into darkness is both Foxe’s own, as he despairs of ever winning Lucy’s affection, but also that of Robert Belton, as the reader learns.

My take on this book:

There were several lovely aspects of this book, in addition to the colorful characters populating Foxe’s world, ones I have grown to enjoy. First is an exquisite description of Norwich through Foxe’s eyes, as he takes his roundabout walk to his favorite coffee house each morning. The author’s historical knowledge of Georgian times and Norwich in particular is prodigious and his characters are memorable. The second is the total frustration that grows in the reader when every step taken by Foxe is a false one. And third is the character of Belton himself, whose point of view opens the book.  I think his point of view is a necessary prequel to what follows. And finally, there is a lot of physical action at the end of the book. For a Georgian mystery, which moves at the pace of the time, this is a sea change.

The only unsettling aspect, to my mind, is the relationship between Foxe and Lucy. She begins with a childlike temper tantrum, and yet Foxe falls immediately in love with this seventeen-year-old. Foxe is in his early thirties, by my reckoning, and is a man of the world! Even though the age of consent at the time was twelve for girls, I found the age difference and the speed with which Foxe was consumed by physical thoughts of Lucy a little disconcerting. But this is probably my own view through modern eyes. I might add, having read the other books, that is past time for Mr. Foxe to have a serious, reciprocated relationship, so bravo to the author.

All in all, I highly recommend this book as a worthy addition to this mystery series, and anyone who has read the previous books will heartily enjoy this one. It is dark, but also surprising. To those who haven’t yet met Ashmole Foxe, you can start here without any problem since the author brings the reader up to date.

Desc 1

When the mayor of Norwich disappears without trace roughly half-way through his term of office, the entire city government is thrown into chaos. Every thought turns to Mr Foxe, who is told to make finding the mayor his single priority. Nothing must stand in the way of achieving that goal. Nothing.

Foxe, listless and bored, has not had a mystery worthy of his attention for several months. He’s also still hurting from Lady Cockerton’s treatment of him. Even his oddly platonic friendship with Mrs Danson must end in two days, when she finally leaves Norwich for good. Perhaps a mystery will put some life back into him?

Before he can even begin, an unexpected encounter in Alderman Halloran’s hallway turns Foxe’s life upside down, so that for three days of confusion and anguish he can do nothing but struggle with an overwhelming crisis in his own life. The search for the mayor is forgotten.

At length, with help from an unexpected source, Foxe sets out doggedly on the trail of the missing man. He soon finds he must unravel a complex and unexpected tangle of events to get anywhere. Blocked and frustrated many times, he finally reveals the slow descent into darkness and an inevitable fate that lies behind what seemed a simple puzzle.

All the time, he is still struggling with a problem that threatens to wreck his entire future. Just as he sees a path ahead that offers the possibility of undreamed-of joy and happiness, he finds he may well have managed to block it completely before he can even set out. Can he find his way through this tangle as well?

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #CulturalFiction In The Shadow Of Ruin by @tdebajo

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading In The Shadow Of Ruin by Tony Debajo

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Tony Debajo’s debut novel, In the Shadow of Ruin, is a novel of generations. There is great strength and potency to be drawn from telling family epics, the weight of legacy and the making or breaking of kindred ties are as universal as any story telling tradition from any time or place.

That said, when we’re speaking about generations, readers should be aware that implied in that are many, many characters to keep track of. There is the first king, who had two wives, who each bore a prince. One of the princes becomes the second king and has three sons in turn, the other prince becomes an outcast with his witch mother. All of the kings and sons and princes have attendant bodyguards, advisors, tribal chiefs they consult with, and paths that they must follow, geographically and spiritually, across the novel, and on a technical level it’s a lot for both a reader and an author to balance.

It is a good thing, then, that Debajo seems to be something of a gymnast, deftly crafting his narrative across two timelines, a half dozen primary characters, and the expansive landscape that he has built for all of this to play out in.

Woven throughout the narrative are the gods of Nigeria, the Orisa, who help or hinder our protagonists and antagonists as gods are wont to do. The Nigerian pantheon is not one I am familiar with outside of their representations in the most recent season of American Gods (2017-present), so getting this take on the Orisa in their “natural habitat”, as opposed to transplants like all the deities brought to America in the TV show, was delicious. They fit the landscape and the narrative as naturally as any of the mortal characters.

The battles, and there are several to be expected when an exiled prince makes a bid to steal his brother’s throne, are appropriately epic in scale and bloody in detail. After the palace is sacked and the royal city burned, the three sons of the second king scatter to allies at three points of the compass and their journeys, likewise, are as arduous as you would expect for fugitives fleeing a wicked uncle. The terrain they flee across is lush in detail, textured by an author with an obvious familiarity and love for the world he has created.

Before wrapping up this review, I will give one spoiler—there is a major cliffhanger. The last pages of In the Shadow of Ruin make it painfully obvious that there is more to come from what Debajo has tantalizingly named his Fractured Kingdom Series. A frustration for greedy readers like me, because we’ll just have to wait for the next one and I’m not always good at waiting.

An excellent first outing for Debajo and a fabulous book for anyone looking for a family epic, a mythic landscape, and a bloody good time, In the Shadow of Ruin does not disappoint on any level.

4/5- but only because I’ll have to wait for the next one.

Desc 1

King Jide Adelani has ruled the lands of the Yoruba in West Africa for many peaceful years, but now his kingdom is in turmoil and the cold grasp of death’s embrace is closing in around everything he holds dear.

Jide spent years garnering the respect and loyalty of the tribes in the hopes of uniting them into one cohesive empire when his half-brother, Prince Olise, returns from banishment to claim the throne as his own.

The offspring of a union between the late King Adeosi and the evil enchantress Ekaete, the bitter Olise has devoted the last decade to one purpose; to seize the throne and rule the kingdom. If he fails, he risks his name being erased from the history of the tribes.

With the support of his mother, a powerful witch whose name is whispered in fear across the lands of the tribes, the outcast Olise now seems unstoppable in achieving his goal.

Facing overwhelming military might and dark forces that he cannot comprehend, Jide must either choose to ignore the warnings of the gods, and seek help from those who also practice dark arts; or risk losing his kingdom.

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