📚#SciFi #Thriller. @barbtaub Reviews Beyond The Speed Limit by @AntonEine for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #BookTwitter

Today’s team review is from Barb

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Barb Blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

Barb has been reading Beyond The Speed Limit by Anton Eine.

My Review: 5 stars out of 5

“If you’re reading this, I’m either dead or behind bars.”

In the prequel to his Programagic Cycle, Author Anton Eine hooked me with that great first line. My review of that intro applies to Beyond The Speed Limit, the first book in his new series, which introduces us to a disturbingly familiar magic world.

These days, instead of a wave a wand all you have to say is, “Let there be light,” and the interface spell running your house or flying chariot will carry out your every command. They can cook you dinner using standard or customized recipes, order the shopping, clean the house, turn on the music or even transmit a live or recorded image on your crystal ball.

At least, it’s familiar to any of us who have wandered the aisles of Fry’s or Best Buy, tried to set up our own router, or attempted to understand anything a twelve-year-old child tells us. Or to anyone like me with a basement full of obsolete electronic relics of bygone days, and completely useless knowledge of forgotten programming languages like Basic. (VCR/Walkman/DOS anyone?)

Beyond The Speed Limit works on several levels. First, of course, it uses the technology rules we accept but for the most part don’t understand any more than if they were in truth magic. It’s as if the Apple Store had a Genius Bar in Diagon Alley. This world might be magic-powered, but it follows rules just as strict as the physics we know in our own. A magic wand dropped in water in Sanjar’s world is just as dead as a water-drenched cellphone here. Spells written in old languages won’t power a modern magic wand any more than DOS will run your iPhone.

Second is the tongue-in-cheek humor of the references to things in the magic universe that directly mimic familiar elements in our own. (Book of Faces, anyone?)

Third is the plot, a classic SciFi thriller with plenty of chase scenes, epic battles, and universe-high stakes, with a reluctant hero, Magister Sajar Randhar, trying to solve the murder of his friend.

Another element is The Singularity, which (for SciFi fans at least) refers to the moment that an artificial intelligence (AI) achieves self-awareness. Sajar’s creation, an experimental AI hologram he calls Spirit, somehow achieves this in the prequel. Now she’s Sanjar’s secret companion, a being whose processing power and speed far exceed those of humans, but who lacks understanding of the complex rituals that make up humanity, or the soul.

Her processing power was nothing short of incredible. However, she lacked the intuition to immediately spot unusual or important bits of data. Her analytic algorithms could miss things that might seem obvious to us or require more time to process them. I had provided her with something akin to a subconscious, and it was a very powerful source of her insights but an artificial soul nevertheless functions in ways that are different to us.

As the aging technomage Sanjar tries to solve his friend’s murder, Spirit is his secret weapon. But the AI construct is also a self-aware entity, applying her vast computing resources to develop her sense of identity into a female and somehow endowing that self with gender, and emotions such as fear, anger, jealousy, and even love.

To uncover and try to combat a deadly conspiracy that threatens their society, Sanjar and his secret companion take part in a deadly sport in which drivers of magically-enhanced racing vehicles race in a course full of high-speed danger and magic snares.

I thought the endless puns on things and locations in our world (God bless Murica and the Divided Kingdom!) were a little over the top.  But I loved ultimate character development as Spirit invents herself while her supposed creator, Sanjar, looks on bemused. I enjoyed this update to the classic SciFi debate about whether a constructed being can become self-aware and what they might look like. If Spirit is clearly capable of computing vast amounts nearly instantaneously, what is to keep her from attempting to wrest control from her human creators? And of course, does her perception of these inequalities constitute a soul?

If you love the classic science fiction of Clarke and Asimov, the high-speed action of a James Bond thriller, or even just the speed and coordination of online gaming, I think you’ll appreciate the combination that is the official first book of Anton Eine’s Programagic Cycle, Beyond The Speed Limit.

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Book description

Welcome to an alternative world of wonder, where magic and technology are inseparably entwined. A place where sorcerer programmers code spells and weave them into items and artefacts to imbue them with special and specific properties.

Magister Sajar Randhar, a seasoned expert in magic security, investigates crimes together with his greatest and most ingenious creation – Spirit, the world’s first and only artificial spirit. Magister keeps her existence a secret to protect her from the dangers posed by the magical world’s politicians, secret services, criminals and corporations. Or perhaps, to protect the magical world from her?

Programagic, a detective techno-fantasy series by Anton Eine is an explosive mix of science fiction, fantasy and magical realism, seasoned with a healthy pinch of exotic dark humor.

This collection includes the first two stories of the series – a short novella Behind the Fire Wall and a full-length novel Beyond the Speed Limit.

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📚 An investigation into a frozen corpse used as a snowman! @barbtaub reviews Victorian #Mystery Murder & Michief by Carol Hedges @riotgrandma72, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Barb.

Barb blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Barb has been reading Murder & Mischief by Carol Hedges

In her Victorian Detective series, author Carol Hedges offers both Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle the sincerest form of flattery as she imitates their signature tropes in Murder & Mischief, her tenth book in the series. But at the same time, she invites the reader to laugh with her as she undermines those tropes to create her signature subversive, funny, sometimes icky, and occasionally sweet police procedurals, Victorian style.

We have plucky orphans and their ghoulish keepers, straight out of Oliver Twist, as intrepid young siblings Liza and Flitch escape the workhouse to seek their fortune in London.  Their self-reliant optimism contrasts with the entitled behavior of the sons of a wealthy businessman who have spent “…three years at Eton, learning Latin, Greek and social superiority.”

Iconic detective Sherlock Holmes is translated into Miss Lucy Landseer, writer and self styled consulting detective whose latest client has hired her to track down Liza and Flitch. Instead of a celibate, borderline-sociopath, and very peculiarly-dressed amateur detective with a less intelligent Dr. Watson sidekick, brilliant sibling Mycroft, and university professor Moriarty as arch-enemy, Lucy is a self-reliant, decidedly non-celibate, fashionably dressed detective who solves crimes by asking questions and writing down clues in her notebook, all with only the occasional help from her compliant, supportive lover—a university professor who isn’t anybody’s nemesis. Instead of insisting the plot thickens, the game’s afoot, or even “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” the eminently practical Lucy shares her philosophy that “…the investigating mind works better when it can see the actual places in which events occurred.” 

But first and foremost, we have our old friends at Scotland Yard, who are investigating the mystery of a frozen corpse used as a snowman, with only a top hat as clue to his identity. When the hat’s former owner, wealthy businessman and all-round nasty piece of work Mr. James William Malin Barrowclough, is also murdered, the group’s recently promoted member, Tom Williams, is on the case. It was as much Tom’s mastery of punctuation as his ‘fine sense of injustice’ that first brought him to the attention of Detective Inspector Grieg.

Grieg recalls the first time he encountered young Tom Williams, a lowly beat constable with more education and intelligence than was normally the case. He used words like ‘amiss’ in his reports; he could punctuate. And he didn’t begin every sentence with ‘I was proceeding’.”

That brings us to the final player, the city of London itself. All of their stories intersect and intertwine in the best Dickens tradition with London as the connecting thread. “And now, events that seem totally disparate and unconnected, are suddenly about to collide, as often happens in Babylondon, the greatest city on earth.” Victorian London is a living, breathing creature on a massive scale. “After sunset, when the lamplighter has run round the streets, and in the flickering yellow glow of the streetlamps, there is a moment when day stands on the threshold of night. The city seems to catch its breath.” Amusingly, an affluent French couple are appalled by the dirt and construction everywhere compared to the wide boulevards of Paris, while London native Tom Williams is equally horrified by the filth and noise of Birmingham.

As I’ve said about this series before, if you like your mysteries in multiples, your tropes both visible and upside down, your settings both historically exact and contemporaneously delightful, and your characters varied, funny, and heart-tugging, then Murder & Mischief is for you. If you haven’t seen this series before, I strongly urge you to start from the beginning. If the cast are old friends and new acquaintances, then sit back for a wild trip through Victorian London as only Carol Hedges can take you.  Either way, you’re the lucky one!

Orange rose book description
Book description

It is January, a time of year when not much crime usually happens. But when Inspector Greig is unexpectedly summoned to the opulent Hampstead residence of Mr. James William Malin Barrowclough, a rich businessman, he embarks upon one of the strangest and most bizarre investigations that he has ever been involved in.

Why has Barrowclough been targeted? What is inside the mysterious parcels that keep arriving at Hill House, and why won’t he cooperate with the police? The case will take the Scotland Yard detectives on a journey out of London and into the victim’s past, to uncover the secrets and lies that haunt his present.

Murder & Mischief is the tenth novel in the series, and in the great tradition of Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it entices the reader once again along the teeming streets and dimly gas lit thoroughfares of Victorian London, where rich and poor, friend and foe alike mix and mingle.

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📚’A lightning-fast character-driven plot’ @barbtaub Reviews #SciFi Making Waves by @ThorneMoore for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Barb

Barb blogs here https://barbtaub.com/

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Barb has been reading Making Waves by Thorne Moore

Making Waves by Thorne Moore

My Review:  5 out of 5 Stars for Making Waves (Salvage, Book 2) by Thorne Moore

I started my review of the first book in this series with, “I can make this a very short review by saying you really should just go buy Inside Out. You’ll thank me.” This time, I would say you really should just go buy both books in Thorne Moore’s Salvage series. You’ll thank me even more.

Still reading? Okay, here goes.

Once upon a time, there was a family. Like most families, it was pretty dysfunctional. Okay, it was a WAY dysfunctional collection of criminals and losers who boarded the Heloise, a spaceship bound for a year-long trip to deliver them to seven years service on Titan, a nightmare planet at the edge of the universe. If they survive the unsurvivable, they will be rich.

But on the voyage out to Titan, a strange thing happens. The group of antisocial liars, thieves, and deviants are taken under the wing of Heloise’s enigmatic captain, Tod Foxe. By the time he leaves them on Titan, Foxe’s cubs have become two things. Survivors, and family.

Against all odds, when Captain Fox gathers his cubs seven years later, each carries mental, emotional, and physical scars. But their family by choice survives, and returns to the Heloise. 

Abigail got up, smiling. ‘It’s like old times. A journey on the Heloise teaching us to confront ourselves.’

‘That is always a useful lesson,’ said Gabriel.

Of course, the universe has been going to hell around them, and the little family discovers they hold some of the keys to saving the world(s). They know who the bad guys are, and what they want.

But they have each been through the crucible, seen nightmares made reality, and emerged ready to kick evil capitalist butt. And sure, the villains are paper-thin, simplistic greedy suits: 

Where would our profits be, if all production had to observe Inner Circle constraints – health and safety, labour regulations, tax inspections, accident enquiries, monopoly limitations?

But the point of the plot, the characters, and the world-building is not the villains or even the triumph of good over evil. At its core, I think this is a book about what makes a family.

There are plenty of beloved science fiction tropes that find their way into this tale, although the action races through at such breakneck speed that it’s hard to stop and track them all. There are also nods to familiar shorthands for evil, from Nazi echoes of genocide against space-induced mutations, to Star Wars-style stormtroopers.

And of course, there are what I’m starting to see as author Thorne Moore’s trademark little pokes of humor. The ship’s cat is named Macavity, a nod perhaps to T.S.Eliot’s 1939 Old Possum’s book of Practical Cats, to the long-running Broadway musical, to the Macavity Awards for mystery writers, or to all of the above. I also loved the ‘death’ scene that one character is overacting for all he’s worth, even though it’s unlikely any of his audience will get his reference to Mrs. Lincoln.

‘He’s trying to say something,’ said Major Addo, leaning over them. ‘What is it, son?’

Mica looked up. ‘He’s saying “Apart from that, how did you enjoy the play?”’

My point is that this is a group of unrelated people who would not, in the general course of events, even meet. But they do meet, become family by choice, and save the universe — all the while snarking, teasing, and bickering as only siblings can.

If you enjoy a masterfully-created world, a lightning-fast character-driven plot, and — another Thorne Moore trademark— the Afterward that illuminates the main motivator of the story, then I highly recommend Making Waves. (But only if you’ve read the first book in the series, Inside Out, first, of course.)

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Book description

Two hundred years in the future, with the Solar System in the hands of mega-corporations…
Tod Fox, commander of the Heloise, has delivered six rash volunteers to Triton, control centre of Ragnox Inc. But then he took one away again.
Now volunteers and crew face a new chapter in their lives, as human resources at the mercy of Ragnox Director, Jordan Pascal, or as allies of Pan, under Benedict Darke, the relentless enemy of the Triton regime.
Where will their allegiance lie? There is no middle ground in Arkadia. It is war. No mercy. Victory at any price.
Volume II of Salvage. Sequel to Inside Out.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

🧙‍♀️’Some of my absolute favorite book friends’. @barbtaub reviews #cosymystery Madam Tulip And The Rainbow’s End by @DaveAhernWriter, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT🧙‍♀️

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Barb has been reading Madam Tulip And The Rainbow’s End by David Ahern.

My Review: 5 stars out of 5

The cast of the Madam Tulip series includes some of my absolute favorite book friends, starting with the 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.)

As always, Derry’s supporting cast includes her parents, long-divorced but tied by bonds far deeper than mere matrimony—Vanessa is agent to internationally-famed painter Jacko, and their epic battles and schemes constantly threaten Derry’s finances and, with alarming frequency, her life.

In fact, experts have established that the murder of artists by their agents and vice versa exceeds even the shocking homicide rate between couples in television dance competitions, although well below that between partners in bridge.

This episode opens with Derry being roused from a well-earned rest in a hotel in the North West coast of Ireland where she and her fellow actors had celebrated their brilliant performance the night before. There is a mysterious text from her friend Bella, the show’s co-producer. Then Derry’s friend Bruce (gay ex-Navy Seal, actor, computer expert, and total eye-candy) breaks the bad news. The main producer has disappeared with the box office takings which were supposed to have been disbursed that day. The rest of the troop discretely decamps in the night as well, leaving Derry and Bruce with massive hotel bills they couldn’t hope to pay. Derry is considering a quick exit via fire-escape, but her best friend Bruce—not only an officer and a gentleman, but also an American and thus subject to unfortunate fits of integrity—insists on facing the music. Derry realizes that can mean only one thing: Madam Tulip must come out of retirement.

With a back-story involving recovery of Jacko’s early (and thus valuable) paintings, Derry agrees to allow Madam Tulip to tell fortunes for a local fundraiser, partly to repay the hotel owner, and partly to get her parents off her case.

Madam Tulip, a character created by Derry with the help of her theatrical friends, was a fortune-teller of elegant dress and mature years. She had an uncanny ability, whether with Tarot, cards or crystal, to help her clients answer those questions asked by people of all ages, genders and orientations since the beginning of human history. ‘Does he or she love me?’ ‘Will I be happy?’ ‘Will I be rich?’ What’s more, Madam Tulip was no kind of fraud. As the daughter of the seventh son of a seventh son, Derry O’Donnell had inherited modest abilities some would call psychic, although she had once described her gift as being about as useful as a lipstick in the shower.

But now that Derry has grudgingly accepted the accuracy of Madam Tulip’s fortune-telling, she begins to see the darker side of the people she meets, including a recently bereaved family who own several of the paintings her parents want to recover, and a devastated sister seeking answers in her brother’s death.

Madam Tulip’s adventures are full of humorous takes on the people Derry and Bruce meet, and The Rainbow’s End is no exception. But Derry’s growing belief in her alter-ego Madam Tulip’s predictions make her suspect almost everyone of sinister motives, a darker outlook that worries the naturally-optimistic Derry. “She wondered what was wrong with her. Had she always been so mistrustful of everyone? Of herself? Her innocence seemed to have ebbed away unnoticed while she had been doing other things.”

Madam Tulip and the Rainbow’s End is faithful to the tropes of the (slightly paranormal) cozy thriller. Like trope-definer Nancy Drew, Derry is captured, tied up, and rescued. But this adventure goes darker, their adversaries more chillingly amoral, Derry’s dark moment truly terrifying. Interestingly, Madam Tulip takes on a more three-dimensional reality even as the hunt intensifies for the missing code to accessing the physical unreality of a bitcoin fortune. When Derry dons her disguise, it’s Madam Tulip who speaks her own truths. “More than once she felt the shiver of recognition as that vista shyly revealed itself. And in those moments, Tulip felt the peace of knowing that the future could be befriended but never tamed.”

As I’ve said about earlier books in this wonderful series, for anyone who enjoys plenty of wisecracking banter, a cast of offbeat characters willing to risk their lives for each other, and a rollercoaster thriller plot, I really can’t recommend this series enough.

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On the private island of a wealthy banker, a young and talented stonemason falls from a cliff. A tragic accident? Or murder?

The dead man’s sister is obsessed with justice and will stop at nothing.
A glamorous French widow and her heart-throb son are certain they have been cheated of their legacy.
A daughter is bequeathed an island mansion beyond her means.
An enigmatic letter hints at a hidden fortune.

After the collapse of her theatrical tour, actress Derry O’Donnell must work to pay her way in a West of Ireland village. As Madam Tulip, she tells fortunes for a local charity only to be drawn into a maze of mystery and intrigue.

Madam Tulip and the Rainbow’s End is the fifth in the Madam Tulip series of mystery-adventures, in which out-of-luck actress Derry O’Donnell finds the promise at the End of the Rainbow may not be what it seems.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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.

Desc 1

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

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #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.

Desc 1

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

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


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