‘A very creepy and threatening feel to the narrative.’ @AlisonW_Editor reviews #Crimefiction Fault Lines by Tsveti Nacheva @guelphed

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Alison has been reading Fault Lines by Tsveti Nacheva

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I really enjoyed this novel. The characters are very well-written, the writing flows well, and there’s enough intrigue and twists and turns to keep you turning the page.

Laurie’s best friend vanishes after a Halloween party out in the backwoods of Canada. Laurie having gone to bed drunk, can’t remember the night clearly, but what she does remember is that her boyfriend Nate’s clothes were covered in blood – surely he can’t have anything to do with Ashley’s disappearance?

They split up, but years later, Laurie’s work takes her back to her past, and she’s finally forced to confront the truth.

As the story unfolds, our ideas about the characters and their motivations unfold too, and they reveal things about themselves that add to the intrigue of the story. That said, I did feel that Erin was a bit of a missed opportunity – I was expecting more from her and her potential didn’t feel realised.

Laurie, though, is a great character; it’s very easy to believe in her and the way she behaves and to sympathise with her. Her confusion and her emotions are so well portrayed.

The settings work very well too, and there’s a very creepy and threatening feel to the narrative.

One of the strengths of the novel for me was the smaller storyline around Ashley’s mum and her frustration and fear around her daughter’s disappearance. She’s another really well-written and fully realised character.

There are a few issues with tense, however, with lots of switches from past to present that don’t really work, and some of the dialogue feels rather formal.

But overall this is a very well-written and enjoyable novel

Four stars

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When the unthinkable happens…
When her best friend disappears from a party at a haunted house attraction, Laurie Arbo fears the worst. Ashley would not just up and leave. As days turn into weeks, it becomes clear that she is not coming back. But without a body, proving that a crime has been committed—let alone unmasking the culprit—is a tall order.

The truth should come first.
All eyes are on Ashley’s boyfriend, who is being cagey. But Laurie’s own partner, Nate, is keeping secrets too. On that fateful night, his clothes were covered in blood, which he swears wasn’t Ashley’s. Refusing to accept the man she loves might be a murderer, Laurie decides to believe him. Yet, unable to put the past behind them, they drift apart.

But what if it’s ugly?
Seven years later, while working on a TV documentary about a local family drama, she reconnects with Nate, and the pieces start falling together. As Laurie draws closer to learning what happened that night, she realizes the truth might be the one thing she doesn’t want to uncover.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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‘A Victorian Christmas Novella’. @OlgaNM7 Reviews A Holiday By Gaslight by @MimiMatthewsEsq #TuesdayBookBlog

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews

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I have read many great reviews for Mimi Matthews’ novels before, but I hadn’t read any yet, and when I got a copy of this novella very close to Christmas, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to put that to rights.

This is a pretty short book (for those who get hold of the e-book version, the actual novella ends at around the 90%  mark, and readers get a teaser of another one of the author’s books, The Matrimonial Advertisement, which I confess I found quite enticing).

This is a historical romance novella, set in the Victorian era, as the title indicates, in 1861, shortly before Christmas, a period of mourning for Queen Victoria and the whole country, following Prince Albert’s death. The story is full of wonderful historical titbits and vivid descriptions and details of everyday life in the era, which help create a picture in the readers’ minds and make them feel as if they were also living in that period, especially because of the focus on the social mores and accepted behaviours of the time. This is not surprising as the author also writes non-fiction historical books, articles, and publishes a blog on the subject, and she evidently has a talent for immersing herself and those who read her in the past.

The central romance (because there are two couples who fall in love in this novella) concerns two characters, Sophie and Ned, with a strong sense of duty and propriety, to the point that they almost ruin the chances of their relationship ever working. Ned, who in this case is wealthy (a self-made man) but of a lower-class than Sophie, tries to behave as he thinks is expected of him, according to the rules of etiquette. Of course, he knows nothing of Sophie, other than he liked her at first sight and thought they would be well suited. Sophie, on the other hand, knows his money would help with the financial difficulties her father has got them into (he is obsessed by making improvements to their Derbyshire state, including the gaslight of the title, and he is prepared to sacrifice his daughters’ dowry and anything else to achieve his goal), but finds it impossible to connect with Ned at a meaningful level. She thinks he is cold and does not feel anything for her. After a big scene at home, she goes to his office and discovers that there are depths of feeling hiding there, and that makes her invite him, his family, and his best-friend and business partner, Walter, to spend the Christmas holiday at their estate.

As readers might imagine, the course of true love does not run smoothly, and there are difficulties all around, from Sophie’s sister, Emily, who is spoilt and selfish (pretty much her father’s daughter), to Ned’s mother, a rather strict, hard, and undemonstrative woman, with little patience for new ideas, and anything she sees as frivolous or light-hearted. Sophie’s father and his madcap plans for Appersett House don’t help matters, but she is determined to try to evolve and adapt to the changing times and circumstances (she has been reading Charles Darwin and finds merit in his ideas). And Ned has a few things to learn about her and about himself in the process too.

Although I don’t want to go into a lot of detail to avoid spoilers, I can reassure readers of the genre, that yes, there are no big surprises when it comes to the ending, at least for the main couple. Some readers felt disappointed because, as I have mentioned, there is another romance that also develops during the novella, and it might seem as if it takes the shine out of the protagonists’ own story. Personally, I think that side-story, or at least its consequences, help make the love story between Sophie and Ned more rounded, as it removes some extra pressures from their shoulders, but this being a pretty short book, it might appear as quite a sudden development and not fully explained.

I have mentioned the historical details and the Victorian Christmas atmosphere which are some of my favourite things in the novella. I also like the main characters, especially when we get to learn a bit more about their circumstances and backgrounds (not in too much detail, but enough to give them some depth). Although Sophie is interesting, independent and strong-minded, she does not behave in a way out of character to the period, especially as this was a time of major industrial, scientific and social changes in society. Ned’s behaviour is also in keeping with the time the story is set in. The writing flows well, with some sparks of humour and great dialogue, chapters told from the two main characters’ points of view (clearly differentiated and narrated in the third person), and the author’s research extends to the language used as well. I am not a big reader of romance (I tend to read it occasionally when I need a break from heavier subjects or a story particularly rings with me), and I am not too keen on over the top sweeter than sweet romantic characters, so this story, especially the main protagonists, hit the right note for me. I am also not a fan of explicit sexual scenes, and there aren’t any here. I would class it as a “clean” romance but I’ve seen some reviews complaining about profanities, so although I didn’t find anything particularly offensive, be warned some people did.

I am not sure there was anything I disliked. I wasn’t a fan of the secondary characters, some because we don’t get to know them enough, and others, because what we know of them seems to be mostly negative, but I must admit that I have loved novels where I didn’t particularly like many of the characters (or they were terribly flawed), and I kept thinking of Jane Austen, despite the different time-period. Matthews explains in her author’s note at the end (another one I recommend reading) that she was inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, and its admirers can find some references to it, so that would be another recommendation. This novella works well, but I think it had the scope to become a longer novel if other characters and aspects of the story had been developed in more detail. This is the perfect read for somebody looking for a short clean romantic story, set in Christmas during the Victorian period. There are no big surprises, huge dramatic events, or an overemphasis in unrealistic romantic notions, but there is plenty of atmosphere, two main protagonists who are genuine and likeable, and a great sense of place and time. My interest in the author’s work has increased, and I am sure this won’t be the last of her stories I read. I am eager to try one of her full-length novels next.

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A Courtship of Convenience

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion—or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things.

A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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A Story About Secrets And Life. @CathyRy Reviews Sugar And Snails by @Annecdotist For Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Cathy has been reading Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin

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Diana Dodsworth is a psychology professor at Newcastle University. After a confused, unhappy childhood and making a decision in her mid teens that impacted on her in ways she didn’t expect, leaving her with a host of insecurities, she chooses now to live alone with her cat and tends generally not to get too involved with people. Privacy is very important to Diana and her past is something she keeps very much to herself.

Meeting recently divorced Simon at her friend’s birthday party is the catalyst for an upheaval in Diana’s somewhat lonely and reclusive lifestyle, particularly when he invites her to join him on a trip to Cairo during his sabbatical.

‘When I pointed out my red front door I expected Simon to stop in the middle of the road and let me hop out. Instead he reversed into a space a few doors along and switched off the engine. Was I supposed to invite him in and, if I did, would he assume there was more on offer than coffee? Did he even want more-than-coffee? Did he think I did? Or was there no deeper meaning to his parking the car than a wish to avoid blocking the road while we got my bike out of the back.’

Diana’s story is revealed in alternating flashbacks, and the more we get to know her, the more understanding and sympathy she generates. It’s sad that her decision all those years ago didn’t really lead to a happier life. She wants to keep her secret at all costs and has effectively stalled her life. Meeting Simon has made her begin to re-evaluate the way she lives, and how confiding in the people closest to her might affect her going forward.

Sugar and Snails is a remarkable and poignant story, covering several significant topics, particularly the main one, which Anne Goodwin deals with sympathetically. I like the fact that we witness events unfolding from both Diana’s perspective and also that of her parents…the confusion, uncertainty, not knowing how to deal with the position they find themselves in. The characters are wonderfully drawn and realistic. It’s only when Diana’s secret is revealed that things, or situations read about previously, fall into place. I had no idea until then, although looking back perhaps there were subtle clues.

Sugar and Snails is described as ‘A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.’ That sums it up in a nutshell but there’s an awful lot going on in between those gaps.

Desc 1

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Inspiring And Empowering Women Feature In The No Woman Is A Island: Pandora’s Box Set #1 Reviewed by @lfwrites for #RBRT. @LizaPerrat @helenahalme @clarefly

Today’s team review is from Lynne. She blogs here https://just4mybooks.wordpress.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Lynne has been reading the No Woman Is An Island Box Set which includes the following 5 books.

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Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat

Set in Lucie-sur-Vionne, France in the year of our Lord, 1348, it follows the life of midwife Héloïse.

Over the years, Héloïse has fallen foul of many locals, who blame her for the death of their father, mother, child, dog, rat and fleas – in fact, anything they can blame her for, they will. Fortunately, more see her as the competent, respectful and caring person that she is.

However, when things take a turn for the worse, it is the naysayers who seem to have the power to control her fate, and she must use all her strength and faith in her mother’s talisman to fend them off. But it’s not easy, and her life is endangered by these suspicious and vengeful folk.

Without spilling any of the beans – plot wise – let me just say that I defy you not to be transported back in time by this book, and to feel immersed in the daily life of villagers in Lucie. Héloïse is a woman to root for, as injustices pile upon her, yet on she goes.

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Hidden by Linda Gillard

I read a lot of historical fiction, mainly the WWII era. What I haven’t come across before is a story such as that told in Hidden. Esme has lost her brothers and her fiancé during The Great War but she takes the selfless – albeit naïve – step to enter into a marriage with a wounded soldier who might otherwise have no family to support him. An advertisement sees her meet with Guy Carlyle, a Captain whose mind and face has been ravaged by life in the trenches and for whom the horror of being buried alive will continue to torment and warp his mind.

Esme’s story is bookended by a modern-day story. The owner of Myddleton Mote, an actor, has died, leaving the house to a daughter who never knew of him as her father. Miranda Norton has herself escaped an abusive marriage and moves her family into the Mote which houses her father’s art collection – the Painted Ladies by Esme Howard (Carlyle)

Esme’s story is powerful, captivating and all-engrossing. I don’t think I’ve read anything so absorbing. The author presents a story so eloquent in portraying the terrors of the mind and how shell shock (as it was then deemed) can change a person so thoroughly and completely.

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The Chase by Lorna Fergusson

For me, The Chase was not as engaging as the previous books in the collection mainly because I simply couldn’t get to grips with the gothic element of the dual timeline narrative. That said, the language was very moody and evocative.

The more modern story was, however, something I could get immersed in. Gerald and Netty Feldwick sell their Oxford home and make the move to France, to a region heaped in both history and British homeowners.

The overriding theme, for me, was that actions have consequences. Even when taken out of their ordinary lives, there was a clear void between Gerald and Netty, and their neighbours (new and old) were instrumental in exposing how far apart they had grown.

I enjoyed aspects of this story, and felt the author handled the Feldwick’s tragic past with sensitivity. Readers more in tune with Gothic themes will surely get more from it than I did.

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The Chalky Sea by Clare Flynn

The story starts in 1940; WWII has begun and with it national conscription. Gwen must say goodbye to her husband, Roger as he leaves for a role that will mean she’ll never know where he is or if he is safe. She joins the WVS and begins to see the impact of war through the eyes of those who have far less yet seem to value what they do have so much more, especially when it comes to their family and friends.

Across the pond, in Ontario, Jim signs up and joins a Canadian battalion heading for England. Anything to put the shock of betrayal between his brother and his fiancée behind him, he doesn’t even care if he lives or dies.

When Jim’s battalion is posted to Eastbourne, he’s hopeful of a playing a proper role in the war only to find he is billeted at Gwen’s house and, unbeknownst to him, robbed her of a job translating radio messages.

Flynn’s descriptive writing beautifully brings the region alive and the sea’s mood compliments the dilemmas faced by the characters. There are certain aspects of the relationships that are quite easy to predict but I enjoyed how the author unravelled the details. A great read and a real saga to be enjoyed.

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Coffee and Vodka by Helena Halme

Set in Finland and Sweden, Coffee and Vodka spans thirty years of the life of Eeva and her family.

The story is an easy read, well-written and crafted at just the right pace to draw you into Eeva’s life and hold your attention as she moves from child- to adulthood, from Finland to Sweden, from observing to understanding. It has a coming-of-age feel to it mingled with history and “a slice of life” family drama. It doesn’t pull overly dramatic punches but rather deals with themes that readers can relate to in a way that compels you to keep going to unravel the threads that weave through this tapestry of family life. There are issues of domestic abuse, alcoholism, teenage angst all of which are beautifully offset the existence of a wonderfully uniting matriarch whose passing delivers the “aha!” moment that holds everything together and promises a better future.

Subtle and compelling, it makes for a fitting final book to a strong collection of impressive women throughout history. I look forward to reading more by this author who has mastered the art of telling a simple story so very, very well.

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‘A fast read with a lot to say about society, women, and progress.’ @deBieJennifer reviews #HistoricalFiction Talk Of Tokyo by @heather_hallman

Today’s team review is from Jenny. Find her here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Talk Of Tokyo by Heather Hallman.

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Where Heather Hallman gave only a taste of her version of turn-of-the-century Tokyo with her brief “Scandals of Tokyo” (the first installment in her Tokyo Whispers series), with Talk of Tokyo she delivers a full banquet. Return with Hallman to sumptuous and scandalous Tsukiji, the foreign quarter of Meiji-era Tokyo, and meet Suki Malveaux, a young woman who is half Japanese, half French, and all determination when it comes to her dream of being an investigative journalist.

For years Suki has nibbled around the edges of journalism, writing a popular gossip column as the anonymous Tokyo Tattler, but finally her editor has given Suki a true story and nothing is going to stop her pursuing it… not even a man (and a westerner at that!) who she may have misjudged, and publicly smeared, in the past.

As for the man himself, Griffith Spenser is an English businessman who has lost a wife to divorce, is in the process of extricating himself from a bothersome socialite girlfriend, and awaits the imminent arrival his orphaned niece and nephew in Tokyo Harbor. The only thing he wants is a proper governess to help the children adjust to their new lives in Japan, and if the intriguing Miss Malveaux can help him in that endeavor, or spend a little time with him until the right caretaker can be found, then all the better.

The two leads are on a collision course as their cultures, preconceptions, and passions tangle in Hallman’s sweeping tale of lies, truths, and love that can see past both. Lush in setting and rich in characterization, Hallman makes 1897 Tokyo glitter with diamonds, cut glass, and broken tinsel as her characters traverse the social strata and a political minefield while Suki pursues her story and Griff pursues her.

Written with a loving attention to detail, Hallman knows her time and place intimately, and it shows in every line. She also seems to revel in writing liminal characters, whether they are perceived as foreigners in their homeland (as half French Suki is), or are Japanese women ostracized for their associations with westerners, or are among the most vulnerable of society for other reasons, Hallman has a heart, and a talent, for bringing these characters to life.

Talk of Tokyo is a fast read with a lot to say about society, women, and progress. Lucky for us, it also happens to be a delicious read by a gifted wordsmith who will, hopefully, be bringing us stories from the land of the rising sun for years to come.

5/5

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CAREFUL WITH YOUR WORDS

1897 Tokyo is no different than anywhere else in the world: men are exploiting women. Specifically, Western men are exploiting Japanese women, and Suki Malveaux holds no punches in her condemnation of their behavior in her weekly column in the Tokyo Daily News.

Suki knows firsthand when Western men arrive at Tokyo Bay there’s only one outcome for Japanese women: a child and new mother left behind as nothing more than discarded shrapnel from the heartless war on love.

Griffith Spenser is her latest target. He’s been seen with Natsu Watanabe, one of Tokyo’s esteemed war widows. Under full anonymity of the moniker “The Tokyo Tattler,” Suki makes sure Griffith knows exactly why his behavior with Natsu won’t be tolerated.

Away from her Japanese mask as a columnist, Suki never intended to meet the cad. When he seeks her out to hire as a tutor for his niece and nephew, she’s faced with seeing him day in and day out without him ever knowing who she really is.

Caught in her struggle for anonymity so she can keep battling for women’s rights, Suki’s about to learn the full impact of her words on the people behind the story, especially on Griff.

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‘A story about isolation, paranoia, and division’. @OlgaNM7 reviews #Horror Golem by @PdallevaAuthor 

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading Golem by P.D. Alleva

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I had never read any of Alleva’s books before, but I love horror, and I always enjoy reading something a bit different for Christmas, and this novel fitted the bill perfectly.

The description gives a fair idea of what the novel is about, and it is difficult to say more without spoiling the many surprises and scares. The author has managed to combine elements of a variety of myths and legends that have been adapted and used as inspiration for quite a number of stories before. Apart from the Golem of the title (from Jewish folklore), there are also elements of Pygmalion (the Greek original myth), the myth of Pandora’s box, and also elements of occultism and demonology, but without any heavy reliance on standard religious tropes or discourses, especially as pertaining to organised religions. To those who wish to know more, I recommend reading the author’s note at the end, where he explains the genesis of this book, his influences (he does highlight Frankenstein, as well as other classics and more modern horror stories and authors), and also his research and how he incorporated it into the final novel. It provides a good insight into the author’s process of creation, into his thoughts and motivations, and I found it fascinating in its own right.

As is the case with most genres, there are many subgenres and subtypes of horror stories, and some readers prefer some story topics to others, but I must confess to finding novels and movies about demons and evil possession, like The Exorcist and The Omen, among the scariest. I don’t scare easily, but this story manages to tap into the darkness within, psychological issues, post-traumatic stress syndrome, the worst of human weaknesses and vices, corruption at the highest level, and all kinds of crimes, some pretty extreme. This is a book fairly explicit in its use of extreme violence, with detailed descriptions of torture and abuse, with all kinds of victims (including young children), so any readers worried about violence, abuse, or satanic themes, should avoid it. (There are some sex scenes, although these are far less explicit than the descriptions of violence, but no less disturbing in that particular context).

The narrative follows a detective’s investigation, although it is not a typical police procedural, far from it. As tends to happen sometimes, the story ends up investigating the brand-new detective, John Ashton, as much as the case he is involved in. And, although I cannot reveal much, there are plenty of things about him we discover through the book and not all straightforward. We also get to hear about the world of the high society of New York and the Hamptons after WWII and also the events and places of the era, including references to real buildings, to cases of corruption in the city of New York, and to matters such as McCarthyism; we visit a psychiatric unit of the time and learn about some of the treatments in use, and their devastating long-term effects.

The two main characters are John Ashton, a family man (his wife is pregnant when we meet him, and he is happy to have been promoted to detective), who has survived some terrible experiences, but is not unscathed. The other main protagonist, Alena, we meet in pretty special circumstances, but we get to hear her story in the first person, as she narrates it to the detective. She is fascinating, and although she appears to be an unreliable narrator to Ashton —as she would to any police officer trying to solve the case— we are aware that there are far too many things that challenge a standard rational explanation. Like John, she has experienced terrible loss, and she is neither all good nor evil. She is a victim of forces she does not understand, but she tries to do the right thing, despite the cost to her health and sanity. There are plenty of other characters as well, and Golem is the most important (and a pretty memorable one as well, with many sides to his personality), but I can’t talk about them without spoiling the story, so you will have to read it if you want to find out more.

The way the story is told is quite interesting, as it is divided into three parts and an epilogue, and there is a character introduced at the very beginning of the story, during Halloween in 1951, that makes brief appearances during the novel, but we don’t get to know how she fits into the story until very close to the end. The device worked well for me, and it kept the intrigue going without slowing down the main narrative. Readers get to meet John Ashton next, and we hear about his experiences and events in the third person, although from his point of view, even down to his dreams and his pretty subjective impressions and intuitions. When he goes to talk to Alena, she gets to narrate her version of the story (written in the third person, although, as is the case with the rest of the novel, from her point of view and with direct access to her own thoughts and feelings), although not at first. She insists she will only talk to Ashton, and he (and the readers) get to hear her pretty incredible story, which requires a large degree of suspension of disbelief, but no more than would be expected from this genre. In fact, there is an interesting way of explaining what is behind the mysterious events and crimes, and not one I was familiar with, although some of the characters that make an appearance are well-known within the subgenre. Readers who worry about head-hopping can be reassured. Although the whole story is narrated in the third person, mostly from one of the main characters’ points of view, it is always clear whose point of view we are following. The story is also mostly told in chronological order (apart from Alena’s narration, which starts in 1947, although towards the end of the book we jump ten years into the future), and the pace quickens at the end, with alternating points of view that announce a pretty dramatic turn of events. (And yes, I can’t tell you anything else).

I have talked about the descriptions of violence and events that go beyond the realm of the rational, and the author does a great job with those, without overdoing the use of bizarre or complex language, but can be typical in novels centred on those subjects, but here the choice of register fits the characters and is functional and not overwrought or heavy. At times I noticed the repetition of certain words, adjectives, and expressions, that became pretty noticeable, to the point of being slightly distracting, but the more I read, the more I wondered if it was a stylistic choice befitting the subject, with its reliance on rituals and ceremonies. It does not detract from the story, the plot, or the characters, which are the most memorable elements of this novel.

Having read all this, I’m sure you won’t expect me to be specific when talking about the ending. Yes, it is very fitting and it works well. Of course, it is not a happy ending (this is horror, after all), but considering how the story goes, I think it reaches a difficult equilibrium. And, as is my preference in this genre, it is not a closed and reassuring ending. Good work.

Would I recommend it? With the caveats mentioned above, I definitely recommend it to readers who enjoy horror and like new takes and twists on ancient myths and stories, and especially those who appreciate novels that dig into the psychological depths of the human mind. As usual, I’d recommend readers to check a sample of the book before deciding if it would suit their taste, and, I leave you with the author’s own nutshell description and reflection on the book, as I think it might help you decide:

Golem is a story about isolation, paranoia, and division, and, as unfortunate as it is, reflects our current society in a nutshell. Who opened the front door and invited the devil in? Well, we all did, didn’t we?

Desc 1

Detective. Angel. Victim. Devil.

A haunting tale of suspense, loss, isolation, contempt, and fear.

On November 1, 1951, war hero John Ashton was promoted to detective. His first assignment: find the district attorney’s missing daughter. But his only lead is Alena Francon, a high society sculptor and socialite committed to Bellevue’s psychiatric facility.

Alena has a story for the new detective. A story so outlandish John Ashton refuses to heed the warning. Alena admits to incarnating Golem, a demonic force, into her statue. A devil so profound he’s infiltrated every part of New York’s infrastructure. Even worse, he uses children to serve as bodily hosts for his demonic army, unleashing a horde of devils into our world.

When Alena’s confidant, Annette Flemming, confirms the existence of Golem, John is sent on a collision course where fate and destiny spiral into peril, and the future of the human race hangs in the balance.

The Devil Is In The Details!

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‘There is just enough detail to bring a face, a room, or a street to life without over burdening the reader’. Frank reviews Talk Of Tokyo by @heather_hallman

Today’s team review is from Frank. Read more about him here https://franklparker.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading Talk Of Tokyo by Heather Hallman

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I’m not sure why I expected something different when choosing this book. On the other hand, what I got was by no means a disappointment. That it might be better described as historical romance, rather than historical fiction, could provide an explanation, although, to be fair, it is both.

Written in a style full of the wit one might expect from a work by Jane Austen, this exploration of the unlikely relationship between two people from different cultures, set at the end of the nineteenth century, is a delight that can be experienced on several levels. There is the inevitable clash of cultures that took place when the hitherto feudal Japan opened up to trade with Europe and the USA. There is the rapidly evolving role of women in both cultures; there are the erotic possibilities that arise when two people experience a passionate desire to explore each other’s need for sexual fulfilment. Finally there is the corruption and exploitation of human weaknesses that accompanies the pursuit of lucrative trade deals and investment in new infrastructure.

In Talk of Tokyo, all these elements combine to produce an effervescent cocktail of scenes to both educate and delight the reader. The central character, half French, half Japanese, is a young woman whose French father deserted the family whilst she was still a child. She is determined to ‘out’ any foreign male who seems likely to treat Japanese women with equal disdain. Until, that is, she meets an English man whose sensibilities prove he is, at the very least, the exception that proves the rule.

The story is told in alternating first person narratives from both hers and his point of view, a technique that permits the author to indulge her proficiency in wit and irony through the contrast between the two. Both characters mature as the story progresses so that, by the end, two become one, so to speak. Along the way they expose one or two criminal conspiracies, something they are able to do, in part, because of the incompetence and/or lack of commitment on the part of the conspirators.

All of the other characters have substance, too, as do the settings. There is just enough detail to bring a face, a room, or a street to life without over burdening the reader with too much dull description.

The whole book is a delight to read, none more so than the erotic passages which are beautifully handled, and ‘handled’, in this context, very definitely has a double meaning.

Try as I might, I cannot think of a single reason to award fewer than five stars. Highly recommended for anyone who likes romance or history – especially a place and period that remains largely hidden from view in the English speaking world. I congratulate Ms Hallman for bringing it into the light.

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CAREFUL WITH YOUR WORDS

1897 Tokyo is no different than anywhere else in the world: men are exploiting women. Specifically, Western men are exploiting Japanese women, and Suki Malveaux holds no punches in her condemnation of their behavior in her weekly column in the Tokyo Daily News.

Suki knows firsthand when Western men arrive at Tokyo Bay there’s only one outcome for Japanese women: a child and new mother left behind as nothing more than discarded shrapnel from the heartless war on love.

Griffith Spenser is her latest target. He’s been seen with Natsu Watanabe, one of Tokyo’s esteemed war widows. Under full anonymity of the moniker “The Tokyo Tattler,” Suki makes sure Griffith knows exactly why his behavior with Natsu won’t be tolerated.

Away from her Japanese mask as a columnist, Suki never intended to meet the cad. When he seeks her out to hire as a tutor for his niece and nephew, she’s faced with seeing him day in and day out without him ever knowing who she really is.

Caught in her struggle for anonymity so she can keep battling for women’s rights, Suki’s about to learn the full impact of her words on the people behind the story, especially on Griff.

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‘Foxe is one of those unforgettable characters’. Noelle reviews #HistoricalMystery Foxe and the Cost of Wild Oats by William Savage @penandpension

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Noelle has been reading Foxe and the Cost of Wild Oats by William Savage

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This is the ninth in the Ashmole Foxe mystery series by this author, and I will admit front and center that I have read every one of them. I find Foxe to be one of those unforgettable characters and thoroughly enjoy the colorful environment of Georgian times in Norwich, which the author has researched perhaps better than any other author.

Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller in Norwich and is rather well-to-do from the sales of his bookstore and also his ability to find and sell rare books for significant profit. When he was first introduced, he was something of a rake – dressing colorfully, enjoying the theatre, expending some of his physical energies with high class ladies of the night – in other words sowing his wild oats.  As his ability to solve murders gained him a reputation with Norwich’s leaders, he became more refined and somewhat more sedate, leading him to affairs with societally reputable women and eventually to a relationship with a young woman many years his junior, to whom he proposed: Lucy.

This current outing of Norwich’s most famous sleuth is told from two points of view in Foxe and the Cost of Wild Oats: Ashmole’s and Lucy’s. It entails more than just the investigation of the death of a well-liked merchant, brutally murdered, but also the adjustment of both of them to married life. The difference in their ages, the lingering recognition of Ashmole’s previous reputation, Lucy’s steep learning curve as mistress of a substantial household, and her inclusion in Ashmole’s work all figure into the search for the killer.

As I would expect from a book by this author, the merchant. A Mr. Hartley, whose body is found on a quay by the River Wensum, is not what he appears to be. The scandalous behavior of his wife, his closeted life, and his unusual business arrangements created a lot of questions for this reader.

Do I like this book better than the others in the series? On the positive side, the murder, as always in this series, is just the tip of the iceberg. The author overlays it with layers upon layers of confusion, obsessive secrecy and cunning deception, leading the search for the killer to a series of solutions that have the reader believing this is the one – only to be as flummoxed as Ashmole when it hits a dead end.  On this basis, I think this is one of the best books in the series.  Plus the author spends time acquainting his readers with more of Norwich – the streets, the waterfront, businesses and the way they are run –all colorful and interesting.

On the negative side, I found the couple’s interactions occasionally overlong, silly and distracting, especially those leading up to a romp in the bedroom. Lucy can be petulant and childish, which is understandable for a young woman not yet in her twenties but made me wonder why Ashmole chose her for a wife. Lucy is bright and insightful, but I’d personally hoped he would marry the widow Crombie, who runs the bookshop for him – an older, wiser and very smart woman.  But marrying the niece of the Mayor of Norwich, an old friend, gives Ashmole an advantage with regard to his investigations and his position with the city’s leaders.

Ashmole’s detailed involvement with the street children of Norwich is a draw for me as a reader. There was less of that here, although the children provide critical investigative clues from their use in shadowing suspects and stakeouts. Many of the lesser but very colorful characters in the previous tales are nicely reintroduced.

This latest outing of Savage’s Georgian sleuth was a fun read, one which left me unsatisfied and wanting more.

Desc 1

“Remember this. Those who sow their wild oats without thought for others, sometimes live to reap a bitter harvest.”

Foxe and Lucy have had only two weeks to savour the pleasures of matrimony when a well-liked city merchant is found brutally murdered at the quay by the River Wensum. At once, they are drawn into the hunt for his killer. All agree that Josiah Hartley was an inoffensive, upright man and not at all the type to die in such a violent way. Yet someone hated him enough to want him killed. Who was it? His adulterous wife? An angry competitor? Someone he had cheated?

From the start of their investigation, Foxe and his new wife encounter layers upon layers of confusion, obsessive secrecy and cunning deception. Why did Mr Hartley condone the scandalous behaviour of his wife for so many years? What was the reason for the strangely complex way he had arranged his finances? By what means were the ownership and value of his successful business excluded from his Will?

Only after determined efforts, backed by all Foxe’s experience and cunning, are he and Lucy able to thread their way through a bewildering maze of dead ends, irrelevant diversions and carefully hidden pathways to reveal the identity of a vicious killer.

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‘This story is about Diana who made a monumental decision aged just fifteen’. Georgia reviews Sugar And Snails by @Annecdotis

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Georgia has been reading Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin

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This story is about Diana who made a monumental decision aged just fifteen and, now aged forty-five, I felt that while that moment changed everything for her, she has still been living in some sort of hiatus for the last thirty years. Existing, rather than living, I suppose, as she wasn’t comfortable sharing who she was, not even with the closest of her friends, let alone with the new man in her life, Simon.

Diana is a psychology lecturer so there is some psychology in the book but it’s well explained, and interesting. I also enjoyed the structure of this story with alternate sections revealing the story of Diana’s childhood. This was so well written there was no chance of getting confused and I found it kept the interest level high, and the pages turning, because you wanted to find out what exactly had happened in Egypt all those years ago.

The depictions of Diana’s family were very well done too. The parents, who I initially thought rather uncaring, were actually, understandably, confused and at a loss as to what to do with their child. Her father, particularly, clearly haunted by what had happened to his friend when they were in the forces together, and later on. His guilt plain to see.

This story covers a highly controversial topic sensitively and the author writes these words at the end of the book, ‘I hope you find my words worthy of your time’. I most certainly did and I highly recommend this most excellent read.

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At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be. 

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‘Based on the concept of humanoids with artificial intelligence’. Robbie reviews #scifi The Doll by Laura Daleo, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Robbie has been reading The Doll by Laura Daleo

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The Doll is based on the concept of humanoids with artificial intelligence who are capable of perfectly imitating human behaviour and emotions. Jeremy has recently lost his fiancé in a car accident. He is wracked by guilt about Jenna’s death because he asked her to drive to his home late at night, knowing she was tired. The fact that he asked her to do this is an early indication of Jeremy’s character which is a bit spoiled and selfish. Jeremy has a successful career as a restorer of properties which he acquires at good prices due to their run-down states, and sells at significant profits.

Jeremy is wallowing in self pity and has started drinking heavily when he is approached by a man in a bar and given a card for The Dollmaker who, the stranger assures him, can help him overcome his grief. He decides to go ahead and make contact with the company and is introduced to the idea of replacing Jenna with a doll. The doll has artificial intelligence and will be capable of interacting with the outside world in the same way as a human would. It will be programmed as a replica of his dead fiancé, although it would be built to look a bit different so as not to raise unnecessary questions. Jeremy will pass the doll off as his new girlfriend.

Jeremy orders the doll, an expensive piece of electronic equipment, based on the specs he is given by the company. It did require a bit of suspension of belief to accept that a young man would actually think he could replace his girlfriend with a machine and, having received the humanoid, almost immediately substitute his affection for his real life girlfriend with affection for a doll.

The humanoid that Jeremy receives is not a run-of-the-mill specimen. Carley has a greater ability than the other humanoid dolls to make decisions based on her experiences and learnings. She has unusual physical strength and abilities and has more human-like emotions. Jeremy quickly becomes devoted to Carley, the doll, and when it becomes apparent that people are hunting for her, he choses to oppose them and behaves as if Carley is a real person.

The story is entertaining, if a little unbelievable, and the idea of a humanoid like Carley is rather thrilling. Jeremy comes across as a bit wishy-washy and overly reliant on Carley to make any decisions and find ways to protect them both.

I think this concept is to complex for a novella and needs a longer book to develop the ideas more fully, both in the context of storyline and from a character development point of view.

A fun and quick read which will be enjoyed by readers who like a fast-paced plot with less characterisation and detail.

3 stars

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In the wake of Jenna Hess’ sudden death, Jeremy Dillon is devastated. His only hope of easing the pain lies in alcohol…until he meets The Dollmaker.
Meet CR1XY, the Dollmaker’s Elite doll, created especially for Jeremy. But is she?

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