📚This Author ‘Dares To Be Different’. @deBieJennifer reviews dark #UrbanFantasy Legacy Witches by @CassKayWrites for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Jenni.

Find out more about her here https://jenniferdebie.com/

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Jenni has been reading Legacy Of Witches by Cass Kay.

Book cover for urban fantasy Legacy Witches by Cass Kay, set against a background of a moon from a free photo from Pixabay.
Legacy Witches by Cass Kay

When Vienna Roots returns home to Salem for her mother’s funeral after a decade away, she expects a short trip. Bury the old witch, sell the family home, try not to let the ghosts of her ancestors or the demon haunting its walls get in the way of the sale, and get back to her life in Boston. No, she does not want to get involved in the tangled, occult politics of her hometown. No, she has no intention of taking over her mother’s place, or practicing her family’s particular brand of brutal magic. No, she doesn’t want to get the police involved. But when Vienna finds a hand in a drawer, and an unexpected specter haunting one of the upstairs bathrooms, she knows this quick trip home isn’t going to be nearly as fast or as simple as she’d hoped.

The market on urban fantasy and witchy protagonists is arguably glutted at the moment. Witches are cutesy, they’re sexy, they’re demon huntresses and vampire lovers and all sorts of fun combinations of back-cover blurb buzzwords, but something that truly sets Cass Kay’s Legacy Witches above the rest for me is that her witches are dark.

Vienna Roots’ ancestors and peers deal in moldering corpses, gruesome deaths, and necromantic rites as a matter of course, and while Vienna herself shies away from the murder edges of magic, Kay seems to revel in the gory details. As something of a connoisseur of gory details, I appreciate the unflinching approach to maggots and skeletons and what a pain in the butt it is to rob a grave on a rainy night.

I appreciate that Kay doesn’t try to redeem the terrible things that the Roots witches have done in the past, and the lengths they will go to to protect their own.

A story of generations, and rewriting the scripts of eras come and gone, Legacy Witches is more than just one more urban fantasy with a witchy protagonist. This is a novel with heart, a story about growth, and acceptance, and magic far darker than most authors in the genre dare dabble in from a writer who obviously knows her craft. In a market that has long been saturated by the cozy, the sexy, and the action-y, and the overly romantic, Legacy Witches dares to be something different, and as a reader, I appreciate that too.

5/5

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Book description

Coming from a long line of murderous witches hasn’t exactly been sunshine and rainbows for Vianna Roots. When she inherits the family’s haunted house after her mother dies, she decides flipping the rundown dump is her smartest move—but the ghosts that haunt her have a different plan.

When Vianna finds the ghost of her childhood friend Nancy, she’s drawn into the mystery surrounding her friend’s death. Her meddling attracts the attention of the oldest coven in Salem. In order to get her out of town, they make an offer on the house, but Vianna hesitates. She’s no longer sure she wants to abandon the demon familiar who possesses her home, the transgender outcast witch—who may just be the best friend she never knew she needed—and her high school crush, who now wants her in his life.

Vianna must find a way to solve the case of her murdered friend, stay out of the hands of the most powerful coven in Salem, and face the past she’s so desperately tried to run away from.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS (Due out Oct)

📚’Beautiful, strange, unflinching in the way it portrays a descent into corruption’. Jenni reviews Price’s Price by Chris Maden, for Rosie’s Bookreview Team #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Jenni.

Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Jenni has been reading Price’s Price by Chris Maden

Book cover for historical fiction set in Hong Kong, Price's Price by Chris Maden.
Price’s Price by Chris Maden

There is what I would call a ‘style curve’ to the opening of Chris Maden’s debut novel, Price’s Price. The prose has a drifting, distanced quality, like looking at the world through a softened lens, that can be off-putting to readers as we are introduced to Stanley Price, first as he sits waiting in a bar for a woman from the past, and then are catapulted through a flashback to his childhood as the son of a plantation owner in mid-20th century Zimbabwe. Childhood in Africa drifts into boyhood spent in British boarding schools, misspent teenage years sampling the delights of London and Europe, a near miss or two with assorted women of varying levels of repute, and a commission in the British Army that takes him around the world, but always there is distance between Price and the world around him. A distance that translates to isolation even from the readers following along with his memories, seeing everything through his eyes.

The drifting style of storytelling never changes, never sharpens once Price lands in Hong Kong in the 1970s, dispatched there by the British Army to police the border and exist as a colonizing presence in a city that has no real use for colonizers, yet the prose fits the man to a T. Slowly Price is absorbed by Hong Kong, its women, its politics, its corruption, never seemingly on purpose, and yet he drifts on from scene to scene, year to year, boom to bust as the markets surge and sink. Through it all the inherent aimlessness of Price’s trajectory is mirrored in the style in which Maden writes him, and somewhere along the way readers stop being bothered by the writing and are absorbed by it instead.

Price’s journey is pungent, redolent with perfume and liquor, sweat and sex, fortunes made and lost all at the whim of the Fates he so frequently looks to, and somewhere in the middle of this Maden has created an incredibly compelling character. Stanley Price, as written, is neither terribly good, nor terribly bad, as a person. He is neither a genius, nor an idiot. He is not always a good friend, but then goes to great lengths for those he cares about. He’s just a man. A man full of flaws and potential and an ability to adapt to the world around him, even as the earth on which he stands shifts with every change in the wind.

Hong Kong is a city in flux, and Maden’s sense of the time, place, and rapidly changing social, political, and economic situation of the 1970s and ‘80s feels tangible to the reader. From seedy bars to exclusive clubs, smuggling scams and factory floors, Maden sends his protagonist wandering through all, and as the reader wanders with him we can’t help but be amazed at the situations Price finds himself in.

And the many scrapes that he must talk himself out of.

Beautiful, strange, unflinching in the way it portrays a descent into corruption and the ways a man must redeem himself by small measures again and again, reading Price’s Price was an experience I find difficult to describe beyond saying simply, it’s good. It’s very, very good.

5/5

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Book description

Stanley Price has dreamt since childhood of exploring the world. But, when the army posts him to Hong Kong in the 1960s, this officer, scoundrel and rake falls for the glamour, the girls and the gung-ho attitude. Swept along and seduced by this free-wheeling city, he is sucked into a delightful vortex of beer, women and bribes. His dreams remain ever-present but out of reach. Until, that is, he falls for a young lady who could be his redemption – or his nemesis.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

📚’Radlauer has a deft and clever touch when is comes to Quincy’s inner monologue’. Jenni reviews FAT: The Other F Word by Dan Radlauer for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Jenni.

Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Jenni has been reading FAT: The Other F Word by Dan Radlauer

FAT: The Other F Word by Dan Radlauer

Dan Radlauer’s debut novel, FAT: The Other F Word opens in media res on a casting call for a noodle commercial. Teenager Quincy Collins, our protagonist and narrator, is waiting for his chance to slurp and smile for the camera, just one of many child actors chasing a dream in Hollywood. 

The kicker? 

Quincy is fat.

Not ‘Hollywood fat’, fat-fat, and has built his entire, fledgling career as a comedic actor around his weight and making the fat joke first. Being the ‘fat, funny kid’ has brought Quincy regular work in commercials, and just landed him a starring role in a brand new sitcom alongside Jessica Freeland, one of L.A.’s hottest rising starlets.

Sure Quincy has trouble getting off of overly-plush couches, doesn’t have many friends at school, and hides his midnight snacking from his family, but this is his big break! Nothing can get in his way!

But when a surprise, pre-diabetic diagnosis has Quincy’s doctor perscribing a healthier diet and regular exercise, what’s a young man to do? And more importantly, who does the ‘fat, funny kid’ become, if he’s no longer quite so fat? 

Stay tuned to find out!

I joke partially because this is a very funny book, Radlauer has a deft and clever touch when is comes to Quincy’s inner monologue, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that FAT: The Other F Word is all sugar and no substance. Radlauer has worked in show-business for decades, composing for cult classics like 1991’s The Addams Family (a personal favorite) and big-budget action flicks like 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. So, when Radlauer writes about the pressures and politics of Hollywood, the undue burdens placed on young actors to act a certain way both on and off-camera, and the sunburn that can accompany the spotlight, it rings true.

Nor is Quincy’s struggle to get healthy an overnight transformation. Quincy has spent his entire, young life making a joke out of himself and his weight and he’s not totally sure he wants to lose that. The physical struggle to keep to his perscribed routine, and the mental struggle to define who Quincy is to himself and the rest of the world pair and juxtapose nicely as the scenes change and the story progesses.

Rounded out by a fantastic supporting cast, including the previously mentioned Jessica Freeland, and Radlauer has a truly wonderful, heartfelt coming of age story on his hands.

5/5

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Book description

In “FAT: The Other ‘F’ Word,” Quincy Collins lives in two vastly different worlds. One where he’s a very heavy and awkward freshman at Beverly Hills High School, the other where he’s a Hollywood character actor in commercials and Indie films playing the comic relief or the despicable bully. Guess which world he likes better?

At the start of this Y.A. novel, Quincy gets his big break with a major role as “The Fat Brother” in a hot new Network Sitcom, only to find that wanting and having are two very different things.

First, “size discrimination activists” challenge the integrity of the character he’s portraying. Then his health struggles begin to undermine both his character on the show, and his self-assigned brand as “The Fat Kid Actor.” His dream gig becomes a nightmare, and he starts to question the role he’s playing on TV, as well as in real life.“FAT: The Other ‘F’ Word” shows a unique person in a unique setting.It explores Hollywood, adolescence,and our culture’s attitudes towards different sized people.Quincy narrates the story with discovery, irony, pain and compassion as he learns that he can’t base his identity on the size of his body.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

🕵🏻‍♂️’A supernatural police procedural that laughs with sharp teeth.’ Jenni reviews #urbanfantasy Eat The Poor by @TomCW99, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Jenni.

Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Jenni has been reading Eat The Poor by Tom Williams

Eat The Poor by Tom Williams set against a photo of a gargoyle eating it's foot from a free phot from Pixabay
Eat The Poor by Tom Williams

Returning to the scene of the crime, and the chief inspectors who will solve it, Tom Williams is having obvious, and bloody, fun in his second entry into the Galbraith & Pole series with Eat the Poor. Odd couple Chief Inspector Galbraith, an only slightly middle-aged mortal, and his counterpart Chief Inspector Pole, a vampire with a few centuries under his belt, are on the trail of something rotten, something hungry, and something neither of them have ever seen before in this novel and I’ve got to say, it works!

There is obvious chemistry and history to these two characters, but Williams has a light touch when it comes to referencing the first novel in this series (Something Wicked, 2021), and readers will not feel lost if this is their first experience with Galbraith and Pole. Exposition is delivered naturalistically, no pages or paragraphs devoted to catching new readers up to speed, because honestly, what do they need to catch up on? Other than the odd line about tango lessons and the inevitable question that every author must confront when they pair up an immortal vampire and a very mortal human, there seems to be little plot carried over from the first novel. Something has started eating people on the streets of London, and the facts of the current case are far more pressing than hashing out the details of the last one.

And the man who is doing all this eating? Well he’s a fun character in and of himself, and a sly satire on the state of affairs in general that I will leave it to the readers to discover for themselves. Needless to say, there are two sides of this story: the hunters and the hunted, and Williams’ tongue was lodged firmly in his cheek when he drew this particular antagonist.

Fun and fast to read, with just the right amount of black in its comedy, Eat the Poor is a supernatural police procedural that laughs with sharp teeth. Williams evidently enjoyed creating these characters, readers will certainly enjoy getting to know them!

5/5

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Book description

A werewolf is on the loose in London.

Chief Inspector Pole, the vampire from the mysterious Section S, teams up once again with his human counterpart to hunt down the beast before the people of the city realise that they are threatened by creatures they have dismissed as myths.

Time is short as the werewolf kills ever more recklessly. Can Galbraith and Pole stop it before panic spreads through London?

Galbraith and Pole start their search in Pole’s extensive library of the arcane, accompanied by a couple of glasses of his excellent malt whisky. All too soon, though, they will have to take to the streets to hunt the monster by the light of the moon.

But the threat is even greater than they think, for in its human form the werewolf is terrifyingly close to the heart of government.

This is Tom Williams’ second tongue-in-cheek take on traditional creatures of darkness. Like the first Galbraith & Pole book, Something Wicked, this will appeal to fans of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London.

You never know when the forces of darkness may be released and there will be no time for reading then. Buy Eat the Poor before it’s too late.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

⚓’Doria has an instinct for building tension.’ Jenni reviews #dystopia The Last Families by Carla Doria, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Jenni.

Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Jenni has been reading The Last Families by Carla Doria

Book cover for dystopia The Last Families by Carla Doria
The Last Families by Carla Doria

Reviewing Carla Doria’s debut novel, The Last Families, honestly is a case study in the necessity of good editing for this particular reviewer. Because of that, before anything else, I would like to state clearly and for the record that I liked this story. I think that there is some mismanagement in the way its description sells the novel, and there are regrettable technical aspects of the text, but underneath that there is much to enjoy in Doria’s work.

The Last Families opens on four ships as they arrive at a mysterious island after a long and treacherous voyage. Each ship contains the various members of four different, extended families, and in turn each of these families has their own distinctive hair, eye, and skin coloring, as well as a unique, hereditary power: the Ninfire clan flies, the Drontas are strong, the Kaptarish can produce immense heat, and the Verbaren read minds. These gifts have helped preserve the different families for decades and now, when necessity means that the next generation will be forced to seek mates outside their distinct clan, there is tension between the families and old prejudices that must be reexamined.

With that in the background, the families have fled their own, dying land, and come to Gambir, a sun-soaked island where the daily weather fluctuations are deadly, the natives are hostile, and the long-sought refuge the voyagers thought they’d found may be anything but a safe harbor. Unravelling the mystery of Gambir and its inhabitants, and working to save and extract all of the members of these four families from Gambirian clutches is the driving force of the novel. As far as twists, turns, and pacing are concerned, it’s a worthy plot. Doria has an instinct for building tension and delivering foreshadowing, and the situations she throws her characters into illicit genuine worry, anger, and triumph at the dangers, the antagonists, and the small victories her characters experience.

All of that said, the back-cover blurb of The Last Families hints that there are two main characters, and that their budding romance will be a major component of the plot. The two characters in question are indeed leading figures, and there is a budding romance, but this is an ensemble cast far more than a protagonist duet. A quick count comes up with a half dozen primary protagonists, each with multiple chapters told from their point of view, alongside another handful of secondary characters who get their own share of the text’s chapters. In marketing this as a fantasy romance Doria does disservice to the fascinating dynamics that come into play when an author juggles this many characters and their points of view. It is a rare writer who can create a satisfying ensemble novel, and (as with her plot) Doria seems to have good instincts in this department. I wish she would flaunt them a little more.

Finally, there is the editing. I have an educated guess about why there are prevalent grammatical mistakes, particularly the misuse of pronouns and the frequent mix-up of near-homophones (“surround” being used in place of “surrender”, for example), but what it boils down to is a lack of professional editing. Most readers can and will gloss over a scattering of editing slubs over the course of a novel without notice or comment, but the frequency of these easily rectified mistakes muddles Doria’s writing to the point of distraction. Without the grammatical mistakes, The Last Families would have been an easy 4, or even 5 star read for me. However, as the text stands right now, I have to give it a 3.5 for the editing alone.

3.5/5

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Book description

Escaping their land’s destruction, the Kaptarish, Drontas, Verbaren and Ninfires have reached the island of Gambir. The last families with talents like mind-reading, extraordinary force, burning with their hands, and flying, hope to find refuge in this place.

Yarisha, the only mind-reader in the Verbaren family, will fall in love with Malakay, the most arrogant sibling in the Ninfire family. She knows the young man’s mother and the matriarch of the Ninfires, Mandely, will never consent to this relationship since she considers the Verbaren family inferior to them.

None of the members in the families expect to find a land full of secrets where those with the darkest looking-skin have better chances to survive and where the leader, Ian, is planning to take wives by force.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

🧙‍♂️’A yummy little booksnack’. Jenni reviews #Fantasy Short Stories by @rogersonsm, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT🧙‍♂️

Today’s team review is from Jenni.

Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Jenni has been reading Fantasy Short Stories by Suzanne Rogerson

Book cover for Fantasy Short Stories by Suzanne Rogerson, set againsta a picture on an open book form a free photo from Pixabay.
Fantasy Short Stories by Suzanne Rogerson

Suzanne Rogerson offers delicious tastes of her two existing fantasy worlds, and a delectable hint of a third, in her recently released collection Fantasy Short Stories. The name may be a little obvious, but don’t let that fool you as these three original prequel shorts offer backstory for characters from Rogerson’s standalone, Visions of Zaura, her series, The Silent Sea Chronicles, and her yet-to-be-released Starlight Prophesies series.

As someone who has never encountered Rogerson’s work before, I was immediately struck by the accessibility of her fantasy worlds to the uninitiated. Yes, these are incredible lands with their own dense histories, cultures, and magic systems, but one does not need to be familiar with the novel or series from whence these tales sprang to grasp something of the characters and the perils they face. A mysterious assassin on the hunt, a prejudiced sect seeking to exile those born with magic, boatloads of foreign raiders invading a land with no clear motive—each a gripping little slice of what promises to be a gripping web of plots, intrigue, and mystic arts for those who venture on to read Rogerson’s full-length works.

Adding to these slices of original work, Rogerson also includes two full chapters from the openings of Visions of Zaura and The Lost Sentinel (The Silent Sea Chronicles #1) respectively, just to give readers a glimpse of how these short stories continue years, even decades, after the prequel concludes.

All in all, this short collection of Rogerson’s is a yummy little booksnack, sure to delight longtime fans of her work, and entice new readers into the fold.

4/5

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Book description

A collection of stories featuring favourite characters from Visions of Zarua and ‘Silent Sea Chronicles’, plus a glimpse into the new series, ‘Starlight Prophecy’.

The Guardian
With an assassin picking off wizards one-by-one, Kalesh visits Cassima, a former student, hoping to persuade her to re-join the Royal Wizards and use their protection to keep her family safe.
Kalesh’s newest charge, Paddren, has strange visions which link to a past event known only to a select few. The knowledge hidden in Paddren’s visions is invaluable so Kalesh must guard the boy at any cost.
Can Kalesh keep his students off the assassin’s radar long enough for his order to stop the killer?

Garrick the Protector
Fifteen-year-old Garrick is helping at his uncle’s farm when his cousin’s illegal use of magic threatens the family’s safety.
Mara is in immediate danger from the Assembly who deem all magic as a threat. The only safe place for her is the Turrak Mountains where exiled mystics have found sanctuary alongside the island’s Sentinel.
Can Garrick get Mara to safety before the Assembly catch up with them?

War Wounds
Conscripted to fight off invaders, Calder finds the months of bloody battle unleash a sixth sense buried inside him.
Finally released from duty, he travels home and encounters a mysterious woman who insists his life is destined to serve a higher purpose. Calder rejects her claims, wanting only to return to a simple existence with his wife.
But can Calder pick up his old life when the powers within him have been stirred? And why does he feel such misgivings about his return?
All three stories give readers a tantalising glimpse into the fantasy worlds created by Suzanne Rogerson. 

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Links to:

Visions Of Zarua

The Lost Sentinel (Book #1 of The Silent Sea trilogy)

🎼Lost are the creatures destined never to be understood.🎼Jenni reviews literary saga The Crooked Little Pieces by Sophia Lambton, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Jenni.

Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Jenni has been reading The Crooked Little Pieces by Sophia Lambton

Book cover for literary saga The Crooked Little Pieces by Sophie Lambton
The Crooked Little Pieces by Sophie Lambton

3.5/5

Sophia Lambton’s The Crooked Little Pieces follows Isabel and Anneliese van der Holt from the age of six in 1920s Zurich, into their early twenties in Blitz-struck London. Raised by their neurology professor father, each van der Holt twin is exceptional in her own way, with Isabel holding the promise of being a musical prodigy, and Anneliese following her father’s passion for medical sciences. Together they move countries, attend school, nurture and neglect their talents by turns, suffer many of the expected triumphs and heartaches expected in a coming-of-age story and yet… I never quite cheered for these girls.

Protagonists do not have to be good people, and I have certainly taken my own, private glee in following a story through the eyes of some true monsters, but at the end of the day a reader needs a reason to like the people they’re reading about. I never found Anneliese and Isabel likeable. Isabel decides to pursue marriage because being a wife will mean she doesn’t have to keeping trying with her music, and Anneliese becomes obsessed with her therapist to the point that she steals important documents from her, and then attempts to bring them to the attention of the medical community against said therapist’s wishes and best interests. They are both self-destructive, and dismissive of other people as beneath their attention or care.

Don’t get me wrong, Lambton has fully fleshed out both girls. Their characterization is strong, and with the chapters alternating perspective between the twins and their father (until his death) we get a thorough understanding of how they speak, the ways they act in different situations, and why they are the way they are, but that just make their narcissism more blatant and their actions pettier.

Then there is the is the language of the text itself. Lambton has a dreamlike, drifting approach to the story (hence this novel clocks in at over 400 pages), and an approach to sentence structure that does not always lend itself to readability. Take, for example, this sentence from chapter 8, in which a coworker of the twins’ father is propping her elbows up on a counter:

The kitchen top began to hold her weight as she sustained her elbows on it.

It’s not incomprehensible. You and I, dear reader, know what she means about leaning on a countertop, but there is smoother language out there.

All of that said, I should reiterate that this is a 400+ page novel by a young writer who obviously has a grasp on how to create fully-realized characters. She also certainly set up the potential for some interesting scenarios: the push and pull between a flighty, musical twin and her more grounded, scholarly sister. The dynamic of being raised by a scientist father who has, if not a preference, at least a greater understanding of the scholarly daughter as opposed to the musician. The comatose mother who I have not even touched on in this review. The enigmatic, female psychologist who Anneliese begins seeing, bearing in mind that this would be the 1930s and thus the infancy of clinical psychology as we know it today. The universal tensions that came with being in London after one Great War and before the second kicks off. There’s some really good and interesting material to be plumbed there, and I certainly wish Lambton the best luck with her next installment in this series.

However, sadly, to me The Crooked Little Pieces never quite sang.

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Book description

Lost are the creatures destined never to be understood.
1926. Professor Josef van der Holt obtains a post at an all women’s college overseas. Stuffy London suddenly becomes the site for the unseemly exploits of his half-Dutch and half-German daughters Anneliese and Isabel. When tragedy carves out a hollow in their lives, a severed soul sends the sororal twins along a jagged path: while Isabel takes flight in sensual hedonism Anneliese skirts danger in her role as sleuth. Elusive are the sentiments they seek: swift stopovers of fleeting feeling. Lopsided loves and passions scarcely probable veer each away from the predictable.
And when the obvious appears unstoppable the opposite may achingly be true.
Spanning the twentieth century’s five most volatile decades, The Crooked Little Pieces is a series about inextricable entanglements. Perverse relationships pervade a glossary of scenes. Plots criss-cross over a rich tapestry of twists and tension-fuelling characters: some relatable, others opaque and many “crooked”.
It is television drama. Novelised. 

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

🛕A Middle-East Epic Paranormal #Fantasy🛕 Jenni reviews The Seal of Sulayman by @LayaVSmith and @Kyro_Dean @EightMoonsPub

Today’s team review is from Jenni

Find out more about Jenni here https://jenniferdebie.com/

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Rosie’s Book Review team

Jenny has been reading The Seal of Sulayman by Laya V. Smith & Kyro Dean

Book cover for epic paranormal fantasy The Seal Of Sulayman by Kyro Dean and Laya V. Smith, set against a background of a desert from a free photo from Pixabay.
The Seal Of Sulayman by Kyro Dean and Laya V. Smith

Return to the moon-steeped lands of djinn and magic in Kyro Dean and Laya V. Smith’s second entry into The Fires of Qaf series with The Seal of Sulayman. Following the first novel, Prince Jahamil and his human bride, Ayelet have married for love, breaking the societal mores of djinn culture in the process. This may be all very well and good to the heir to Shihala’s throne and his one-day queen, but the other courts of Qaf, including the tempestuous Queen Qadira, Jahmil’s former fiancée, need to be pacified. Enter Sezan, Jahmil’s sister, and Bakr, a half human djinn, and Jahmil’s most trusted adviser. As ambassador and her escort respectively, Sezan and Bakr are dispatched to Qadira’s court, ostensibly to smooth ruffled feathers and maintain diplomatic ties between two of the most powerful countries in all of Qaf.

Appearances are not all they seem though. Sezan and Bakr have a tumultuous history all their own, full of betrayals, secrets, skeletons, and demons – both literal and figurative. Deals have been struck on all sides and nothing can be certain in love and magic as the pair struggle to protect each other, and themselves, when the sum of their myriad mystical debts comes due.

Written with the same lush texture as The Covenant of Shihala, but with fresh characters and new corners of Qaf, its histories and mysteries to explore, The Seal of Sulayman feels like Smith and Dean are “growing up” within this world they have created. The sweeping, breathless romance of the first entry to this series was excellent, but now readers are given a glimpse into the consequences of marrying for love in a society ruled by precedent and the stratification of the royal court. Where do a woman who wants to be more than a political pawn in a marriage game, and a half-human half-djinn warrior fit into a society that wasn’t built for either of them? How can they contribute to their country and protect their friends? And most importantly, how does their inability to stay away from each other (or in their clothes when they’re alone together) throw a wrench into even the best laid plans?

Satisfying in ways that I was not expecting, and just as deliciously twisty as the first, the second Fires of Qaf introduces readers to two, fantastic new personalities to follow and fall in love with in The Seal of Sulayman.  

5/5

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Book description

Rekindling a broken romance is hard when love burns hot and words ruin everything.

A half-human living in Qaf, the world of djinn and magic fire, General Bakr has always felt like an outsider with everyone but his first love. After two grueling years fighting a war that tore him away from his true love, Bakr is anxious to return to Earth and bask in the sunlight among his own kind.

But when he is reunited with his young love, Sheikha Sezan, he realizes his feelings for her still burn hot. But Bakr returned from the war with more than scars. A lilith demon has made him her pet and the last thing she wants is to see him rekindle romance with his old flame.

Sheikha Sezan, dis-enamored by her first love’s abrupt departure and equally sudden return, is forced to come to terms with the terrible deal she made with the demon to keep him alive while at war. The demon, having kept up her side of the bargain, comes for Sezan’s magic djinn fire as payment, but soon makes it clear she had no intention of giving up her love affair with Bakr.

Determined to save herself and Bakr from torment, Sezan sets out to find the Seal of Sulayman, a magical talisman that controls all magic in both the human and djinn worlds.

The demon torments Bakr and Sezan in the meantime, weaving a web of deception to keep their wild love apart. With rival courtiers, love triangles, mystical monsters, a clever sphinx, the flaming Rukh bird of legend, and both of Allah’s worlds working against them, only trust can rescue Bakr and Sezan from the demon’s caprice.

But communicating enough to trust each other is a difficult task when words ruin everything.

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🎶’An incredible debut from a creative visionary’ @deBieJennifer reviews Strung by @RoskeChronicler, for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog 🎶

Today’s team review is from Jenni.

Find her here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Strung by ⟅R̫o̮s̫k͚e̫

Literary fiction

It took me several days after finishing ⟅R̫o̮s̫k͚e̫’s debut novel, Strung, to figure out how to write about this book cogently. It might speak to the smallness or traditional structure of the literary spaces I typically move in, but I can honestly say that I, as a reader, author, poet, and academic, have never seen anything quite like Strung. The nearest comparison I could make, fittingly for the lyrical writing and musical motifs that riddle this novel, comes from the modern music industry instead of prose.

Much like the great concept albums of the 20th and 21st centuries, masterworks like Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Prince’s Purple Rain, and Beyonce’s Lemonade, that blend music, storytelling, and distinctive visuals, Strung is what I have decided to call a “concept novel”. Yes, there is a relatively straightforward story in these pages, a slow-burn, magical romance between a woman caged by society and a fae sacrificed by his people, but there are also illustrations (some beautiful, and some vaguely unsettling), complicated linguistics á la Tolkien’s elvish, and an insistent recourse to musical elements, allegories, and allusions that are impossible to ignore. ⟅R̫o̮s̫k͚e̫ obviously had a vision when crafting this novel (because it is crafted, as much as it was written), and they pursued that vision relentlessly.

Like the concept albums mentioned previously, if these elements are something you, as a reader, enjoy, then this is a novel that you will enjoy. There are those, myself among them, who will hold The Wall or Lemonade up as generation defining pieces of art, just as there are those watched both and shrugged them off. This is no knock on those viewers, or the creators of these media pieces, all consumers and creators of art are allowed their own opinions and preferences, as nuanced or simplistic as they would like.

However, if this all sounds a little too complex, or dense (and this is a long, complex novel—there can be no doubt about that), if you are the kind of reader who prefers novels that do not require a full glossary and your own, occasional linguistic notes to fully appreciate the character relations, then this might not be the story for you. This is a novel in love with its own creation, and the resulting piece is certainly stunning, rife with subtle language that will likely reward repeat readings, but there are times when the author seems more interested in the conceptual elements: the nuances of the fae language, the reoccurring musical motifs, or the complicated dynamics of the restrictive social order they created in this world, rather than the storytelling itself. I found this most prevalent in the conclusion to the novel, which felt a little hollow in ways that I was not expecting.

That caveat in mind, Strung is an incredible debut from a creative visionary. I do not know if this is ⟅R̫o̮s̫k͚e̫’s singular, magnum opus, or if they will treat readers to future works of similar magnitude, but this is definitely an experience of a read, and one worth pursuing for those willing to put in the time.

4.5/5

Desc 1

Once thread, heartstrings make Fate’s best instruments.
Few in the world of Iodesh believe the Faye are more than legend—until an unwanted suitor captures one as Lady Lysbeth Haywood’s bride price.
Presented with the Faye, Lysbeth is torn between her excitement to learn more about the legendary people, her dread at the possibility of a forced engagement, and her battle of attrition with Avon society.
It’s worth the struggle, for as layers of the Faye’s extraordinary mysteries are peeled away, their revelations—and Lysbeth’s own role in them—reach farther than she ever thought possible.

Based on a decades-long paracosm, Strung weaves complex patterns from themes of control, adherence, and fate. The result delivers social commentary through a musical lens, reimagined folklore, and two richly-detailed fantasy cultures. A must-read for fans of dreamy, literary fiction!

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‘An author with an ear for dialogue’. @deBieJennifer reviews #MagicalRealism Ash Tuesday by @AriadneBlayde

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

It is the final week of Mardi Gras and the guides of Spirits of Yore ghost tours have a story for you. Walk the crumbling streets, stay on the sidewalks, don’t lean on the buildings, and listen as the history of the French Quarter unfolds through the ghosts who haunt its streets, and the guides who keep their tales alive.

Each chapter of Ariadne Blayde’s Ash Tuesday follows a different guide as they struggle with their personal demons, celebrate their small triumphs, and share their favorite ghost stories with the tourists who deign to wander their city for a short spell. As with any great novel set in an old city, Ash Tuesday makes New Orleans herself, with all her chaotic beauty and horror, as much a character as any person walking the page. Blayde lives and New Orleans, and has worked as a tour guide in the Quarter, and her obvious knowledge of the geography of the city, the kinds of people it attracts and repels, and the kinds of ghosts that linger there is obvious in every line.

This is a book for lovers of New Orleans, lovers of ghost stories, and lovers of history, but more than that it’s a story for lovers of people. The net of characters, tour guides, acquaintances, sometimes-rivals, frenemies, and lovers that Blayde brings to life are wholly unique, each with their own, rich lives that readers are privileged to see. The good, the bad, the baffling, and the in-between all come to life (or death) between the covers of Ash Tuesday, and the inescapable humanity of it all is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.

Blayde is an author with an ear for dialogue, a heart for creating characters, and enough grit under her fingernails to get the texture of her setting right. There are dozens of canned phrases to throw around about how spectacular Ash Tuesday is, but at the end of the day the highest praise I can offer is: I bought a copy of this book for someone I love.

Ash Tuesday is a novel worth sharing, and this reviewer can only be grateful that Blayde chose to share it with the world.

Desc 1

Giving ghost tours on the decaying streets of the French Quarter isn’t exactly a high-profile career, but the guides at Spirits of Yore Haunted Tours are too strange and troubled to do anything else. They call themselves Quarter Rats, a group of outcasts and dreamers and goths who gather in hole-in-the-wall bars to bicker, spin yarns, and search for belonging in the wee hours of the night after the tourists have staggered home.

Through the ghost stories they tell, their own haunted lives come into focus. Like the city they call home, these tour guides are messy with contradiction: they suffer joyfully, live morbidly, and sin to find salvation.

Weaving together real New Orleans folklore with the lives of eleven unforgettably vibrant characters, Ash Tuesday is a love letter to America’s last true bohemia and the people, both dead and living, who keep its heart beating.

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