🧙‍♂️’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

Orange rose book description
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.

Orange rose book description
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

Orange rose book description
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.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

🎶’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!

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

‘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.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

‘A fairytale for grown-ups.’ Jenni reviews #comedy #fantasy TwiceTime by @CarolCarman #TuesdayBookBlog

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Twicetime by Carol Carman.

In the opening of Carol Carman’s Twicetime, Lady Rosalind Dibkiss has finally kicked her worthless husband out of her ancestral castle and decided to live for herself, conducting alchemical experiments and haranguing her resident builder into maybe repairing a tower the worthless husband destroyed. The worthless husband, in turn, has decided that he needs to retake the castle and kill his wife with the dubious aid of two old army chums. Witch Frances Stein, Lady Roz’s dying aunt, has decided that the best way to protect her niece from the rapidly escalating schemes of the worthless husband is to reanimate a corpse and convince it to be a bodyguard and protect Rosalind, her castle, and everyone in it. Thrown into the mix are a barmaid with a mean right hook, a paper-mâché poster boy, a white cat named Sooty, and a host of other colorful characters whose parts are secondary, but roles are hardly minor.

Written with wit, warmth, and whimsical logic, Twicetime is everything you want from a fairytale for grown-ups. There is love and humor and heartache all on the page, and Carman handles each with a deft touch as she weaves between the dark absurdity of the worthless husband’s spiraling pathology, the allies working to protect Rosalind’s castle, and the steadily ticking down of Frances’ life.

Chapters shift between different character’s points of view organically, sometimes moving in close to sit on their shoulders, sometimes pulling back to explore the world they inhabit more broadly, but never without reason. There are authors (particularly fantasy authors) who feel the need to bombard readers by overloading their work with worldbuilding details or the character’s innermost thoughts, and those who know how to balance their world, story, and characters. Carman, thankfully, is one of the balancers, and the way she weaves her tale is truly a masterclass in keeping perspective on the story at hand.

Mature without taking itself too seriously, melodramatic but in ways you are not expecting, and written with a true heart for the world she has built, this is only Carol Carman’s second outing as a novelist, but if Twicetime is the standard she writes to now, her future can only be bright.

4/5

Desc 1

Building a bodyguard to kill your aristocratic niece’s vengeful ex-husband should be easy for a witch.

All you need is the right body and the right magic, and soon you have a mindless killer to do your bidding.

Of course, it all depends on what the butler brings back from the cemetery.

For Frances Stein, reanimating the dead is one thing, but convincing the corpse there’s life after death is another. Finding out he’s neither mindless nor killer is something else entirely.

Especially when he’s her last hope, because they both have a limited lifespan, and time is literally running out…

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

‘Probably a bit grislier than the average reader will want to stomach’ Jenni reviews #Horror Undead by Mark Brendan

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Undead by Mark Brendan

Set in distant times and exotic locals, Mark Brendan’s Undead is a trio of horror novellas collected and designed to utilize some of histories darkest moments and most macabre lore. Whether the story follows Spanish prisoners, sentenced to bondage on the turbulent seas of the New World, an alchemist and necromancer pursuing his own macabre ends in 17th century Germany, or deserters of Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign at the end of the 18th century, Brendan’s tales of the gruesome, the cruel, and the captivating do the most with the times and places in which they were set.

Some of the characters contained within these pages are likable, some are not, some have clear motives, and most just want to survive the night, but all are crafted and fitted nicely to the settings Brendan has plonked them down in. In classic, pulp horror fashion, no safety is guaranteed, and no happy endings are certain in these three tales. Brendan’s work revels in every, bloody detail, and you can be sure that the details here are graphic, minute, and exceedingly well researched. Even the more surreal settings feel tangible in Brendan’s writing, the mark of an author with a solid vision, and a talent for bringing that vision to life.

The fact that his vision includes such violence should probably make us all glad he chose authorship as a way to express his creativity, rather than other… outlets.

I tease, but in all honesty the tales contained in Undead are probably a bit grislier than the average reader will want to stomach on a typical afternoon, but for those of us who enjoy our history with a little extra gore, and our horror without the security of a final girl making it home safe, these are three stories you don’t want to miss.

4/5

Desc 1

A collection of the author’s previously published pulp horror novellas, gathered for the first time in a single volume, Undead features three macabre tales of blood, terror and the living dead. In the first story, Exuma, a convicted seventeenth century heretic is shipwrecked along with his galley slave companions on a mysterious Caribbean island, where worse things than the surviving guards haunt the shadows. The second, The Worm at the Feast, is a darkly comedic, Gothic account of the life and misdeeds of an eighteenth century alchemist, who is also by turns a murderer, grave robber, bandit and necromancer. The final tale of historical horror, Temple of the Hyena, follows the exploits of a crew of deserters from Napoleon Bonaparte’s army in Egypt, lured into the deep desert by an ancient treasure map that promises riches beyond their dreams of avarice.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

‘A fast, dark recounting of roughly three terrible days in March 1566.’ @deBieJennifer reviews RIZZIO by @DameDeniseMina

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Rizzio by Denise Mina

David Rizzio, who gives Denise Mina’s Rizzio its name, is an Italian in the Scottish court, a loyal friend to the queen, and a onetime lover of the queen’s consort. The consort, Lord Darnley, married the queen for love, but has grown bitter at his position in court as little more than an ornament for the throne. Lord Darnley’s father, the Earl of Lennox, is prepared to manipulate and sacrifice his son into being the face of this insurrection if it means overthrowing the queen and restoring a cabal of deposed lords to their ancestral seats. All of this culminates in Mina’s gut-punch of a novella, a fast, dark recounting of roughly three terrible days in March 1566.

Written in tight, present-tense prose, Rizzio peers over the shoulders and into the minds of conspirators, loyalists, pawns, and victims as the titular assassination of Rizzio and the attempted overthrow of the queen unfolds. Everyone from the plotting lords, to the queen, to the people of Edinburgh who noticed unusual doings in the castle late at night, is drawn into this tale of one long weekend that changed the course of British history.

With less than 130 pages between its covers, Rizzio reads at a breakneck pace as Mina deftly lays out tangled webs of alliances, beliefs, deceptions, and betrayals that knot across 16th century Edinburgh. Circumstances change rapidly when plotters realize that all is not what it seems, the pregnant Queen Mary plans her escape, and unlikely allies, enemies, and opportunists make themselves known. As she has shown time and again with her other works, Mina is an author who knows how to captivate and keep her audience, and Rizzio is no exception.

5/5

Desc 1

On the evening of March 9th, 1566, David Rizzio, the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, was brutally murdered. Dragged from the chamber of the heavily pregnant Mary, Rizzio was stabbed fifty six times by a party of assassins. This breathtakingly tense novella dramatises the events that led up to that night, telling the infamous story as it has never been told before.

A dark tale of sex, secrets and lies, Rizzio looks at a shocking historical murder through a modern lens—and explores the lengths that men and women will go to in their search for love and power.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

‘The octane only creeps higher with every page turn’. Jenni reviews military #thriller An Idle King by Andrew Paterson #TuesdayBookBlog

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading An Idle King by Andrew Paterson

Andrew Paterson’s An Idle King opens with the main character, Callum King, struggling to slot back into civilian life in Toronto, following military service in Afghanistan. King is just barely navigating support groups in church basements and negotiating some kind of normalcy with his wife and son when a call from an old Army buddy sends him to the other side of the globe—ostensibly to pull said Army buddy out of a sticky situation and make a tidy sum as a private defense contractor while he’s at it. This sounds like the opening to a raucous, blood and glory war movie, or video game, or (yes) novel, and in the hands of a different author An Idle King might have been just that, but it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong, there is action. It takes a few chapters for Callum to land back in-country, but once he arrives in Kabul the octane only creeps higher with every page turn. There’s also the band of warriors we’ve come to expect from stories like these, soldiers of fortune pulled from all around the globe, each with their own quirks, codes, and closets full of skeletons.

But where this could easily be a romp through an improbably explosive landscape full of hot lead and one-upmanship, instead Paterson gives his readers a meditation on war, trauma, and the people who get caught up in it.

I would not presume to guess at Paterson’s own experiences with war, but per his author’s bio, he was deployed to Afghanistan with the Canadian Army in 2010, the deadliest year for the US and her allies in Afghanistan up to that point. Coming from an author who has been in-country, there is an added authenticity to the writing, and the weight, that rests on all of the characters as they drag themselves, bared teeth and bloody, to the finale of their odyssey in the desert.

Absurd at times, intense, and heartrendingly human throughout, Andrew Paterson’s An Idle King is a knockout in ways I was not anticipating and is all the stronger for it.

4/5

First reviewed for Reedsy and reproduced with their permission.

Desc 1

Imagine fighting a war no one wanted you to win. Imagine never wanting to leave.

Afghanistan has been abandoned by the international community. Left to the ravages of warlords and mercenaries, vying for dominance over the new Silk Road.

For Callum King, a former officer who was discharged from the army, his past remains very much tied to that forsaken place. When he receives an offer from one of his former soldiers to work for a private security company in Kandahar, the contract represents an opportunity to make amends for his failures as a soldier and a leader. But the cost would mean walking away from a family that he’s tried so hard to put back together.

An Idle King is a modern retelling of an ancient story about lost soldiers who can never go home.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

‘Clever, warm, and way more wrapped up in crypto currency than I think anyone was expecting.’ Jenni reviews cosy #mystery Madame Tulip And The Rainbow’s End by @DaveAhernWriter

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

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading Madame Tulip And The Rainbow’s End by David Ahern

Abandoned by her acting troupe and bereft of any meaningful funds, the opening of David Ahern’s fifth Madame Tulip adventure finds the indominable Derry O’Donnell bartering her skills for room, board, and a little breathing room while she figures out her next move. As her wise and mysterious alter ego, Madame Tulip, Derry reads fortunes for the good people of the small, costal community where she has been stranded, but the more fortunes she reads, and the more people she meets, the deeper Derry is drawn into the intrigue that haunts the town. A stonemason was killed in a terrible accident, a mysterious billionaire has died and left his fortune and property to his daughter rather than his widow, no one is exactly who they say they are, everyone has a motive to lie, and the more Derry tries to distance herself from the whole situation, the more entangled she gets.

There are many authors who would lean heavily into the vaguely supernatural elements of Derry O’Donnell’s character. As the daughter of the seventh son of the seventh son, she does have some legitimate abilities as a fortune teller, but Ahern is careful to keep his protagonist from relying on her preternatural skills too much. Yes, Madame Tulip is a lynchpin to the story, but it’s Derry who makes the discoveries, unravels the mystery, and ultimately wins the day.

This is Ahern’s fifth outing with Derry and the Madame, but Madame Tulip and the Rainbow’s End stands nicely on its own. There are probably some character relationships that would be more nuanced if the reader had four other books worth of backstory to deepen them, but for the most part Ahern is deft in delivering the necessary context without obvious plot dumps. The relationship between Derry’s parents, an eccentric artist and a sharp art dealer who have a divorce, a child, and an annual painting quota keeping them in each other’s lives, was a particular gem that I enjoyed seeing sprinkled throughout the novel. Again, four books worth of previous story probably would have added some depth to those interactions, but as it stands you can still get plenty of enjoyment out of Jacko and Vanessa without them.

Clever, warm, and way more wrapped up in crypto currency than I think anyone was expecting, Madame Tulip and the Rainbow’s End is a fun read from an author who knows the importance of a judicious hand when it comes to backfill, and the power of a good setting. I can’t tell you how many more Madame Tulips Ahern has under his hat, but if they all read this smooth, this reviewer will happily read again.

4/5

Desc 1

On the private island of a rich banker, a young and talented stone-mason falls from a cliff. A tragic accident? Or murder?

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

The dead man’s sister obsessed with justice and who will stop at nothing.
A daughter bequeathed an island mansion beyond her means.
A glamorous French widow and her heart-throb son certain they have been cheated of their legacy.
Add an enigmatic letter hinting at a hidden fortune, and the reader is in for a gripping and humorous mystery adventure.

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

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