Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Fantasy The Standing Stones by Caren Werlinger #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading The Standing Stones: Chronicles of Caymin (The Dragon Mage Saga III) by Caren J Werlinger.


In my reviews of the the first and second book in this series, I mentioned early Ireland’s rich history of what we would today call magic and fantasy. But now that I live near circles of standing stones dating back thousands of years, while just up the hill from us is an ancient sign politely indicating the way to the Fairie Glen, the mystery and power of these sites is a tie to people and events going back before our records. From our modern viewpoint, we may find it hard to believe that so much of ancient society was informed by the belief that supernatural forces controlled and influenced almost every aspect of their lives. Only…what if that was exactly what was happening? What if there were people with special gifts, trained and honed over a lifetime to wield tools we can’t understand? What happens when that supernaturally-based belief system crashes against the equally supernaturally-based system propagated by Christian missionaries?

This is the third book in the series, and I have to be honest with readers. Like any epic, there are a LOT of characters, whose interactions and adventures in earlier books form the backbone to the story arc. But the good news for those new to the series, is that you have the chance to take in the entire series, without waiting for each new instalment like the rest of us.This conflict forms the basis for Caren J. Werlinger’s Dragonmage series. Set in an ancient Ireland steeped in magic traditions, it tells the story of a young girl who is the one chosen to fill ancient prophecies while her entire world is crashing against the rapidly spreading new Christian beliefs. In one sense, a story like this seems like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic when we all know what is coming. But in another sense, it gives us a chance to imagine the lives of people to whom magic was a very real and present force. Author Caren Werlinger continues to balance delicately  between the magic lore taught and practiced by her fictional mages and the reality that we know it was the Christians who were eventually successful.

As a short (and hopefully not too spoilery) recap, the earlier books have already told the story of a child called Ash. Adopted by badgers (badgers!) as an infant after her village is destroyed by invaders, she survives because of her ability to communicate with animals. Although discovered and accepted as apprentice by mages, Ash and her new friends’ existence is threatened by the increasing influence of the Christianity introduced to Ireland by Saint Patrick in the fifth century.

Bonded with the baby dragon Péist, Ash receives her true name—Caymin—and discovers  her destiny as a dragonmage, one chosen to travel through a time Portal to save other mages and their dragons, prevent a horrific war, and keep the spreading Christians from destroying Ireland’s magic heritage.

The world building continues to be wonderful. Not only do we get the strong sense of the realities of everyday life, but we also see the lure of the “what if”. In Book III, for example, Caymin and Péist learn the true nature of the rings of Standing Stone that dot the British Isles. In telling their story, author Caren Werlinger takes many of the tropes of epic fantasy and converts them to the needs of her tale:

  • Setting: Yes, there is an ancient world where a deadly enemy, once thought defeated, now returns to gather his [why is it always his?] dark forces. In a typical epic fantasy, this would mean the end of the world (or at least the bits we like with, you know, dashing heroes, and good sanitation, and of course ice cream…) is at hand. But wait! Although raised in secrecy with no knowledge of his true destiny, our epic fantasy Hero gathers a devoted but motley band, some Shitastic Artifact/ Ring of Power/ Awesome Sword-thingie, and they all proceed to kick Dark Force butt, after which Hero manages to personally defeat the Dark Lord, probably in one-on-one combat. In Caymin’s tale, while she was technically raised in secret—by badgers!—and does gather a group around her, the hero thing is done by a girl who is still basically a child, with help of course from her pet dragon.
  • Props: There is a properly scary shitastic artifact of doom—not to mention dragons aplenty—but the motley posse is basically children, really old people, and of course badgers.
  • Quest: Although there is a reluctant quest, Caymin isn’t The One, hidden heir to the kingdom. She’s the child of peasants, brutally burned as a baby and further scarred. She and her dragon just get on with saving the world because they are the only ones who can, although neither expects to survive the attempt.
  • Romance: In typical epic fantasy, the Hero finds a snarky but brave girl who is surprisingly good with a sword, but nevertheless needs to be rescued with depressing regularity, after which they have sex (or if it’s YA they have a Moment and maybe even a Kiss) on horse/dragon/flying creature-back. Okay, not so much in this story. Not only is Caymin still, technically, a child but she’s separated by literally hundreds of years (and the odd dimensional shift) from the one person for whom she starts to feel an attraction. So—to the probable relief of her dragon Péist—there are no romantic dragonback encounters.

There are a few things that I might have changed. In keeping with the huge cast common to epic fantasy, this volume continues to introduce new characters whose main purpose seems to be tying up the fate of every orphan ever mentioned (and like all good epics, almost everyone IS an orphan). Also, Camin and Péist’s ultimate fate is still a bit unclear.

But all that pales against what I consider to be the finest achievement of these volumes. I admire the way Caymin’s character develops and grows, even as the slightly more alien dragon also tries to find his path as he matures. Caymin’s confusion about her attraction to another girl is sensitively and beautifully handled, fitting well into the context of the strong women who have guided her. And her acceptance of the heroic role she accepts owes more to those who have guided her than to any Prophecy, fighting prowess, or innate magical ability.

If you know a child entering adolescence, especially if they are questioning their sexuality, if they have any handicaps, or if they would like to see a hero who is NOT a Hollywood Ken-&-Barbie-R-Us clone, please do them a favor and send them this series. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fantasy, adventure, and coming of age stories.

Book Description

Caymin and Péist, the young dragonmage and dragon who helped to end the last dragon war, have returned from that conflict longing only for peace. But peace is not to be found. Éire is on the brink of being torn asunder as Christians battle pagans, raiders from the north attack the coast, and their enemies—the power-hungry dragonmage and dragon they fought in the otherworld—have escaped from their prison.

Caymin and Péist are the only ones who can thwart them but, in order to do so, they’ll have to do the unthinkable—bring all of the dragons and their mages back to this realm. The dragons can only be summoned and controlled by one who holds the Méarógfola—the Bloodstone. The problem is, the Bloodstone hasn’t been seen since it was stolen a thousand winters ago.

In a race through time, Caymin and Péist will have to go back through the Portal, back a thousand winters, back to set in motion everything that must unfold as it was meant to. Finding the Méarógfola is only the beginning of their challenges. Old factions among the dragons make them as difficult to control as the human clans. Destroying the Bloodstone is the only way to end this once and for all, but there are those who will do anything, anything, to get their hands on it.

About the author

Caren J. Werlinger

 I was raised in Ohio, the oldest of four children. Much of my childhood was spent reading everything I could get my hands on, and writing my own variations on many of those stories where I could play the hero, rescuing the girl and winning her love. Then I grew up and went to college where I completed a degree in foreign languages and later another in physical therapy where for many years, my only writing was research-based, including a very dry therapeutic exercise textbook.

In the mid-nineties, I began writing creatively again and re-discovered how much fun it is. My first novel, Looking Through Windows, was published in 2008 and won a GCLS award for Debut Author. In 2012, I decided to begin publishing my own books under my imprint, Corgyn Publishing. Corgyn’s first release, Miserere, followed in late 2012 to excellent reviews.

I live in Virginia with my partner, Beth, and our canine fur-children

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT The Lover’s Portrait by @JSAauthor #HistFic #Mystery

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer Alderson


My Review: 3.5  stars out of 5

“Write what you know.” Like most vintage advice, there is a kernel of truth to that, especially if you interpret it as “take what you’ve experienced and use it to inform and color what you write”. Jennifer S. Alderson is certainly one writer who takes that advice to heart. Like her character Zelda, she was working as a website developer in Seattle, Washington, when the travel bug hit. After several international stops, she ended up in the Netherlands, pursuing a graduate program and internship in exhibition design and collection research.

In book two of this series, Alderson’s fictional doppelganger, Zelda, is counting on her internship at the Amsterdam Museum to ensure her admission to the prestigious graduate degree program in Museum Studies. But Zelda is disappointed to discover that she’s really only expected to work as a copyeditor, proofing english translations of the catalog copy. Museum curators and staff have been working for years to prepare for an exhibit of unclaimed art works recovered after Nazi occupation in World War II.

Interleaved with Zelda’s contemporary research are chapters set in 1942. In them, the history of the missing artworks unfolds against a backdrop of war, blackmail, the holocaust, and homophobia.

When Zelda offers to apply her web development skills to enhance the museum’s dreadful online site meant to showcase each work of art, her efforts are mocked and rebuffed by exhibition curator Huub Konijn. But before the new website can be taken down, they get their first hit. An elderly American, Rita Brouwer, whose family had fled Nazi-occupied Amsterdam when she was a child, came forward to claim Irises, one of the lesser-known works.

The museum administrators are delighted, and quick to publicize their first success. All that turns to dismay when another claimant to Irises emerges. Curator Huub is sure the new claim is valid, but Zelda is convinced that the picture belongs with Rita and her elderly sisters. As Zelda and her young friend/admirer Friedrich dig deeper, the stakes go from lies and greed to murder.

There were so many things to like about this book. The premise—Nazi-looted artworks hidden for decades—is both timely and terrific, and the settings were well-drawn and believable. Nazi atrocities against both Jews and homosexuals are well-documented. And we’ve all heard about families who’ve spent years trying to recover property looted by the Nazis, as well as the dramatic discovery of more than 1200 works in the apartment of reclusive German art dealer Cornelius Gurlitt.  And as a thriller, the novel’s pacing unfolds perfectly, slowly at first and then racing to its dark climax.

For me, though, there were a few problems with the book. I can wish for tighter editing for the various typos and edit fails (including the instance where Huub calls someone “Renee”). I can wish that better research/editing could have caught things like the reference to a non-Jew as one of hundreds of guests at a bar mitzvah party, even though such an event would have been more likely to be a family-oriented dinner feast in the days preceding more recent American-style extravaganzas. Or that while there is a definite point made to one character wearing a wig, we never really find out why.

Some things were probably just artistic license taken in order to make a point, such as the unlikely conversation between an art history graduate student and a museum curator where they discuss the meaning of “provenance”—something that should surely have come up on the first day of her first art history class. Or the way that the Nisqually earthquake was moved forward in time…and relocated from Olympia to Seattle.

But my real disappointment with The Lover’s Portrait is with the main characters, especially Zelda. We know that she’s an intrepid woman who has traveled the world. Trying to avoid spoilers, I have to say that she comes across as immature and surprisingly gullible, especially in her romantic relationships. Despite what I would have seen as opportunities for character development and growth, I can’t point to times where Zelda has changed or matured in any way. And—while trying to avoid spoilers here— I can also say that the other “romantic” relationship between the villain and his accomplice is even less believable.

In addition, virulent opposition of curator Huub to giving Irises to its original owner and his almost fawning acceptance of the second claim is vaguely attributed to his own family’s suffering during the war. While the plight of the Netherlands Jews is well documented—of the over 140,000 Jews living in the Netherlands at the beginning of the war, less than 27% survived the holocaust, and those who did almost invariably returned to find their property confiscated and possessions gone—that simply doesn’t explain why he would prefer one claimant over another.

Having said all that, I come back to the fact that this is a well-told story over all, with significant research, great settings, and good pacing. Author Jennifer S. Alderson can definitely write, and I’d look forward to reading her future books.

Book Description

When a Dutch art dealer hides the stock from his gallery – rather than turn it over to his Nazi blackmailer – he pays with his life, leaving a treasure trove of modern masterpieces buried somewhere in Amsterdam, presumably lost forever. That is, until American art history student Zelda Richardson sticks her nose in.

After studying for a year in the Netherlands, Zelda scores an internship at the prestigious Amsterdam Historical Museum, where she works on an exhibition of paintings and sculptures once stolen by the Nazis, lying unclaimed in Dutch museum depots almost seventy years later. When two women claim the same painting, the portrait of a young girl entitled Irises, Zelda is tasked with investigating the painting’s history and soon finds evidence that one of the two women must be lying about her past. Before she can figure out which one and why, Zelda learns about the Dutch art dealer’s concealed collection. And that Irises is the key to finding it.

Her discoveries make her a target of someone willing to steal – and even kill – to find the missing paintings. As the list of suspects grows, Zelda realizes she has to track down the lost collection and unmask a killer if she wants to survive.

The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery draws on the author’s experiences gained while studying art history in the Netherlands and working for several Dutch museums. Before moving to Amsterdam twelve years ago, Jennifer S. Alderson worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington.

About the author

Jennifer S. Alderson

Hi! I worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading my financial security for a backpack. After traveling extensively around Asia and Central America, I moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. There I earned degrees in art history and museum studies. Home is now Amsterdam, where I live with my Dutch husband and young son.

My travels and experiences color and inform my internationally-oriented fiction. Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking is a travel fiction adventure through Nepal and Thailand. The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery is a suspenseful ‘whodunit?’ which transports readers to wartime and present day Amsterdam.

Both novels are part of an on-going yet stand-alone series following the adventures of traveler and culture lover, Zelda Richardson. The third installment, another art-related travel thriller (working title: Smuggler’s Deceit) will be released in the fall of 2017.

My travelogue, Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand, is now available as paperback and eBook. A must-read for those interested in learning more about – or wishing to travel to – Nepal and Thailand.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT @barbtaub reviews Fat Girl Begone by @dehaggerty #Romance

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading Fat Girl Begone by D. E Haggerty


How many times do you plan a vacation where you have no idea of your destination? Not that often, I’d bet. We may SAY it’s the journey that matters…but a mountain climber doesn’t want their journey to end up in an art museum any more than an opera buff wants to end up on a surfer beach.  It’s the same with the romance genre. Sure, we expect that the two main characters will end up together. But the paths taken to reach that point are literally infinite in number. Just ask Elizabeth Bennett (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen), Claire Randall (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon), Kate Daniels (Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews) or any of the literally millions of romance heroines how they arrived at their HEAs. Some of those paths are so well-travelled that the scenery is boring and the tour has become a cliche. Others, though familiar, still offer plenty of exciting, gorgeous, and just plain romantic views along the way. Take Fat Girl Begone as an excellent example where the destination might be a given, but the fun is all in how author D.E. Haggerty gets us there.

It might seem like Everly Rawlins has it all—handsome and successful boyfriend, partnership-track at her accounting firm, secret savings account to fund her dream wedding. But her self-image tells her she’s fat, her boyfriend tells her he’s leaving because he can’t take any more of her obsession with diet instead of him, her best friend tells her that tequila-fuelled decision to pre-pay for a private trainer is non-negotiable, and her employer tells her security will be escorting her from their premises. And that’s just the beginning, as author D. E. Haggerty keeps the romance tropes flying so fast we barely register the meet-cute with Mr. Yummy, the obligatory ensuing love triangle, and all four types of what the Greeks called the four loves:

  • STORGE (Affection/family love): Everly builds a new family-of-choice in her supportive, profane, but well-dressed new friends from the gym.
  • PHILIA (Friendship love): Her best friends steadfastly refuse to accept Everly’s body image issues, seeing her as both intelligent and beautiful.
  • EROS (Romantic love): Rejected by her long-time boyfriend, Everly tries to keep new suitors firmly in the friend-zone, telling herself that she is not up to their league.
  • AGAPE (Unconditional love): With her former boyfriend as the poster boy for how to undermine self-image, Everly is suspicious of unconditional love when it’s offered.

There are so many things I liked about Everly. The snarky banter with her friends, the humor that shines through even when she’s at her lowest points, the secret core of strength she has no idea is there, and way we start to see her intelligence and beauty as reflected in her friends’ love and admiration—these all combine in beautifully orchestrated character development.

There were a few things I found a little harder to swallow. There’s the billionaire who seems to work about an hour a week, the new business that springs into life and instant success, the will-they/won’t-they (they will) suspense, the expanding triangle as every guy she meets falls in lust with Everly, and especially the mind-boggling perfection of a suitor whose like hasn’t been seen outside the pages of Porn for Women. (Sexy Shirtless Guy: “As soon as I finish the laundry, I’ll do the grocery shopping. And I’ll take the kids with me.”)

Does any of that matter? Not if what you’re looking for is a funny, entertaining, and ultimately charming journey to a destination you knew about right from the start. If that’s what you’re hoping for, then Fat Girl Begone is exactly the right ticket.

Book Description

I’m a total mess. My boyfriend dumped me – get this – because I diet too much. Not because I’m fat, mind you. Of course, this spurs me into the diet-fitness-revenge-plan of the century, which leads me to the gym and a scorching hot personal trainer. I even manage to make some cool new friends, including a millionaire if you can believe it. Things are looking up! Naturally, that’s the moment my ex decides he wants me back, the personal trainer asks me out, and my millionaire male buddy decides to throw his hat in the ring. But that’s not enough drama. No, not for me. Because I’ve also lost my job and decided to start my own business. Just call me Ms. Drama.

Warning: Bad language, bumpy roads, and embarrassing moments ahead. But there’s also more than a bit of romance and even, if we’re lucky, love. Fingers crossed.

Not endorsed by or affiliated with any brand of tequila.

About the author

I grew-up reading everything I could get my grubby hands on, from my mom’s Harlequin romances, to Nancy Drew, to Little Women. When I wasn’t flipping pages in a library book, I was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing me of free time to write and read, although on the odd occasion I did manage to sneak a book into my rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. After surviving the army experience, I went back to school and got my law degree. I jumped ship and joined the hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into my legal career, I was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. I quit my job and sat down to write a manuscript, which I promptly hid in the attic after returning to the law. But being a lawyer really wasn’t my thing, so I quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out being a B&B owner wasn’t my thing either. I polished off that manuscript languishing in the attic before deciding to follow the husband to Istanbul where I decided to give the whole writer-thing a go. But ten years was too many to stay away from my adopted home. I packed up again and moved to The Hague where I’m currently working on my next book. I hope I’ll always be working on my next book.
Fat girl Begone! is my eleventh book.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT The Curse Of Arundel Hall by J New @newwrites #SundayBlogShare

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here,

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading The Curse Of Arundel Hall by J. New


Again, J. New doesn’t disappoint. In true homage to the genre, in The Curse of Arundel Hall all the suspects are gathered together in the drawing room while the detective lists each one’s opportunity and motive for murder. The victim, American social climbing actress Patty Mae, had revealed herself guilty of every sort of character fault, including that most unforgivable of all—bad manners. Although the author withheld a vital clue that solved the crime until that final summation, I have to admit that the identity of the murderer would have been just as complete a surprise to me at either point.

Wikipedia defines a cozy mystery as “a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.” True to the definition, sex, profanity, and violence are “behind the door” and only gently referenced. Sleuth Bella is an amateur who gathers a posse of essential helpers—in this case the Police Commissioner, his chief medical examiner, and her own well-connected family.

I did have a couple of places where the required “willing suspension of disbelief” was more of a stretch. And the writer’s device of ending each chapter with somewhat heavy-handed foreshadowing—”Little did I know it would be sooner than I expected.”—got old quickly. But the thing that raises this series to five stars for me and makes me anxious for to read the next book, is the genre mix of paranormal with cozy mystery.

Bella sees ghosts, and even talks to them. Her cat, Phantom, is usually a ghost. Except (he’s a cat after all) when he’s not. Mixing the paranormal elements with the main mystery, and adding dessert toppings of secondary mysteries/ghosts keeps the story lively and makes the reader look forward to learning more about the characters (both living and dead).

As a cozy mystery, as a paranormal detective story, and as a completely entertaining series in a historical setting, I am delighted to recommend The Yellow Cottage Mystery series.

Book Description

One ghost, one murder, one hundred years apart. But are they connected? 
Ella has discovered a secret room in The Yellow Cottage, but with it comes a ghost. Who was she? And how did she die? Ella needs to find the answers before either of them can find peace. But suddenly things take a nasty turn for the worse. 
Ella Bridges has been living on Linhay Island for several months but still hasn’t discovered the identity of her ghostly guest. Deciding to research the history of her cottage for clues she finds it is connected to Arundel Hall, the large Manor House on the bluff, and when an invitation to dinner arrives realises it is the perfect opportunity to discover more. 
However the evening takes a shocking turn when one of their party is murdered. Is The Curse of Arundel Hall once again rearing its ugly head, or is there a simpler explanation? 
Ella suddenly finds herself involved in two mysteries at once, and again joins forces with Scotland Yard’s Police Commissioner to try and catch a killer. But will they succeed? 
‘Miss Marple meets The Ghost Whisperer’ – Perfect For Fans of Golden Age Murder Mysteries, Cozy Mysteries, Clean Reads and British Amateur Sleuths 

About the author

J. New

J. New is the British author of British Vintage Murder Mysteries, which have been dubbed by readers as ‘Miss Marple meets The Ghost Whisperer’. 
A voracious reader and writer all her life, she took her first foray into Indie publishing in 2013, and has never looked back.
She has an eclectic reading taste, ranging from the Magic of Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling, Tolkien and Neil Gaiman, to Dean Koontz, Eion Colfer, Anne Rice and Agatha Christie. 
A lover of murder mysteries set in past times, where steam trains, afternoon tea and house staff abound. She is convinced she was born in the wrong era as she has a particular aversion to cooking and housework.
She also has an impossible bucket list, which includes travelling on the Orient Express with Hercule Poirot, shopping in Diagon Alley with Sirius Black, lazing around the Shire with Gandalf and Bilbo, exploring Pico Mundo with Odd Thomas and having Tea at the Ritz with Miss Marple.

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Rosie’s Team #RBRT A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry @GreenWizard62 #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice by Mark Barry


gold starMy Review: 5 out of 5 stars for A Shiny Coin for Carol Prentice by Mark Barry

According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Narcissus was a youth of such surpassing beauty that he spurned admirers, including the infatuated nymph Echo. His only love was given to his beautiful face, causing the heartbroken Echo to fade away until only her voice was left. But the impossibility of his reflection ever returning his passion eventually led to Narcissus’ destruction, and he wasted away as well.

Carol admits that she may well be an unreliable narrator—”I was probably lying to myself, even then.” But even so, her descriptions of everything from her fabulous vintage/goth outfits to the English spring weather help to set the scene. “For late spring, it was cool, and rainy, an unbroken, ironed graphite sheet above, a breeze pregnant with moisture.” Forget your gamboling lambs and fluffy clouds—this is the England we all know. Her words paint what should be a picture-perfect English village, the kind the BBC loves to film, full of wealthy, beautiful people. But she shows it from the inside out, a Stepford landscape of assumed right and privilege.But when her father dies unexpectedly, Carol feels compelled to return home. She develops The Plan, a mysterious idea that will allow her revenge on those who hurt her in the past. Carol takes a job in a bookstore managed by Steve, a middle-aged intellectual who becomes first her friend and then her ally in the war which appears to start over a mispriced comic book. As the disagreement between Carol’s old adversary Toby and her new friend Steve escalates into all out war, she realizes two things. First, Toby is probably speaking the truth when he tells Carol, “I can no more stop now than a runaway train can stop itself plummeting over the cliff.” And second, the war is not, and never has been, about the price of a comic book. Instead, it’s something that their parents started.  “It may have been a war that would never end until the circle was squared.”

Even a terrific writer like Mark Berry does, very occasionally, get it wrong. I can’t believe that Carol—either in her deliberately acquired bubblehead voice or as her ironic intelligence shines through—would ever speak a sentence with “women nowadays.”  (“…women nowadays didn’t care about personalities…”) Still, the description that follows is pretty awesome and Carol-like “It was all about looks for them, especially around the town, a narcissistic jamboree fashioned from miles of silvered glass, endless selfies and constant self-reflection.” But wait! So it isn’t just Toby who is Narcissus? Apparently, the whole town is enchanted by their own reflection, and thus they all need to be punished.

Of course, the face of the war and targeting of Steve means the visible enemy on the battlefield actually IS Toby. “…his narcissus face, his reflection in the pool.” Carol realizes that she’s allowed Toby to make her disappear. “I had begun to realize something: my recent life had been all about Toby since that night.” She’s spent four years as a shade who can only repeat what those around her say. But now she needs to wake up. To extract her revenge, Carol needs to be seen.

Carol’s response is to become her old neighbors’ polar opposite. Her blonde hair is religiously dyed as black as possible. Instead of designer tweeds, she wears vintage gothic and biker boots. And instead of their “…cut glass, foppish, ultimately English accent, as smooth as silk and as creamy as expensive soap…”, she deliberately fills her sentences with the jarring one-size-fits-all negative “unawesome” and the incessant brain-fart “like”.

Within Carol’s first-person narration, unreliable as it is, we only meet her ideas about who the other characters really are. Because she needs him to be so, for example, Carol makes Steve—failed writer and musician, frequent drunk, and manager of a used bookshop that could never have survived without the charitable foundation backing it—into her “rock”, the one person she’s allowed to see her as more than a ghost. Even when Steve and her friend Pippa try to hold up other examples of people who’ve had experiences more horrific than hers, Carol ignores any hints that her own past doesn’t make her a special snowflake. After telling about being gang-raped as a teen, Pippa cautions, “Don’t pity me. Just understand. Don’t walk around the bloody world thinking it’s all about little you.”

There have been works of literature where the writing itself provided healing and closure. Long Day’s Journey Into Night was Eugene O’Neil’s attempt to explain the breakdown of his dysfunctional family. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez reveals the forbidden historical reality of the United Fruit Company’s murderous legacy through fictional fantasy. A Shiny Coin for Carol Prentice isn’t one of those stories. Steve has tried writing, and it didn’t work. The author himself, Mark Barry, shows up in a book cameo, tells a somewhat irrelevant anecdote, and wanders off. An unimpressed Carol observes, “We could have used the extra pair of hands.”

Mark Barry, the writer character, had failed Carol. Steve’s lectures about writing failed too, especially when he talked about shades of grey among villains. Toby already knows this truth, that the sides and the outcomes are black and white, no shades of gray in between. Steve doesn’t know, so he can’t win. Carol doesn’t want to know, but in order to win, she becomes someone who believes. That’s the polarization that the concept of War allows, the absolution for any action they may take. “Like, whatever we do to guys as bad as these, they will deserve. There’s going to be no guilt or, like, beating ourselves up afterwards.”

Because she’s made Steve into her rock, because she’s allowed him to SEE her, Carol believes she can communicate with him. Just one person in her universe. But that means she has to accept responsibility for what happens to Steve. If it’s all because of her, then it has to mean everything. Both Toby and Carol are beautiful, but they are still just the reflections of a horrible cycle started by their parents, the truest forms of Narcissus incapable of love. When she unleashes The Plan, Carol needs to make them all SEE her at last, even if only across a battlefield.

But the War isn’t over. Sure, our unreliable narrator Carol intends to declare victory, change her name, and get on with her life. But she’s still trapped, waiting for approval she can never get. Not from her father who’s dead, not from Toby’s father who’s on the other side of the war, and not from Steve, who might never be the rock she needs. Instead Carol has to take victory where she can get it. Toby must become the Old Carol—”Reclusive, friendless and shunned.”  The rest must become a love story. But it’s not so much a love story as a story about how to rewrite history and call it love.

At the end, Carol muses about what writing can and can’t do. Without the war in which he is collateral damage, Carol tells Steve he would “…still be listening to Pink Floyd at night on your sofa with your feet up reading your Martin Amis and all those brilliant writers who don’t give a poo about story because for you, and for them, it’s all about writing as art.”

A Shiny Coin for Carol Prentice is another Mark Barry masterpiece. All the epic themes—love, hatred, war, betrayal, greed, heroism, tragedy, victory, and loss—play out on a small stage in human scale. The beautiful, flawed characters from the tragic Narcissus legend are doomed to play out their mistakes as their reflected images become their realities. Five stars aren’t enough.

Book Description

Carol Prentice left Wheatley Fields to attend university in Manchester and not once did she return in four years. Her beloved father visited her whenever he could, but then he passed away and it was up to her to sort his affairs.

She could have done this from a distance, but a woman can run to the far corners of the earth, but, in the end, she can never escape herself.

She had to come home: There was no other choice.

Taking a job at a bookshop for the duration, she befriends Steve – an older man who looks like a wizard and who knows everything in the world.

Carol quickly encounters the demons that forced her to leave in the first place – including Toby, the raffish local villain, with whom she shares the most horrifying of secrets and whose very existence means evil and mayhem for everyone around. Especially the lovable Steve.

Carol finds herself in the middle of a war between the two men:
A war which can only have one victor.

Soon, she wishes she had never come home.
But by then it was too late.
Much too late.

About the author

Mark Barry is a multi-genre writer and novelist. His work includes the minor cult hit Ultra Violence about football hooligans at a small Midlands football club and Carla, a quirky, dark, acclaimed romance with shades of Wuthering Heights.
He is the co-designer of the innovative Brilliant Books project aimed at engaging the many, many reluctant readers amongst young people.
He has one son, Matt, on the brink of University, with whom he shares a passion for Notts County Football Club. Fast food, comics, music, reading, his friends on the Independent scene, and horse racing keep him interested and he detests the English Premier League, selfish, narcissistic people and bullies of all kinds.
He is based in Nottingham and Southwell, UK, the scene of most of his fiction.n Mark Barry’s retelling of the story, Carol Prentice left her home and her father four years earlier to attend University, but actually to escape from the devastating events of her past, and especially from the deceptively beautiful Toby. The only way she’s been able to cope was to disappear, to focus both physically and emotionally on appearances and details rather than on feeling…anything. “I sometimes think they murdered me and I am a ghost.”

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT THE LUCKY HAT MINE by @jvlbell American #Western

Today’s team review is from Barb, she blogs at

#RBRT Review Team

Barb has been reading The Lucky Hat Mine by J.V.L Bell


I was asked to review The Lucky Hat Mine for Rosie’s Book Review Team. Because I was traveling, I wasn’t able to download it from Netgalley or even download the offered copy of the audiobook. But when I heard that the audio was narrated by Nancy Wu, I went straight to my Audible UK account and bought a copy. And I’m so glad I did, although the mix of humor, historical detail, and great story earned me some odd looks as I laughed out loud while walking the dog.

What did you like best about this story?

This is a western, both due to its historical period and initial tales of crossing the prairie by covered wagon. But author JvL Bell takes on almost every western trope and makes it her own. For example, in your standard Western, women come in two kickass models: good (frontier wives/ preachers’ daughters) and bad (dance-hall girls/Soiled Doves such as Big Nose Kate, Doc Holliday’s common law wife). Occasionally, the Soiled Doves—if they had a Heart-of-Gold—become good saloon owners (like Miss Kitty in Gunsmoke) or even wives. But Miss Permelia Abingdon Virginia—Millie to her friends—is a genteel Southern lady. Despite being raised in an orphanage, she’s worked darn hard to become one, memorizing and frequently quoting from her two bibles: THE LADIES’ BOOK OF ETIQUETTE and MANUAL OF POLITENESS: a complete handbook for the use of the lady in polite society by Florence Hartley, (actually published in 1873, whist the story is set in 1863), and TRUE POLITENESS, A hand-book of etiquette for ladies by An American Lady (1847).

But when the War of Northern Aggression (Civil War) makes Millie a virtual household slave to the LeGrand family, leaving her with almost no chance for marriage and a family of her own, she decides take an almost unthinkable gamble and become a mail-order bride. After enduring the horrors of a westward journey, she arrives at the gold-mining town of Idaho Springs Colorado to find that her proposed husband is in a pine coffin, “resting in the river” (because it was just too warm to leave him exposed to air)—leaving her to become “The Widow D” and heir to her dead fiance’s gold mine.

Idaho Springs’ woman-starved and gold-hungry residents immediately begin proposing marriage and offering to buy the mine. Shocked, Millie refuses all offers and moves into her dead almost-husband’s cabin. As she continues to rebuff proposals and receive ever-increasing offers to purchase her mine, Millie starts to carve out a tentative life for herself, befriending Mary, a black woman living in the next cabin, as well as her other new neighbors. But nothing in her etiquette bibles has prepared her for her unexpected new roommate—Dom, her dead fiance’s brother.

As the story unwinds with a side-mystery involving her mysterious parents, Millie survives proposals, attempts on her life, and a pregnant fainting goat. And she does it all with humor, appreciation for the people she meets, hope for the future, and a healthy dose of strong willed determination.

Have you listened to any of Nancy Wu’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Narrator Nancy Wu is one of my favorite audiobook performers. In this one, she absolutely shines as she employs different accents and voice pitch to make the various characters come alive. I think most of the large supporting cast of characters could not possibly have seemed so hilariously real without Ms. Wu’s ability to give each their own voice. But it was the way she performed with obvious joy in the story and the humor that made the book really live for me.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were many moments that had me laughing out loud, but perhaps the most moving one is where Millie, who is terrified of caves, goes into a collapsed mine tunnel to rescue her pet fainting goat Buttercup.

Any additional comments?

I love the way Millie’s character develops, from a young girl relying on the etiquette she’s learned to grow beyond her life as an orphan, eventually becoming a strong-willed (but always proper) woman who takes charge of her own destiny. The other characters in the book were also amusing, but not well-defined. My only real disappointment was in how the story seemed to end suddenly. The romance that grows between Dom and Millie is sweet, but her incessant wonder/worry about just what a husband’s “rights” might be stops a little too abruptly. I would have liked to see her move beyond the bedroom to embrace her new life and destiny.

The setting is particularly effective. Not only does the author provide detailed word pictures of the area, but she fills in with a number of amusing and historically-accurate stories and details. Overall, The Lucky Hat Mine is an engaging, funny, clean romance. With fainting goats. Who could resist?

Book Description

A recipe for true love or murder? Ingredients: one Southern belle, one Colorado gold miner, a wife wanted classified, and a fainting goat. Let simmer.

What’s a Southern belle to do in 1863? Wife-wanted ads are always risky business, but Millie Virginia never imagined she’d survive the perilous trip across the Great Plains to find her intended husband in a pine box. Was he killed in an accident? Or murdered for his gold mine? Stuck in the mining town of Idaho Springs, Colorado territory, without friends or means, Millie is beleaguered by undesirable suitors and threatened by an unknown assailant. Her troubles escalate when the brother of her dead fiancE, Dominic Drouillard, unexpectedly turns up.

Dom is an ill-mannered mountain man who invades Millie’s log cabin, insists that his brother was murdered, and refuses to leave until he finds the killer. Compelled to join forces with her erstwhile brother-in-law, Millie discovers the search for Colorado gold is perilous, especially with a murderer on their trail.

The Lucky Hat Mine interlaces the tale of a feisty heroine with frontier legend and lore making for an arousing historical murder mystery.

About the author

J.V.L. Bell

Author J.v.L. Bell is a Colorado native who grew up climbing 14,000 ft. mountains, exploring old ghost towns, and backpacking through the back country. She and her family love to hike, raft, and cross-country ski together.

She loves reading and researching frontier history and incorporating these facts into her novels. Her historic mysteries are interwoven with amusing historical stories and lore, interesting characters, and historic events.

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Did I Meet You In 2016? A Year in Review #NewYearsEve #WeekendBlogShare

Hello Lovely Readers – Did we meet in 2016?

On this New Year’s Eve: My 2016 year in review

I think many folks will be looking back at 2016 and wondering what it all meant to them. I’ve handpicked some of the highlights for me.


In April I had a planned meet up in Glasgow with Barb Taub, Cathy Ryan and Alison Williams. These lovely ladies are all part of my review team. Barb is an author and her blog posts are just the best to entertain you. Cathy is a book reviewer and her book reviews are extremely popular, check out her blog here. Alison is an author and editor, check out her rates and recommendations from satisfied customers.

In June I went to the Bloggers Bash in London and met lots of faces from social media. Sacha Black, Ali Isaac, Hugh Roberts and Geoff Le Pard are the bash organisers. It was the second year of this event and if you can get to London easily and want to meet a variety of bloggers and network, this annual event is a great opportunity. Next year’s date is June 10th, more details here. I chatted with Shelley Wilson, Christina Philippou, Mary Smith, Lucy Mitchell (Blondewritemore), Sarah Hardy and Suzi from Suzi Speaks, the founder of #SundayBlogShare.

Shelley is a very inspirational blogger and author, splitting her work between fantasy and non-fiction self help. I’m thrilled that she will be running a four week guest series on ways to motivate yourself here on the blog every Wednesday this January.

In August had I an enforced two weeks off as I was required to do jury service, not something I wanted to attend, but you can’t wriggle out of it very easily these days. However is was interesting to see how the system works, how strict it all felt and how sad that the case I had, ever came to court. On a positive note, whilst in Guildford I made a renewed contact with Christina Philippou and this lead to me attending her book launch in September.

At Christina’s book launch for her debut novel (Lost In Static), I met Neats from the Haphazardous Hippo ( lilac Hippo) a book blogger who lives near by and we met Chris’ publisher Matthew from Urbane Publications. This is small up and coming publisher check it out here.


My links with Chris and Neats took me to a Blogger/author meet up in London. Event organisers; Kim Nash @kimthebookworm and Holly Martin @hollymartin00  run these events alternating between London and Birmingham. This was a fun afternoon with a mix of authors and book bloggers all chatting in a relaxed atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed chatting to; Author Jessica Norrie, Book bloggers Susan Hampson, Anne Williams and  Jo Robertson, authors Barbara Copperthwait,  Jan Brigden and Steven Hayward

Another day I met book reviewer Liz Lloyd for an Autumn walk around a local village.

Late November Neats invited me to a book launch. We spent a Saturday afternoon in Farnham meeting author Kristen Bailey as she launched book #2 of her contemporary women’s fiction  “Second Helpings”. We also networked and by chance met another Urban Publication’s author Shirley Golden.


December saw me heading to Leicester to meet Lizzie Lamb, June Kearns, Adrienne Vaughan, Margaret Cullingford and several other members at their monthly RNA meeting. Lizzie, June, Adrienne and Margaret are also know an the New Romantics Four. With me came author, reviewer and Twitter Queen Terry Tyler, Cathy Ryan, Shelley Wilson, and Proofreader Julia Gibbs. It was great to meet Terry’s sister Julia, who was recently on the TV quiz show Pointless. If you need recommended help with copy editing or proofreading do check out her site here.  In the evening we met with authors Mark Barry and Georgia Rose. Mark runs workshops in schools encouraging reluctant readers to pick up books and Georgia has been a guest speaker for Mark, she also runs her own self publishing workshops.

The 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge tells me I’ve read 175 books this year, however I’ve also beta read 4 books and have read others which aren’t yet on Goodreads, this bumps the number up a little.

What am I going to do next year? Perhaps I’ll meet you. I plan to go out and meet lots more authors and bloggers, nothing beats a face to face meeting.

I’d like to wish all my readers and reviewers a very Happy New Year.

Here are useful Twitter handles of people I’ve met this year.






































#NewRelease ROUND TRIP FARE by @barbtaub #UrbanFantasy #BookReview @HartwoodBooks

Round Trip Fare (Null City, #4)Round Trip Fare by Barb Taub
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Round Trip Fare is Book #4 in the Null City Urban Fantasy series. I advise reading earlier books in this series before embarking on this one or you will be quite lost. I’ve read book #1 and it was enough for me to pick up the storyline.

In this book Carey Parker is all grown up, she works for the Accords Agency bringing in rogue paranormal beings, however there are still a team of Outsiders who are also searching for Carey. Eight years ago Carey and her twin Connor were protected by their guardian Harry on his ranch. He had promised their older sister Gaby he would raise them as his own. He taught them how to use their superpowers, or brought in specialists to train them. But all that changed on the night the ranch was attached, Harry killed and the children barely escaped. To protect his sister, Connor led the pursuers away and Carey hadn’t seen him since.

Old wounds open when a stranger turns up with a current photo of Connor. Iax Zahavi is a rogue agent, but he works with Director Jeffers, so Carey tolerates him, especially when he saves her from a car bomb. A decision is made to hide Carey on the Metro train as a form of guardsperson, but she has to give up her superpowers. The train runs between various stations and Null City a place where all those with superpowers may go to live a normal life, but, it is under threat from the Outsiders. Carey hopes to hear news to help them with the task to save the city while serving on the train.

The story builds to an exciting climax and there is an opportunity for another book as many of the story threads are currently unsolved.

I do like the Metro Train and its peculiar ticketing booth, it is my favourite part of the book and I would be happy to have it included in much more of the storyline. The characters are well described and believable as are the fighting and romantic scenes. Carey is witty and fun. I wasn’t so sure about having a character change his name Iax became Yosh and both names were used, with a big cast of characters one name would have been good enough for me and I must just mention a little over-kill on the word “sigh”. But apart from that another good book from this author.

This review is based on a free copy of the book given to me by the author.

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Book Description – Round Trip Fare (Null City, #4) Urban Fantasy (with romance, humor, a sentient train, and a great dog)

Is it wrong that shooting people is just so much easier than making decisions? Carey wonders—and not for the first time. But the Agency claims this will be an easy one. A quick pickup of a missing teen and she won’t even have to shoot anybody. Probably.

Carey knows superpowers suck, her own included. From childhood she’s only had two options. She can take the Metro train to Null City and a normal life. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hellhounds become poodles. Demons settle down, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes. Or she can master the powers of her warrior gift and fight a war she can’t win, in a world where she never learned how to lose.

And then there is…him. For the past two months, a dark stranger has persistently edged his way onto the mental game board behind her eyelids. Well, whatever trouble he’s selling, Carey Parker is not buying. Her to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one.

She just has a few details to work out first. Her parents have been killed, her brother and sister targeted, and the newest leader of the angels trying to destroy Null City might be the one person she loves most in the world. And her sexy new partner’s gift lets him predict deaths. Hers.

Barb pix 300 dpi

In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them consulting with her occasional co-author/daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.

ONE WAY FARE BY @barbtaub #Bookreview #UrbanFantasy #SundayBlogShare

One Way Fare (Null City, #1)One Way Fare by Barb Taub
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One Way Fare is an Urban Fantasy story and I really didn’t know what to expect from just the book cover and even the book description, but it blew me away. I really, really enjoyed it. There are delightful sharp witted characters and a storyline with echoes of “Back To The Future” but with so much more depth, twists and it’s own agenda.

The tale involves a war between the Fallen and Angels, humans and a fourth group who hold powers. There is Null City and a marvellous Metro train which takes passengers back and forth through time. The ticket machine was brilliant it kept reminding me of the “Zoltar speaks” fortune telling machine in the film Big.

In 1972 Gaby Parker works for Accounts-On-Demand in Seattle, she has been requested to help sort out the accounts for Luic Le Muir, a top musician. Gaby has a gift where she can see patterns in numbers, it makes her OCD but she soon believes she has found a route to Luic’s draining financial resources, but he’s not going to like her answers.

In 2012 Leila heads to Provence, France, having just been gifted jewels and a Chateau from her birth mother’s family. She’s met by Thomas Chapel who reveals he must guard Leila from the locals who soon turn nasty. Just when it’s needed the local fountain shows a Metro sign and they descend to a magical platform and safety, alighting on the train which arrives calling itself the 1890 Metro.

Thomas has told her about Nephilium, mixes of Angel and human off-spring and they have a choice about their future when the train stops outside Null City. They can stay in Null City, but they will forget all their non-human life details, or they can travel on further and take their places in a prophecy to help save Null City and stop the war.

This was fun, Gaby and Leila will both have to meet to take their parts in the prophecy, so there are scenes in various time lines and the Metro train is useful transport. There are complexities and twists which kept me on my toes, but I was eager to keep the pages turning and urged the characters onwards. Fabulous read, I think I might just have to read the second book in the series.

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If you would like a FREE copy of this book to read and review yourself, just send an email to barbtaub (at) gmail (dot) com and include your preferred format (Kindle/Nook/PDF)

DO NOT WASH HANDS IN PLATES by @BarbTaub #Travel #India #Memoir #Bookreview

Do Not Wash Hands In Plates: Elephant frenzy, parathas, temples, palaces, monkeys...and the kindness of Indian strangersDo Not Wash Hands In Plates: Elephant frenzy, parathas, temples, palaces, monkeys…and the kindness of Indian strangers by Barb Taub
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do Not Wash Hands In Plates is a fun travel memoir. Three women who have been friends for 35 years, since they roomed together at University decided on a re-union in India. Their aim was to eat their way across the country and slip in a temple viewing or two, plus see some of the vibrant colours and culture this continent has to offer.

Luckily one of them is a “local gal” Jaya lives in India, but Barb and Janine were the ultimate western travellers. With Jaya’s language knowledge, planning, family members spread across India and her negotiating skills, Barb and Janine were treated to some brilliant hospitality and experiences.

I laughed at the image caused by the over-night train to Delhi, where late booking meant top bunks for the friends. Jaya’s constant optimism that “People are Kind in India” was wonderful and opened many doors for the travellers.

They weren’t the only tourists on their trip and they were hampered a little when places were closed down for cleaning and redecoration due to the impending visit of President Obama, but it didn’t stop them for long.

I really enjoyed the tea museum, elephant trip and the textile museum chapters. Plus who couldn’t be excited by all the delightful food they sampled. The book is interspersed with lovely pictures from the trip for the reader to immerse themselves in the people and nation that is India.

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