‘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?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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‘Written with wit and warmth, and a firm historical grasp’. @deBieJennifer reviews #HistoricalFiction Dolly Pleasance by C.W. Lovatt #TuesdayBookBlog

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Dolly Pleasance by C.W. Lovatt

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Step out of the wings and strike a pose with C.W. Lovatt’s indominable Delores “Dolly” Pleasance, a 19th century actress born to take the London stage by storm in this spin-off of Lovatt’s long-running Charlie Smithers Adventures series. Don’t let the words “spin-off” put you off, while Smithers plays an integral, emotional part to her tale, Dolly’s story is all her own and boy what a story it is.

Sold to the theater by her failed-actor father when she was just a child, Dolly grows up wild backstage, just waiting to take her first steps into the spotlights, and when she finally does, the entire world glows. Follow her career across the decades as Dolly (Did you know Delores is Spanish for sad?) rises, falls, and rises again from the lowliest of stage-scrubbers, to a woman of artistry, and is recognized as such.

Lovingly researched, Lovatt has a true talent for weaving real people and events organically into Dolly’s life. Dolly’s frequent interactions with, and references to, the playwrights of her day and their work is sure to be fun for anyone with a passing knowledge of Victorian literature.

A play is only as good as its players, and Dolly Pleasance is no exception, the titular Dolly is a delight, but she is surrounded by an exceptional supporting cast. Standout is her consummate supporting lady, Fanny Bonham, Dolly’s longtime friend and lover. Fanny, however, is not alone in supporting our heroine as there’s also the gruff Ben Webster, the incorrigibly French Madame Celeste, and the stalwart Peter Collins, among many others. Entrances and exits abound across the course of Dolly’s life, and keeping track of her massive, evolving circle of friends and fans is a full-time job.

All is not spotlights and roses though, there is peril stalking Dolly in the murky London streets, and when a gypsy’s premonition comes true there’s really only question to ask: will Dolly rise above, or be dragged down by those who would destroy her?

Written with wit and warmth, and a firm historical grasp on some of the darker aspects of being among the most vulnerable in 19th century England, Dolly Pleasance is sure to delight fans of the theater, fans of history, and fans of powerful leading ladies all at once.

5/5

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Come, meet the actress, Dolly Pleasance. Born into a life of poverty and abuse in the midst of 19th Century London, Dolly’s only salvation is her passion for the theatre. Follow her career, from rags to riches, over a span of twenty years.

Rejoice as she captures the hearts of thousands, fret as she attempts to avoid the clutches of a murderous madman, and weep over the impossible love she has for one Charlie Smithers.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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There’s a ‘Europe-wide reach of the investigative team.’ @SandraFirth3 reviews #thriller Double Identity by @alison_morton

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Sandra has been reading Double Identity by Alison Morton

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Double Identity is the first book in the Mélisende series featuring the highly skilled, special forces intelligence analyst, Mélisende des Pittones. Having recently resigned her commission to marry financial trader, Gérard, she wakes one morning to find her fiancé dead in the bed beside her and no memory of what happened. She immediately becomes the prime suspect. On clearing her name, she is seconded to a special unit, along with DI Jeff McCracken from the Met, to investigate the corruption her fiancé was involved in. She discovers he was not what he seemed, and that she did not really know him at all.

What makes Double Identity stand out from the crowd is the Europe-wide reach of the investigative team. Mélisende is uniquely placed to blend in as she can function effectively in both countries – she is fluent in both languages and familiar with their cultures. She is a strong and capable female lead, who is more than a match for any of her male colleagues, as one or two find out to their cost.

The initial animosity between her and Jeff gives the narrative an edge. They are chalk and cheese; Mélisende is wealthy and from an aristocratic French background, while McCracken is a native Londoner and officer in the Met. They work well together once they get over their prejudices, and I look forward to reading how their relationship develops over the course of the series. Double Identity has obviously been thoroughly researched as the author is very knowledgeable about financial matters, and her experience in the military shines through.

We get the story from multiple viewpoints so get a rounded picture of what is going on. This is a fast-paced thriller, with a feisty lead character, interesting European settings and the promise of  more adventures to come. I have not read any thing by this author before, but have already got the next book in the series, Double Pursuit, lined up on my kindle. Thanks to Alison Morton for a digital copy that I review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT

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Deeply in love, a chic Parisian lifestyle before her. Now she’s facing prison for murder.

It’s three days since Mel des Pittones threw in her job as an intelligence analyst with the French special forces to marry financial trader Gérard Rohlbert. But her dream turns to nightmare when she wakes to find him dead in bed beside her.

Her horror deepens when she’s accused of his murder. Met Police detective Jeff McCracken wants to pin Gérard’s death on her. Mel must track down the real killer, even if that means being forced to work with the obnoxious McCracken.

But as she unpicks her fiancé’s past, she discovers his shocking secret life. To get to the truth, she has to go undercover and finds almost everybody around her is hiding a second self.

Mel can trust nobody. Can she uncover the real killer before they stop her?

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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‘A fictionalised account of Project Tiger’. Georgia reviews Black Entry by Regis P Sheehan, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Georgia has been reading Black Entry by Regis P Sheehan

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Black Entry is a fictionalised account of Project Tiger, the CIA’s clandestine efforts to penetrate North Vietnam with indigenous (largely South Vietnamese) agent teams in the early 1960s.

There is a main character by the name of Jay Laird, nicknamed Jayhawk by his friends, and there’s a small cast of other characters around him but the real core of this book is all about Project Tiger. Laird was expecting to have a steady job safely behind a desk as his first posting, however due to a last minute personnel change he finds himself sending teams into the hostile lands of North Vietnam then waiting to see if they are ever heard from again. They are frequently not but even if they are their intelligence is often treated with suspicion and as though it’s been compromised.

As with the military there are plenty of acronyms in this book but fear not as they are explained, with reminders, along the way. Although fictionalised this feels very much like a factual account of this mission and I think it will interest anyone who enjoys reading about this period of history or military fiction in general.

3 stars

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Can A Doll Replace A loved One? Terry reviews #Scifi The Doll by Laura Daleo, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading The Doll by Laura Daleo

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3*

When I started to read this story and realised that it involved a man who couldn’t get over the death of his girlfriend and heard about a company who made synthetic humanoid replicas, I was immediately reminded of a TV programme I saw a couple of years back in which the same took place – I don’t think it was Black Mirror, but something similar.  It’s a basic idea that I’ve come across a few times, and it’s an interesting one.  
This was an easy-read, entertaining book and I did enjoy the middle third.  I had a few misgivings, though, mostly to do with the main character, Jeremy, in whose first person POV the story is related.  He is meant to be a rich, good-looking, hipster sort of guy who flips houses for millions of dollars, but I felt I was seeing inside the head of a rather nervous woman, not a confident, successful man.  He kept referring to his ‘man bun’ (do men who wear their hair this way actually call it that?), describing the clothes he put on in the way that women do, and coming across hesitant and rather gauche.  He just didn’t feel … masculine.

I think it’s got potential, but needs more thinking through, maybe with the help of a good professional developmental editor.  However, from an ‘is this a fun read or not’ point of view, it certainly ticks a box – if you’re not as picky as I am you may enjoy it a great deal!

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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?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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‘Set during World War One in occupied Belgium’. Rosie’s #Bookreview of Half In Shadow by Gemma Liviero

Half in ShadowHalf in Shadow by Gemma Liviero

3 stars

Half In Shadow is set during World War One in occupied Belgium. It revolves around the Descharmes family, with a sub-plot about an English soldier.

The story begins in 1914 with the occupation of Belgium; the Descharmes family are shocked by a series of shootings and arrests. After this terrifying time the family go to live in Brussels which is now under German rule. Josephine Descharmes finds work as a waitress in a hotel, while her brother plays a dangerous game: driving a delivery lorry for the Germans and working for the resistance.

The secondary plot is about Arthur, whose son was killed early in the war. The heartache from the boy’s death breaks up his family, and while consumed by grief and guilt Arthur enrols himself in the army. He chooses to follow his son’s path, fighting from the trenches on the frontlines.

The First World War theme of this book appealed to me; I was reminded that I know less about this war than the Second World War.  For example, I hadn’t remembered that Holland was a neutral country at this time. It explained why the Resistance were so eager to get soldiers across the border into Holland.

It took me a long time to settle into this story; I was into the last third of the book before I began to feel empathy for the characters. The style of writing chosen by the author made it hard for me to engage with them.  It is important to me to have an emotional connection to characters and I just didn’t get that. I would also have liked to ‘feel’ more of the fear, grit and desperation; yes there was sorrow, pain and anger, but I never really believed that they were in too much danger. Actions happened but the raw emotion was lacking.

I’m sure that there will be lots of readers who will enjoy this story and who won’t mind the style in which it is written. I quite liked the overall story themes, but it didn’t ‘touch’ me.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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1915. In German-occupied Belgium, a tragic loss forces Josephine Descharmes to navigate dangerous new territory. By day it’s compliance, serving German officers at the Hotel Métropole. By night it’s resistance, working with her brothers underground to help Allied soldiers and civilians cross the border into Holland. Both paths put her and her family at great risk.

As Josephine struggles to keep her family safe, Arthur, a grief-stricken English soldier trapped behind enemy lines, finds purpose and hope with Josephine and her work. Meanwhile, Franz, a German officer remorseful for the casualties of war, offers her protection and opportunity. These two men from opposing sides will open her heart and test her loyalties.

Amid the sorrows of war and threats of mortal danger and betrayal, Josephine must steer her own fate. In a country deprived of freedom, she will make an impossible choice—one that will forever impact the family she cherishes and the man she loves.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Top 5 book characters from my 2021 reading list. #TuesdayBookBlog

Inspired by my recent list of Top 10 book covers (read the post here) from 2021, I have been thinking out some of the characters that whisked me away for a bit of escapism reading.

John Maripaz is an artist, interpreter and narrator of The Exhumation by Nick Padron. This story is set during The Spanish Civil War and follows on from Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls. John and his partner have been hired by the family of Hemingway’s character Robert Jordan, to bring his body back to America. As the story unfolds John’s hidden skills emerge, and it is his tale which engages the reader in this book. I was very pleased with the balance of description and action, and could easily picture the nighttime bombardments of Madrid, the civilian life and the warring sides.

Celwyn, an immortal magician led the storyline in steampunk mystery The Violins Played Before Junstan by Lou Kemp. Set in 1865, this story offers murder, mayhem and mischief, along with heroic aided escapes and a small band of travellers that grows in number as the adventure rolls along until the story reaches a grand climax in Prague. I easily found myself immersed in the narrative and could picture the wonderful scenery and magic that Celwyn conjured. 

Amber Montgomery in Sweet, Sexy Heart by Melissa Foster is a book shop owner in a small American town. She also suffers from epilepsy and has a trained seizure dog to help her live an independent life. While Dash Pennington is a high profile ex-footballer who is launching his debut novel at Amber’s shop. Although this is a very sweet loving (and hot) romance, it tackles epilepsy in an open way without it feeling like a lecture.

BB is the narrator of Any Summer Sunday at Nacho Mama’s Patio Cafe by Steve Schatz. A story set in a gay bar in Magawatta, Indiana. The whole story takes place on one summer Sunday evening; a group of friends gather each week at Nacho Mama’s patio café to catch up on news, and to listen to the drag artists sing at the bar next door. On this particular night lead singer Miss TiaRa del Fuego announces her retirement. This is a book full to the brim with a rich language about a group of friends and their concerns for each other, all set against a colourful drag setting.

The lead character in superhero fantasy It Takes An Oni by Scott Rhine is Solomon, a priest to a god of the underworld; he believes that he is a hideous monster, hiding his face behind numerous masks. Solomon is a deeply layered character who fills much of his life with good deeds to compensate for being the monster that he believes that he is. The book opens with an exciting heist and the fast pace continues with a story full of mythological and paranormal themes.

What characters from the books that you read in 2021 were memorable for you?

Help To Brush Up Communication Methods. Rosie’s #Bookreview of #Selfhelp #nonfiction STAND OUT by Debra Stevens.

4 stars

Stand Out is a non-fiction self-help book. It asks us to consider what individual attributes might be needed in a future when the world becomes even more technologically advanced.

A robot or AI intelligence may be very efficient, but cannot replace the finer aspects of listening skills and empathy, at least not yet. Author Debra Stevens focuses mainly on the workplaces of the future with a five week programme to help the reader recognise the type of human they are and the strengths and weaknesses of their communication techniques.

I thought that the advice could also be used outside of the workplace, and I was interested in improving my own areas of weakness. The more time that we spend behind a keyboard, the less time we take to have human contact with others. I was able to adapt some of the exercises as I currently have a very small number of people that I interact with at work.

There are five short exercises to complete each week and the book is set out in easy-to-read chunks with a ‘fitness’ theme that runs through each of the masterclasses. I especially liked the book layout with diagrams, highlighted areas, quotes and top tips; it kept my interest, but also made it quick to read in smaller sessions.

I thought that the book made some very useful points and presented them in a way that lots of readers could understand and therefore might implement so that they can brush up on their communication methods.

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We’re online and communicating all day, but with less and less impact.

We need to build on what makes us human. Skills such as listening, socialising and storytelling have been lost in the world of digital and are needed more than ever, both personally and professionally. These soft skills give you the advantage in a changing world, allowing you freedom, flexibility and the ability to collaborate with others.

Stand Out will get you ahead of the curve and give you the tools you need to rediscover your human skills so you can pursue your passions, achieve your goals and thrive in your career.

AmazonUK (Due out 2nd March 2022)

Top 10 (11 actually!) Book Covers From 2021

A few weeks ago Davida Chazan from The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog, posted her top five book covers of 2021. Her post inspired me to create my own end of year top 10. As you can see, I had trouble cutting it down to just 10 books!

This book came to me as a competition win, the book cover is very attractive. It wasn’t until after I had finished reading it that I realised it was book #2 of a series. It’s about the Romanov family and is set in Russia during the 1700s. The writing flows well and I could effortlessly picture all the opulence and wealth, while it was also clear how starving and poor the rest of Russia’s citizens were.

Those pieces of word filled paper on the cover are such a big part of this story. If you love words then this book is a wonderful story. Based around the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, it begins in the late 1800s. I liked this story, particularly the detailed days in the scriptorium.

This book cover had me wanting to walk down its road. This book is a memoir and travelogue. Author Cathay O. Reta writes about her experience of walking the 483-mile Camino de Santiago trail across northern Spain. The scenery and the journey both physical and spiritual were very appealing.

I love bees and this title called to me, the bees on the cover were an added bonus. This is a bee themed contemporary fiction set in the small American town of Hood River, Oregon. Each chapter began with a quotation from an old beekeeping book; they were prudent words which worked really well with the story.

The model’s face on this book cover looks right at you and is very haunting, while the fishing boat is a vital part in this World-War-Two story. It takes place during the 1942 occupation of Norway, not a part of the war that I knew much about before reading this. It had all the gritty tension that I enjoy in this genre.

There are a couple of different book covers for this book, but this is the one that I read. The post box says it all for me. This is the story of a postman and his search for the one person he loved and lost. A lovely, leisurely read for those who enjoy stories which focus on older characters.

The lone figure running under a sky of fighter aircraft made me want to know more about this book. The story is based on memories about Germany seen through the eyes of a young German boy, during the Second World War and for a few years after, in East Germany. Highly recommended.

The cheerful yellow of this book cover suits the story inside the cover. It is contemporary fiction and involves a fun road trip, a dog and a more serious medical condition. Although a part of this story has a serious sad theme, it compliments the fun parts and works well.

The young lady on the cover of this book spoke to me, she looks like she might be trying to behave. Rightly so, as standing up to the school bullies gets her into trouble. This is a contemporary young adult story set in Washington DC. There’s a freshness about some young adult stories and this one was an enjoyable story.

The simplicity of this book cover reflects the ethos behind Erin French’s cooking. This book is the memoir of Erin French, owner and chef of The Lost Kitchen restaurant in Freedom, Maine which has now become a world-famous place to eat. It was a very inspiring read.

This book cover makes me want to ask questions. Who is the man with the gun? And who has the blue eyes? This is an action thriller which draws us into the murky world of secrets. Jenks is a professional assassin and a master of his game. I enjoyed reading this adventure.

What book covers have been your favourites this year?

‘A Course In Self-Transformation’ Rosie’s #Bookreview of #NonFiction Messages From Metatron by Devi Nina Bingham @liv_enlightened

Messages From Metatron: A Course in Self-Transformation (Archangel, #1)Messages From Metatron: A Course in Self-Transformation by Devi Nina Bingham

4 stars

Messages From Metatron: A Course In Self-Transformation is a non-fiction book.

The reader is presented with thirty transcribed messages from Archangel Metatron, an entity found in ancient Kabbalistic writing, Judaism and the Aggadah; the latter is a compendium of rabbinic texts that incorporates folklore and historical anecdotes.  The author believes these messages have been channelled through her. They cover a range of topics, but their focus is a spiritual theme in the form of a discussion about the human role on earth and our life purposes.

The last sections of the book are a work-book of chapters with brief summaries and exercises that the reader might like to try. Some of the topics covered are: Miracle workers, Spirit Guides, Soul work, Illness and healing, Soulmates, Karma, dreams, Cosmic religion and Earth’s future.

I am very interested in spirituality and metaphysical concepts, so this book intrigued me. It took a while to read as I wanted time to digest and process each section. The workbook was useful as it reminded me of the chapters that I had previously read and perhaps forgotten about. It is definitely a book that I would go back and re-read. It has also made me search out more about metaphysical theories.  Whether or not you are sceptical about the story behind the book, I would recommend it if you’re interested in metaphysical theories; it made me search out more about this subject.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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This channeled masterpiece offers 30 messages from the highest Archangel, Metatron. It includes a Study Guide with questions and exercises for individuals or groups. Devi Nina Bingham has compiled an extraordinary program for self-transformation, assisting men and women in discovering their purpose, or “Life Chart.” In a series of irresistible dialogues, “Messages From Metatron” stretches the limits of what is known about the cosmos to the breaking point. An absorbing read that will convince you of the reality of angels!

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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A FREE Messages From Metatron podcast study group, begins on January 21, 2022 at 12 pm EST on Cview Network. Nina will be studying 12 messages and lessons in a year. It will broadcast once a month on the 3rd Friday of each month at 12pm EST.