Triton-Bound On A Year Long Voyage. @barbtaub from #RBRT Reviews #Scifi Inside Out by @ThorneMoore #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review comes from Barb. She blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Barb has been reading Inside Out by Thorne Moore

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I can make this a very short review by saying you really should just go buy Inside Out. You’ll thank me.

Still reading? Okay, here goes.

What do a zombie apocalypse, a western, a dystopian epic, and a spaceship have in common? I think it’s that they’re usually stories of the triumph of regular people. The people who go from delivering pizzas, staffing civil service jobs, driving buses—any of the not-famous, not-rich, not successful people who blend into the background. Then something happens: a virus wipes out the wealthy/beautiful/powerful, leaving the normal ones to band together for survival. Or zombies get really into eating brains until the bus driver and pizza guy pick up an axe and a torch. Or the bad guys are rustling their cattle and disrespecting their daughters, so the farmers pick up their rifles and defend their town from people with bad haircuts and excess facial hair.

Or even better: they hop on a spaceship and head for the final frontier where the Future is as full of boundless possibilities as space itself (unless it’s one of those stories where aliens come ripping out of their chests, which I’m happy to report this isn’t).  Inside Out tells the story of the spaceship Heloise and of seven ordinary passengers on a year long voyage. At first it’s a glittery space cruise with a suave and genial captain. As passengers gamble, drink, and generally manage to ignore the fact that they’re sailing through space, the seven grudgingly share the only thing they have in common: their contracted agreement to spend the next seven years on Triton doing whatever they’re told to do. If all goes as planned, they’ll come home with wealth and security. If they make it that far.

Midway through the cruise, everything changes. The tourists depart at the edge of ‘civilized’ space, the glittery trappings are discarded, and the Heloise is refitted to face the realities of the frontier. Shocked, the seven try various ways to change their agreed fate and avoid their delivery to Triton as cargo. It is, of course, far too late for that.

Captain and crew shed their smart uniforms to reveal blade-sharp warriors with their own agenda. And the seven change too, or more accurately—discover or reveal their true selves. They have half a year of travel, and only that much time to make themselves indispensable to the brutal reality of life on Triton.

There are wonderful subplots and rifs on old memes (including the captain who has just explained the cold hard facts of space life to his hapless cargo but ends by telling them to “live long and prosper”). There are many and obvious references to medieval lovers Abelard and Héloïse, two of the most brilliant 12th-century scholars of their day whose romance suffered a setback when her family had him castrated. (No, this isn’t a spoiler for a literal plot point, so you can all just uncross those legs.)

But what I loved most about this book has almost nothing to do with its genre or tropes. You could close your eyes and the story would work well in anything from the Old West to Interbellum. Because what’s really going on is the subtle realization that the Triton-bound passengers are on a journey to become exactly who they’re meant to be—with the help of the Heloise’s Pygmalion-like captain, of course. And all the while, we see tiny reveals, get hints, and finally realize what his goals are as well. Or as Smith suggests, “Ask him what happened to Heloise.”

I can’t end without an awestruck bow to the world-building AFTERWARD, which shows up…well, afterward. And yes, I know I said this plot could be set almost any place and time. But that’s not good enough for author Thorne Moore, who has a fantastically elaborate world spelling out the stakes, the players, and the epic scale of the stage. Hopefully, it’s a sign of more to come in the wonderful character-driven world she’s created.

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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 #Ya #Fantasy The Trickster’s Sister by R. Chris Reeder

Today’s team review is from Barb. She blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Barb has been reading The Trickster’s Sister by R Chris Reeder

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Epic fantasy is an ambitious genre to take on. After Lord of the Rings defined it, great series from the Belgariad to Harry Potter refined it, and Star Wars took it into space, it’s got to be a challenge to extend the tropes into new territory, especially for the middle book of a series.

I started with a disadvantage because I haven’t read The Changeling’s Daughter, Book 1 in the Coblyn Chronicles series. And while author R. Chris Reeder does an excellent job of slipping in the important details as his story moves forward, the usual middle-book issue of introducing an ever-increasing cast of supporting characters is compounded by the mortal sin of fantasy writers: loads of fantasy creatures with unpronounceable names containing too many or not enough vowels—”…he’d been interrupted by a family of gwyllion whose cavern had been vandalized by a band of pwca colts…”

This is compounded by long descriptions of magical spells and babbling that basically involves applied phlebotinum (a term supposedly coined by Buffy writer David Greenwalt to move a plot forward using a fictional material possessing made-up properties unknown in the real world.

Luckily for all of us, author R. Chris Reeder soon tires of this epic-soup, and turns to the coming-of-age stories of his two teenaged protagonists, Makayla and her goblin bestie, Brynn.

Their hometown, Jeffersonville Indianna, is being systematically destroyed by demonic changelings, while their actual family, friends, and fellow residents have been taken…somewhere. When Brynn’s parents disappear, leaving the girls to watch over Brynn’s baby sister, the two friends realize it’s up to them to babysit. And save the world.

There were standard epic tropes, nicely-subverted in most cases. For example, there is a dragon-pommeled sword, a gift from the most powerful warrior, and a tiny magic fairy nut which the girls faithfully haul around with them but which never seem to quite win the day.  There was a hobbit, at least he was hobbity most of the time. There was an ancient evil that could be killed but not, perhaps, defeated.

But oddly, none of those things were really what the book was about. Instead—and the parts I most enjoyed— it’s about friendship, and love, and being the outsider, and fitting in. It’s about growing up to acknowledge that you can’t win unless you celebrate what makes you different.

What I absolutely loved about the tale as it moves forward is that instead of being the Chosen One(s) prophesied to save the world (while mastering convenient new powers in the nick of time, of course), Makayla and Brynn instead are friends with issues. Makayla is suffering from PTSD after their last traumatic adventure, while Brynn is profoundly distrustful of her own newfound abilities. Brynn’s younger brother is conflicted about pretending to be human while denying his goblin nature. In addition, both girls are coming to terms with their sexuality and attraction to each other, although in Brynn’s case that’s a little more unusual:

 I mean, I’m a goblin,” Brynn said with a shrug. “But I still think of myself as a person So I like people…But I also see a goblin and go, hmm.’ And there was that hot horse person, the pwca, and I don’t know if…if that horse person…was a boy or a girl or what. So yeah, I like girls, But I don’t think that’s all I like. Is that okay?

So even though bad guys have a tendency to come back from the dead, and this episode ends in a seriously disturbing (think Sophie’s Choice) confrontation followed by a cliffhanger, and there are way too many pantheon-swapping supernatural creatures with annoyingly few vowels in their names, I ended up enjoying the ways The Trickster’s Sister used its high/low/epic/fairytale fantasy mashup to evoke and subvert fantasy genre tropes. And I especially liked the way two young women grow, and love, and learn to use their flaws and their idiosyncrasies as their advantages.

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After getting kidnapped by a demigod and imprisoned in another dimension, Makayla was really hoping that her life would get back to normal. Or at least as normal as life could be when you had a goblin for a best friend.

But now her sleepy midwestern town is being invaded by shadows. Her neighbors are being stolen away and replaced by changelings. And when she tries to escape, her path threatens to take her to the one place she never wanted to return to: the mysterious and dangerous Land of Annwfyn.

In this sequel to The Changeling’s Daughter, Makayla and Brynn must confront their deepest fears and their worst enemies as their journey takes them to the farthest ends of the Earth and beyond.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalRomance FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE by @AilishSinclair

Today’s team review is from Barb. She blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

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5 stars out of 5

Some time after moving to Scotland, I happened to meet with a group whose Jewish families had settled in the north of Scotland generations ago. I asked how that happened, and one lady said her family had been migrating to America, after investing almost everything they owned to book passage. When their ship had a stop in Scotland, they were told they’d arrived, as evidenced by people speaking English there. Of course, they discovered the deception, but by then that ship had literally sailed, leaving them near-destitute in Scotland. With no other choice, they made the best of things, settling in small villages and building new lives. I laughed at what I thought was an amusing, if improbable, tale. Until I heard it again. And again. In fact, it seems to be the main origin story for many, if not most, of the Jewish families in the north of Scotland.

Apparently, this kind of deception wasn’t new. A century earlier, over six hundred children and young people were kidnapped from the streets of Aberdeen and sold into indentured servitude in the American colonies, while city officials pocketed the proceeds and congratulated themselves on their novel solution to the homeless problem.

But if official history has ignored their story, how can you make sure it doesn’t disappear? Like the Banana Massacre by the United Fruit Company, which could only be told in a fictionalized version such as Gabriel García Márquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, or like Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon’s 400-plus character “intro” to modern times, Ailish Sinclair uses fiction to deliver historical fact.

When we meet sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Manteith, she’s a lonely young girl living in the north of Scotland. Although her father is the lord of their castle, their family fell apart when her young brother died. Her mother retreated into a world of mental illness while her father buried himself in the political machinations of the Jacobites seeking to return Charles Stuart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie” to the thrones of England and Scotland.

But Elizabeth doesn’t care about politics. Effectively abandoned by both parents, she dreams of the exotic drink—chocolate—she once had on a trip to London, of the magical bugs called fireflies that lived in far off lands, or even of meeting her true love.  All that is about to change.

As a birthday treat, Elizabeth is going to Aberdeen to choose a new horse. But when she’s assaulted, kidnapped, and forced onto a ship heading for the American colonies, she realizes her old life is over. Thanks to the physical isolation of the Manteith estate, the emotional isolation of her dysfunctional family, and to her rank as a member of the gentry, Elizabeth’s life has been sheltered and lonely but safe. Now she’s confronted with almost every type of evil, deprivation, and cruelty, along with natural disaster and danger.

Saved from despair by friendship with fellow prisoner Peter, she finds the strength to make it to the new world, where they are to be sold at Philadelphia’s slave markets. The story follows Elizabeth over the next four years, as she encounters racism, misogyny, greed, and despair, but also finds friendship and even a family.

Author Ailish Sinclair weaves many strands into this history. There are actual historical characters from Peter to Ben Franklin. Racial prejudice is a foreign concept to the young girl who has met few people in her life, and none from other races, so Elizabeth forms her new family from all those she encounters—slaves, fugitives, idealists, wealthy planters, and scholars.

I’m in awe of the research that went into building Elizabeth’s worlds, from Scotland to America. There’s just enough dialect in character’s speech to give a flavor of their accents, and I loved hearing words from my life in Scotland, as well as from Highland history. But most of all I loved watching as Elizabeth claims her emerging character as a strong woman and staunch friend, but also as a girl whose romantic dreams meet the reality of romantic love.

I absolutely have to comment on the writing itself. Not only is it lyrical and descriptive, but Ailish Sinclair has a gift for showing us a world instead of telling us about it. She weaves symbolic strands through Elizabeth’s story, like the fireflies and the chocolate she dreams of in Scotland, experiences in America, and realizes what they can—and cannot—accomplish in her life. Or like the onion the young Elizabeth uses to make her last dinner in Scotland, her first dinner in America, and her final decision between the two.

As an American now living in Scotland, I found Fireflies and Chocolate offers a rare look at the sometimes uncomfortable history we never learned in school. Author Ailish Sinclair takes the stories of real life characters and believably intertwines them in Elizabeth’s experience, while never losing sight of her main goal: telling a roaring good story with all the romance, danger, and dawning strength of character you could ask.  But Elizabeth’s story also puts the ‘story’ back in ‘history’ with an unforgettable coming of age tale for both a young girl and the new world she claims as her own.

If you’re looking for a beautifully plotted story which draws you in and has you racing for the finish—while googling for more information about all the new views of history—then Fireflies and Chocolate is for you.

Book description

Elizabeth craves adventure… excitement… love…

For now though, she has to settle for a trip from her family’s castle, to the port in Aberdeen, where her father has promised she’ll be permitted to buy a horse… all of her own.

Little does she suspect this simple journey will change her life, forever. And as she dreams of riding her new mount through the forests and glens of the Manteith estate, she can have no idea that she might never see them again.

For what lies ahead is danger, unimagined… and the fearful realities of kidnap and slavery.

But even when everything seems lost, most especially the chance of ever getting home again, Elizabeth finds friendship, comfort… and that much prized love, just where she least expected it.

Set in the mid eighteenth century, Fireflies and Chocolate is a story of strength, courage and tolerance, in a time filled with far too many prejudices.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Mystery JANE IN St. PETE by @CynthiaHarriso1

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Jane In St. Pete by Cynthia Harrison

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When Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, Harry Bosch, or James Bond get older (or at least the actors playing them do), they just brush back a few (distinguished, of course) gray hairs and carry on carrying on with younger (beautiful, also of course) women. But what happens when female detectives get older? Is there a stop between teenage Nancy Drew and little old Miss Marple with her knitting?

Author Cynthia Harrison gives us a mature woman as amateur detective in her latest cozy mystery, Jane in St. Pete. Following the mostly unlamented demise of her workaholic husband Stan—whose only redeeming feature seemed to be that his unexpected death saved her the time and expense of filing for divorce—Jane left her old job and life in Detroit to move to Florida. She’d spent decades in a loveless relationship for the usual reasons. “She stayed for the kids. For the financial security. For the insurance. For the appearance of a normal family.”

Instead of the divorce she always promised herself, Jane became more like Stan, throwing herself wholly into first raising her two children and then into her career as an art lecturer. When we meet her, Jane is literally standing at the door of her new Florida life, having left job, house, and identity as ‘Stan’s wife’ behind in Detroit. Before her is a vibrant Florida lifestyle in Winding Bayou, an “over-fifties” community in which her mid-fifties age makes her one of the youngest residents.

Although she’s left her art career behind, Jane is instantly captivated by the outsider art created by a local native artist, Waylon Silvercloud. But Jane and her new friends at Winding Bayou are stunned when the artist is found brutally murdered. As more of her new friends are drawn into the investigation, a Jane is asked to help detective Jesse Singer with the art-related aspects to the crime.

And that’s where, for me, this book became interesting. There were plenty of red herrings along the way, including a disconnected and basically superfluous romantic subplot involving a younger neighbor and an FBI agent. But the solution to the crime was fairly obvious, and the motive frankly unlikely. That didn’t really matter beside the gift of seeing Jane slowly unfold like one of the local Florida blossoms. 

When she first arrives in Florida, Jane is almost shocked by how comfortable her new “senior” neighbors are with emotions she’s locked away—attraction, lust, romance, jealousy. It’s interesting to follow Jane’s emotional journey as she opens herself to these soul-shaking feelings of pain mixed with fragile but growing romantic attraction. In addition, we see Jane navigate her archetypal role as mother to her angry daughter, and daughter to her own wise mother. And of course, there’s the fun of seeing fish-out-of-water Jane trying to adapt to her new Florida surroundings. When shots ring out during a trip to a local restaurant, Jane is stunned as everyone around her brings out their gun, from her friends to the waitress and the musicians.

‘I don’t own a firearm,’ Jane said. George and Kim turned amazed faces toward hers. ‘This is Florida, everybody owns a gun,’ Kim said.

If it wasn’t for the pleasure of following Jane’s character change and develop, this would be a far less interesting and entertaining book. But seeing a mature woman step up to help and defend her friends, investigate a crime, and build a new life while slowly accepting herself as worthy of sexual feelings and romantic emotions is what, for me, makes Jane in St. Pete a recommended read.

4 stars.

Book description

Widowed art lecturer Jane Chasen is not an impulsive woman. Why, then, does the formerly methodical workaholic quit her job, sell her house, and move from Detroit to Florida? Instead of pondering her atypical behavior, she takes a closer look at a neighbor’s intriguing outdoor art installation. Days later, Detective Jesse Singer discovers the murdered artist in his studio. With Jane’s help, Singer finds the victim’s bloody shirt, inexplicably located within Jane’s gated community. Singer knows nothing about art, and as he closely questions Jane, she offers to help with the art angle of the case. Singer soon takes Jane up on her offer. Then, Jane begins to receive anonymous threats. Singer, determined to protect Jane, keeps her closer to his side than ever—she’s not complaining.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery ONE FOR THE MONEY by D.B. Borton

Today’s team review is from Barb; she blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading One For The Money by D.B. Borton

One for the Money (Cat Caliban Series Book 1) by [D. B. Borton]

4 stars.

What this book isn’t. In its original release, D.B. Barton’s One For The Money came out about six months before the Janet Evanovich blockbuster of the same title, although both star tough women just starting new careers in male-dominated fields (private investigator and bounty hunter). Both are set in pre-cellphone days, and neither woman is the least bit interested in baking cupcakes or knitting.

What this book is, though, is a frequently funny, fast-paced coming-of-age detective story where the one growing up is a woman in her fifties who has been what everyone else expected and is finally ready to be herself. Catherine—Cat to her friends and really…everyone except her husband and his friends—Caliban has finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. A detective.

Her grandson Ben objects that detectives don’t have white hair. Her two older children are appalled (although her youngest does offer to exchange the monogrammed hankies she had been intending as a birthday present for a secondhand semi-automatic). Her husband Fred says nothing at all because he’s dead, and because he stopped paying attention to her about twenty years earlier, which Cat verified by taking up swearing.

One day I got the impression that Fred hadn’t been listening to me for a while. Say, twenty years. So I thought I’d try a little verbal variety to see if he’d notice.

Without much further notice, Fred quietly drops dead, freeing Cat to finally get a life. From there, she purchases an apartment building in a working-class neighborhood as income hedge against the vicissitudes of the detective biz, buys a copy of The Landlord’s Handbook, and looks for tenants. This is complicated when she shows her first applicants the upstairs apartment which is unfurnished except for the dead body.

“Melanie spoke for the first time, her voice deep and husky. ‘I don’t think your last tenant has vacated, Mrs. Caliban.’

There was nothing in the goddamn Landlord’s Handbook about this.”

Cat decides she’s personally insulted by the murder. Not only did it occur in her building, but she’s appalled by the lack of interest among police or press. Despite the fact that she hasn’t yet taken karate or shooting lessons, let alone gotten a gun, Cat decides to investigate. After all, she’s read a lot of Nancy Drew. She’s bought a wardrobe of dark pantsuits like V.I. Warshawski. And most importantly—she’s a mother.

‘Hell, I’d investigated things all my adult life. Who left the freezer door open so all the ice cream melted. Who left their new purple T-shirt in the washer so that everybody’s underwear turned lavender. Who drew stripes on the cat with Marks-a-Lot. Why couldn’t Fred ever think of anything to give me for my birthday.”

Along with plenty of snark, granny jokes, and a fair sprinkling of f-bombs, the mystery unfolds in standard Murder-She-Wrote formula. After a longish initial bit of tell that might have been better worked into the action later in the book, Cat discovers the murder and begins investigating.

The police, naturally, tell her to back off and leave the investigation to professionals. Equally naturally, Cat ignores them as she gathers her posse of tenants and friends, uncovers another murder, and slowly unravels a web of lies and star-crossed love that includes a Hollywood star, an arab sheik, a retired sewer engineer, a missing fabled emerald necklace, and a sizeable portion of 1980’s Cincinnati street population.

Tracking clues takes her through much of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods. But it’s her experience as a mother that lets Cat figure out who the murderer must be and what happened to the missing treasure.

In One For The Money, author D. B. Borton takes just enough liberties with the standard detective formula to have me rooting for Cat and her unlikely assistants. I particularly enjoyed her confidence in herself, her ‘because-I’m-the-mother-and-I-say-so’ approach to crime solving, and her conviction that a lifetime of reading Nancy Drew, decades of motherhood, and The Landlord’s Handbook are the perfect preparation for her life as a detective.

 

Book description

“Suspicion is second nature to any woman who’s raised three kids.”

Meet Cincinnati’s newest, oldest, funniest detective-in-training. After decades of marriage, motherhood, and grandmotherhood, Cat Caliban is looking for a new career. Detective work seems a logical choice. So, she sells her suburban house, buys an apartment building in a “transitional” neighborhood, and begins her training, only to discover a dead body in an upstairs apartment. What’s the connection between a murdered homeless woman and the Golden Age of Hollywood silent movies? Cat must discover it before the killer can strike again.

In this first book of the popular Cat Caliban series, Cat assembles her colorful cast of helpers and neighborhood hangers-on. This senior sleuth challenges stereotypical portrayals of older women generally and older women detectives in particular. This book is rated PG-13 for language.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

One for the Money (Cat Caliban Series Book 1) by [D. B. Borton]

Celebrating 6 Years Of Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT With Team Member @barbtaub

Recently we celebrated our review team’s six year anniversary by revealing fourteen of the team’s favourite books.

You can find out which books they were in part one and part two.

I invited some of my team members to tell us more about being part of the book reviewing team.

Welcome to Barb Taub, who also writes book reviews Barb Taub’s Blog

It was 2014, and the world was small enough for me to pop over to any place I wanted to go: Madrid, Paris, Moscow, Venice and Florence, Scottish islands, rural India and London glitter. I even squeezed in a quick trip back to the States that year. All I had to do was buy a ticket and head to the next place I dreamed of. And I did a LOT of dreaming.

When I wasn’t traveling, I was writing blog posts. I started the blog because I needed to be a writer. So I wrote a book and plenty of clever people said novelists need blogs to provide shiny PR for their books. It should, they said, be full of content about books and writing as a process, and… and… And you know what? Talking about the process of writing is not only boring, but the only people who’d read it are other writers, not always potential buyers readers.

So I started writing about other people’s books. And I started reading other people’s book blogs. There was one in particular, written by Rosie Amber, that grabbed my attention. I did some reviews for her Book Review Challenge. I admired her style and her creativity. Basically, I wanted to be her when my blog grew up.

So when Rosie asked me to be part of her book review team, I thought it sounded easy, and fun, and a great way to get free books. But I didn’t realize I’d get so very much more. We’d just moved to Glasgow, where I didn’t know a soul. But through Rosie I met an entire community of bloggers and readers. We chatted online, read each other’s posts, and blogged our book reviews.

In the years since then, I’ve reviewed over 70 books as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, while my fellow team members reviewed hundreds more. And a wonderful, unexpected thing happened. Rosie’s bloggers turned from an online group into a team. We chatted, met up, shared our stories. We became friends.

Then the coronavirus hit and the world hit the “off” switch.

But there is one thing that hasn’t changed. Books. My online friends are still there, my book friends are still waiting to meet me, my old favorites are waiting for another read.

And there are new friends waiting too. Wouldn’t you like to be part of Rosie’s team? You won’t need a facemask, you won’t have to worry about social distancing. But you will get to read some great free books, and better still, you’ll get to be part of a team. You’ll get to be friends.

Hanging out with members of Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #RomCom KNEE DEEP (Love In The Suburbs #4) by @dehaggerty

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Love In The Suburbs by D. E. Haggerty

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4 gold starMy Review: 4 stars out of 5 for Knee Deep

When you’re looking for a great, funny, chick lit book that embraces almost every romance trope out there, you can count on author D. E. Haggerty to nail it every time.

  • Heroine with high-powered job but crap love-life? Check. Violet enjoys her job as an event planner. She thinks she’s moving on with her life after finally getting over her disastrous breakup with Luke. But Luke is friends with her boss and colleagues, and openly hostile to her. When she realizes she can’t avoid him or live with his antagonism, Violet decides her only option is to leave the job, friendships, and new life she loves.
  • Tries the Wrong Guy first? Check. The only problem is that she’s never gotten over the wrong guy. So she’s never gotten around to finding the right one.
  • Thinks she’s ugly (but every guy she meets falls madly in love with her)? Check. Well, kinda… Violet hasn’t allowed herself to feel anything since the disastrous end to her relationship with Luke.
  • Thinks she’s smart, but has the people-judging skills of the disposable blonde teen in a slasher movie? Sadly, Check.  Violet has conquered her depression, finished her degree, and made a successful career with her best friends. Both she and Luke have jobs where their success depends on their ability to communicate with a variety of people. But somehow, they just can’t tell each other the most basic things.
  • Parent issues? Check. After his single mother dies, Luke is raised by his grandmother, who has also died. Violet’s parents have moved away, so she doesn’t have family nearby either. But both Luke and Violet have been adopted by “Grandma”—the hilarious, sex-obsessed grandmother whose (other) hobby is epic-fail matchmaking.
  • Posse? Check. Not only does Violet have her three best friends, but she has also inherited their partners—not to mention one extremely eccentric Grandma.

‘I had to ask the bartender for change,’ Grandma continues talking as if I hadn’t spoken.’

‘Change for what?’ I’m probably going to regret asking, but I have to know.

‘A vibrating penis ring. Never tried one of those.’

  • Funny? Okay, Check! Both Violet and Luke’s observations at the start of each chapter are occasionally laugh out loud funny and often painfully amusing.

Stay in your lane? What kind of bs is that? Get over to the right and get out of my way. ~Violet’s Secret Thoughts she might have accidentally on purpose yelled out the car window.

When I’m reviewing a book, I often go down a little list of things to consider. In Knee Deep, the pacing is sure, a brisk march to an obvious finish. The writing is terrific, often funny and entertaining, and with a great balance between dialog, the snarky comments in Violet’s head, and Luke’s total bafflement with his feelings.

‘To my horror, she starts crying. ‘Stop being sweet to me.’

‘You want me to be mean?’ Women are the most confusing creatures on earth.

The problem is one shared by Luke and Violet. While each might have grown into a career and friendships, they are emotionally frozen in time as two high school students who can NOT tell each other the most fundamental, basic things. I remember thinking when I rewatched Die Hard, that if Bruce Willis had a cellphone, the movie would have been about ten minutes long. “Hello, 911-operator? I’m in the bathroom of the Nakatomi Plaza and Snape has my wife, well actually I’m not sure she’s still my wife because she’s gone back to using her maiden name and all, but I’m sure we can work on that and have a swell Christmas with our adorable children as soon as you have a few snipers pick off the terrorists who are conveniently sitting with their backs to large windows. Ciao.” Roll credits.

Ditto for Violet and Luke’s relationship. They claim to have been in love, but are incapable of telling each other the things they seem to have no problem sharing with friends, partners of friends, and Grandma. Of course, if everyone told the truth, the fields of romance, politics, and used car sales would collapse entirely. But even so, you have to suspend the urge to send both Violet and Luke to timeout until they pull on their big kid panties and just fess up.

But overall, I do recommend Knee Deep as a humorous, entertaining, and fast-paced if predictable romantic comedy. The amusing and entertaining banter—and the completely entertaining Grandma—makes it the perfect escape from pandemics and problems. I’d happily reach for another book by this author.

Book description

Just when I think I’ve got it all figured out – BOOM! – in walks trouble.

It’s taken me years, but my life is finally back on track – new job, new friends, a complete new Violet! I don’t even cry myself to sleep every night anymore. But then he walks through the front door of my new workplace. How dare he come in here and ruin everything for me – again!

Luke Freaking Bauer. Not the boy who got away. Nuh-uh. Not even close. The boy who tossed me aside when I needed him the most.

But when I look deep into those hurt eyes, I forget I’m the one who was wronged. Oh boy. I’m knee-deep in trouble and sinking fast.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Cosy #Paranormal #Thriller Madam Tulip And The Serpent’s Tree by @DaveAhernWriter

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Madam Tulip And The Serpent’s Tree by David Ahern

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My Review: 5 stars out of 5

She’s baaaack! I can’t binge on the absolutely bingeworthy Madam Tulip series because I obsessively grab each new book the second I can get my hands on it. Then I make a bowl of popcorn, pour my annual Guinness, and head back to Ireland with some of my favorite fiction friends. As I said in my review of Book 3, they include the (attractive of course) young actress, Derry O’Donnell—permanently broke and scratching for the next job in the Dublin theater scene, consistently dating the wrong flavor-of-the-week, while waiting for The Big Break—and her alter ego Madam Tulip, celebrity psychic and fortune-teller. (*That’s Madam without an “e”, because she’s not married to Monsieur Tulip.)

Derry’s supporting cast includes her mother Vanessa—successful American art gallery owner, artist’s agent, and force of nature. Vanessa is divorced from (but still agent to) Derry’s father, Jacko—famous Irish artist whose painting skills are second only to his ability to gamble (and lose) money. Then there are Derry’s acting friends, Bella (black, Belfast-born actress with catch-phrase ‘Say No to Negativity!’), and Bruce (gay ex-Navy Seal, actor, computer expert, and total eye-candy). [note: and in case you didn’t get the gay part, his remarkably prescient parents did, in fact, name him “Bruce”.]

In the team’s latest adventure, Derry is (as usual) caught between her ever-competing parents as her father Jacko prepares his tell-all, career-destroying autobiography while her mother Vanessa bemoans the inevitable loss of his career (and, of course, all those lovely commissions).

But Derry has bigger problems. Her uncomfortable relationship with alter ego Madam Tulip doesn’t stand a chance against her even more troubled bank balance when she accepts a gig as member of a rock star’s entourage. As usual, Madam Tulip has barely started telling her first fortune when murder attempts and accusations begin to pile up.

“Derry wondered if the source of her inspiration wasn’t her years spent in Ireland, where believing anybody’s motives are anything but self-serving, dishonest, and probably criminal was universally viewed as the sign of a half-wit.”

But two things are different this time. First, this is a darker adventure in every way. Events are already set in motion, but Madam Tulip’s very real gift is quick to shed light on a cauldron of seething motives. And second, unlike the past events where Derry was always aware that Madam Tulip was just another character she’s playing as an actor, this time she finds the character taking over. ‘This time, Madam Tulip felt more real than I did. As if she were acting me, like she was the one truly alive. Am I crazy?’

Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree has all the pieces I’ve loved so far. Derry and her friends’ backstory and characters continue to become more complex and rounded. Her parents continue to provide comic relief. The affectionate yet honest descriptions of Dublin and surrounding countryside are beautifully written.

New characters are introduced with author David Ahern’s usual brilliant descriptions, such as Pat Kelly, band manager and aspiring nightclub developer, “He was short and overweight, his pudgy face strongly tanned, like he spent long hours on a sunbed or had just returned from a winter vacation. His hair was black and curly, longer than fashionable. His clothes were youthful, obviously designer, though his socks were white and his shoes were black slip-ons, cheap-looking and too shiny. His shirt gaped over his belly, straining the buttons.” We probably know everything we need from just those white socks and too-shiny shoes.

As Derry has already discovered, interpreting Madam Tulip’s intuition isn’t an exact science. Take the serpent symbol, for example. Is it a warning, as it seems when Derry first sees a mysterious bracelet? Is it a symbol of the end of the world, as her Viking-loving new friend Nils tells her? Perhaps it’s part of the message from the tarot cards, or even an incomprehensible vision beckoning her to safety in her single moment of greatest danger? Derry never decides, and maybe we won’t know either.

For anyone who enjoys plenty of wisecracking banter, a cast of offbeat characters willing to risk their lives for each other—even if not in ways I could have predicted, as when Bruce brings Derry back from brink of hysteria by insisting she recite Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy—and a rollercoaster thriller plot, I can’t recommend this series enough.

And for you lucky ones who are not (yet) addicted, Madam Tulip predicts a treat in store for you: the first three books in her series are now available as a box set at special savings. What could you possibly be waiting for?

Book description

Actress Derry O’Donnell, moonlighting as fortune-teller Madam Tulip, finds herself in a famous pop singer’s entourage. But at the star’s glittering birthday party in the Dublin mountains, Derry finds a band riven by rivalries and feuds. Behind the trouble is a mysterious Russian guru, a shaman hated by everyone but the singer whose life she dominates.

When the shaman mysteriously disappears, suspicion threatens to tear the band apart. Was she victim or poisoner? Guilty or innocent? Dead or alive?

Two brilliant and beautiful musicians; an ambitious band manager with a shady past; a sax player entranced by Vikings–each has a secret to share and a request for Madam Tulip.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT THE LATECOMERS by Rich Marcello @marcellor #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading The Latecomers by Rich Marcello

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5 gold starMy Review: 5 stars out of 5

I’ve been struggling with this review. According to the blurb, The Latecomers is about—“…what it means to age well in a youth-oriented society.” 

Except I don’t think it is. Or at least, that’s only the beginning.

At first, the breakdown of Maggie and Charlie Latecomer’s love story does seem like any other relationship crisis tale involving aging lovers. Both had children by earlier failed marriages, meeting when they were prosperously established in professional careers. Their twenty-year relationship has survived job loss, infidelity, and reinventing their lives as a couple sufficient unto themselves—a smaller, more private world of art and music where Maggie paints and Charlie builds custom guitars. So as Maggie prepares to celebrate Charlie’s 60th birthday, she’s stunned by his announcement that he has to leave her.

As the layers peel back on this first part of the novel, we find out more about both Charlie and Maggie. To Charlie, Maggie personifies The Goddess—actually, a variety of them. Aware of this, Maggie allows him to believe in this view of her, without ever demanding that he accept her real person. But unknown to either of them, Charlie’s goddess has a sell-by date. His world view is skewed by his mother’s death—at age 60—and he can’t see beyond that.

At the same time, Maggie’s determination to fit them into a perfect two-person unit isn’t working either, as evidenced by her inability to paint the last canvas of her Charlie series, the one she calls Charlie’s Moai. They’ve defined their relationship by the Okinawan word moai, which means (to them anyway) “…a circle of people who purposefully met up and looked out for one another.”

After reinventing herself to the limited version of Charlie’s goddesses, Maggie doesn’t know how to cope with Charlie’s departure.

But what happened after your husband no longer saw the goddesses in you…

Both Charlie and Maggie turn to old friends and new relationships. And—if the book really was going to be about the whole aging gracefully theme—we would soon realize that Maggie would always be ultimately successful, while Charlie would have to battle his past.

Only… that’s not what happens. First, there’s the not-so-secret ghost in their private moai—Charlie’s dead mother Sabina who intrudes in Maggie’s portrait attempts. Her necklace, rejected by Maggie and a poor fit in his new relationship, becomes the noose beckoning him to join Sabina in death.

In the second part of the book, everything changes. With little fanfare, the lovers move into a world of magic. Magic realism is a genre I usually like better before and after (as opposed to during) the experience. Actually reading Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez or Thomas Pynchon is hard work. Or maybe the hard work happens at the beginning, when you have to turn off all the ways you normally look at and think about the world.

But The Latecomers is different. Unlike the Banana Massacre by the United Fruit Company that could only be told in a fictionalized version such as Gabriel García Márquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude, or like Thomas Pynchon’s 400-plus character “intro” to modern times in Gravity’s Rainbow, magic realism in Charlie and Maggie’s story is more accessible, perhaps because it occurs on a more intimate stage.

Traditional two-person family units won’t work anymore, Maggie realizes. When she reunites with Charlie, she proposes their new relationships and old friends be joined into a new and larger moai. But the pivotal event that changes all of them forever is about to occur. Following shocking acts of violence, their expanded moai experiences a magical event that changes their worldview, leaving them poised to possess secret knowledge that can literally change the world.

Again, it’s a necklace that represents this change. As each member of the new moai struggles to understand and accept the altered world view along with an incredibly precious gift symbolized by a new necklace, an unthinkable decision must be made.

The Latecomers is an onion of a book, which demands willing suspension of disbelief in favor of the slow reveal of answers to questions about the human condition. Flawed, strong, weak, murderous, loving, and above all human characters are asked to come to terms with that hardest of all questions:

What are you willing to give up in the name of remaining human?

This isn’t an easy book to read. But despite its symbols, indulgent self-examination, willful blindness, homage to SciFi classics, unwilling heroics, and super-annoying (to me anyway) foreign terms defining “new” relationship categories, The Latecomers is a stunning achievement. Getting to know Maggie is like meeting the Queen and realizing she’d be fun to grab a coffee with—and that the guy she hangs out with might be charming and attractive, but she’s the one who needs to be in charge. The writing is beautiful, the flawed characters are three-dimensionally human, the plot both surprising and inevitable.

Book description

Maggie and Charlie Latecomer, at the beginning of the last third of their lives, love each other but are conflicted over what it means to age well in a youth-oriented society. Forced into early retirement and with grown children in distant cities, they’ve settled into a curbed routine, leaving Charlie restless and longing for more.
When the Latecomers and their friends discover a mystical book of indecipherable logographs, the corporeal world and preternatural world intertwine. They set off on a restorative journey to uncover the secrets of the book that pits them against a potent corporate foe in a struggle for the hearts and minds of woman and men the world over.
A treatise on aging, health, wisdom, and love couched in an adventure, The Latecomers will make readers question the nature of deep relationships and the fabric of modern society.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Thriller LOUD PIPES SAVE LIVES by Jennifer Giacalone @ryderswriters

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Loud Pipes Save Lives by Jennifer Giacalone

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My Review: 5 stars out of 5

During filming of the Bogart/Bacall classic, The Big Sleep, the plot was so convoluted that neither the director nor the cast knew who committed at least one murder. A cable was sent to author Raymond Chandler, who told his friend Jamie Hamilton in a March 21, 1949 letter: “They sent me a wire … asking me, and dammit I didn’t know either”. It didn’t matter. It was the chemistry and banter between the lead characters which made it a classic detective noir. 

That’s how I feel about Loud Pipes Save Lives. Despite the fact that the large cast lives in New York City along with roughly nine million other people, their lives intersect constantly. Girl motorcycle vigilantes rub shoulders with the mayor whose chief of police knows the newspaper publisher whose sister is a detective who is being manipulated by the district attorney who has a big beef with the deputy mayor who knows where the bodies are buried and whose brother is friends with the brother of the girl motorcycle ganger…

Don’t worry if you missed any of that because it doesn’t matter. The banter is so much fun, the pace so rollercoaster, the characters so very flawed, that I raced through the book in one caffeine-fueled late night session. Author Jennifer Giacalone had me with her first quote from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. She cemented my love with her characters’ joyful embrace of the variety of relationships that every New Yorker encounters before they get their first coffee of the day—gay, multi-ethnic, asexual, stupid, smart, handicapped, cross-religious, and of course, liberally laced with obscenities.

And she ensured her automatic-buy place in my book-heart with her combination love affair with New York—“The city didn’t care. It lay serene as they all loved and teemed and scrambled and strove. And then it was morning.”—and just plain wonderful writing. “The lights had been lowered in the room to that level where everything looked like it was covered in a layer of honey and everyone was twice as attractive.” 

So sure, this book has all the tropes of any damaged detective/police procedural. There is the cop who naturally distrusts her superiors, journalists, and politicians. She’s got a past full of trauma, a family who are frankly even more messed up than she is, and a city to clean up. The villains aren’t all bad and the good guys are pretty flawed. But just as with Bogey and Bacall in The Big Sleep, none of that matters. Because… women motorcycle vigilante gangs, a LOT of leather, Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance quotes, New York City, the kind of True Love that ruins your life and the kind that saves it, and serious amounts of world-class snark. Hell, yeah!

If you’d like a fresh voice with attitude, great writing, flawed characters, and a completely convoluted story I’d recommend Loud Pipes Save Lives.

Book description

New York City Detective Lily Sparr is stunned when she is inexplicably moved to the very same precinct that once upon a time handled her own father’s murder. There, she is assigned to the case of a women’s motorcycle club which has been committing acts of violence all over the city. Despite missing her former partner, Miri, and fighting the ghosts of her past, Lily dedicates herself to the case, unaware that her own sister is mixed up in the swirl of violence and chaos.

After secretly reopening the file on her father’s death, Lily slowly unravels  threads of history, discovering that both cases lead to corruption and betrayal at the highest levels.

Featuring an ensemble of characters as diverse as its New York City setting, Loud Pipes Save Lives is a thriller-mystery with a twist of queer representation.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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