Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalMystery Foxe And The Path Into Darkness by William Savage @penandpension #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Noelle has been reading Foxe And The Path Into Darkness by William Savage

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I had been awaiting this latest Ashmole Foxe mystery since the author told me it was on its way. I am an unrepentant fan of this mystery series, and I bought a copy for review.

Ashmole Foxe Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller in Norwich, England, during the Georgian era. He is well-to-do from the sales of his bookstore and also his ability to find and sell rare books for significant profit. All of this he finds mundane, and over the years he has acquired a solid reputation for solving murders, which has become his raison d’etre. 

The story:

Ashmole Foxe is tasked by the City Alderman to locate the mayor of Norwich, Robert Belton, who seems to have disappeared. Belton is well limned by the author as a middle aged man who became mayor by luck rather than talent, since the title and the task is awarded traditionally by seniority. The unexpected deaths of several more senior alderman moved Belton to the top of the list.  It is clear even to Belton that he is not worthy of the job, being regarded as a lightweight by the other Alderman, and furthermore, not having the wealth required by a Mayor to pay for the traditional mayoral social duties. His wife thoroughly dislikes him, and he has taken a prosperous business handed to him at his father’s death and run it into the ground with poor management, theft, and disinterest. His attempts as mayor to make changes in Norwich are met with resistance from his fellow Aldermen, and he does what he usually does – drops whatever he is fixed on and moves on to something equally unlikely to succeed. This is the man Foxe is to find, even though it is clear that his wife doesn’t want him found and the Aldermen are only asking because of the difficulty in not having a mayor to lead the city.

The job comes at a perfect time for Foxe, who has been listless and bored for several months, all of the women in his life – none of them truly serious relationships – having moved on. In the course of receiving this task from Alderman Halloran, a close friend, Foxe is reacquainted with the younger of the two nieces who live with Halloran, Miss Lucy Halloran. Both nieces have recently returned from an extended stay in Paris, and Lucy has morphed from a “dear, awkward, wayward, unconventional and bright” girl to a desirable and beautiful woman in Foxe’s eyes.  Foxe is instantly smitten and rendered speechless. Lucy displays some of her youth in berating Foxe for not having corresponded with her in Paris, souring their initial meeting.

The two story lines become intertwined as Foxe soon discovers a complex tangle of events with no real leads. He makes little progress, reaching one dead end after another, until Lucy helps him find the right threads. As usual, he uses the street children of Norwich, Mrs. Crombie, the manager of his bookstore, and Mistress Tabby, an herbalist and Wise Woman, to help him track down clues and news. The descent into darkness is both Foxe’s own, as he despairs of ever winning Lucy’s affection, but also that of Robert Belton, as the reader learns.

My take on this book:

There were several lovely aspects of this book, in addition to the colorful characters populating Foxe’s world, ones I have grown to enjoy. First is an exquisite description of Norwich through Foxe’s eyes, as he takes his roundabout walk to his favorite coffee house each morning. The author’s historical knowledge of Georgian times and Norwich in particular is prodigious and his characters are memorable. The second is the total frustration that grows in the reader when every step taken by Foxe is a false one. And third is the character of Belton himself, whose point of view opens the book.  I think his point of view is a necessary prequel to what follows. And finally, there is a lot of physical action at the end of the book. For a Georgian mystery, which moves at the pace of the time, this is a sea change.

The only unsettling aspect, to my mind, is the relationship between Foxe and Lucy. She begins with a childlike temper tantrum, and yet Foxe falls immediately in love with this seventeen-year-old. Foxe is in his early thirties, by my reckoning, and is a man of the world! Even though the age of consent at the time was twelve for girls, I found the age difference and the speed with which Foxe was consumed by physical thoughts of Lucy a little disconcerting. But this is probably my own view through modern eyes. I might add, having read the other books, that is past time for Mr. Foxe to have a serious, reciprocated relationship, so bravo to the author.

All in all, I highly recommend this book as a worthy addition to this mystery series, and anyone who has read the previous books will heartily enjoy this one. It is dark, but also surprising. To those who haven’t yet met Ashmole Foxe, you can start here without any problem since the author brings the reader up to date.

Desc 1

When the mayor of Norwich disappears without trace roughly half-way through his term of office, the entire city government is thrown into chaos. Every thought turns to Mr Foxe, who is told to make finding the mayor his single priority. Nothing must stand in the way of achieving that goal. Nothing.

Foxe, listless and bored, has not had a mystery worthy of his attention for several months. He’s also still hurting from Lady Cockerton’s treatment of him. Even his oddly platonic friendship with Mrs Danson must end in two days, when she finally leaves Norwich for good. Perhaps a mystery will put some life back into him?

Before he can even begin, an unexpected encounter in Alderman Halloran’s hallway turns Foxe’s life upside down, so that for three days of confusion and anguish he can do nothing but struggle with an overwhelming crisis in his own life. The search for the mayor is forgotten.

At length, with help from an unexpected source, Foxe sets out doggedly on the trail of the missing man. He soon finds he must unravel a complex and unexpected tangle of events to get anywhere. Blocked and frustrated many times, he finally reveals the slow descent into darkness and an inevitable fate that lies behind what seemed a simple puzzle.

All the time, he is still struggling with a problem that threatens to wreck his entire future. Just as he sees a path ahead that offers the possibility of undreamed-of joy and happiness, he finds he may well have managed to block it completely before he can even set out. Can he find his way through this tangle as well?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #PrehistoricalFiction The Drowning Land by David M Donachie @bayushi_hituro

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Noelle has been reading The Drowning Land by David M Donachie

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The Drowning Land is prehistorical fiction, set in northern Europe a little over eight thousand years ago. It combines adventure, a romance, and disaster against the setting of a land that literally is sinking beneath the sea.

It is based on an event that UK archeology teams described in 2009, where a huge underwater slide created a sudden and catastrophic tsunami that engulfed Doggerland. Doggerland connected Great Britain to the European continent and was a rich habitat for the Mesolithic populations. It is now submerged beneath the southern North Sea. When the author heard this description, his mental image of peoples looking up at the onrushing wave triggered his desire to write a story about it. The author describes all this at the end of the book, and I wish it had come as a prologue. My lack of knowledge led to some confusion in my reading of the story.

The story:

Edan, one of the two main characters, is the member of a Mesolithic tribe, dark-skinned, blue-eyed, short and wiry. For millennia, the tribe has migrated with the seasons between the coastal ‘Summer Lands’ (Doggerland) and the highlands in the winter, following the rigid rule of tribal tradition and despite the fact that the Summer Lands are gradually being poisoned by rising salt water. Edan rescues a ‘troll’ named Tara from another predatory tribal group with wolves as their totem, led by a war-chieftain named Phelan. Tara is at least partially Neanderthal, based on her description. She has foreseen the drowning of their lands and is on a quest at the direction of her tribes’ elders to discover if the spirit world can be aroused at a sacred place – a site about which Tara has only minimal information. In rescuing her, Edan accidently kills one of Phelan’s followers, and he and Tara become separated from his tribe as they flee from Phelan’s people and the rising seas everywhere, while trying to find the place Tara seeks. Their odyssey through increasingly drowning lands is one of growth and change, and, not surprisingly, of love, and will determine their fate and that of the Summer Lands.

The author has done considerable research in making his historical fiction plausible – the living spaces, the food, the implements used and the weapons. The humans that populate this world are also very believable. Edan and Tara are compelling characters with weaknesses and strengths, and after the first few chapters, which are slowly paced, I became completely engaged in their saga. His descriptions of the different lives of various tribes – hunters, gatherers, fishermen – ring true, as well as the zeitgeist of this prehistorical time, a tribute to the author’s ability to imagine himself living eight thousand years ago. It reminds me a great deal of a favorite of mine, The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel.

Issues for me:

  • The author describes the history of Doggerland and the peoples who populated it at the end of the book.  I wish it had been placed at the beginning, since my lack of knowledge led to some confusion.
  • The map at the beginning shows the land described by the author with the names of landmarks in the story, but I had no clue what I was looking at and where it was located relative to the larger picture of the land at that time. I badly needed a compass on that map!
  • There were some slower parts to the book, which might have been eliminated with some judicious editing.

Despite the issues, I was hooked once I got into this story. I loved the characters and the alternating points of view between Edan and Tara worked for me, allowing me to get into their heads. The author has brought the landscape and history of Doggerland to brilliant life. I strongly recommend The Drowning Land this as an informative and entertaining read, a definite must for historical fiction buffs.

Desc 1

The world is drowning.

Edan’s tribe has always survived by knowing the land and following its stories. But now their world is changing, and they must change with it, or die.

When young fisherman Edan rescues the troll seer Tara from Phelan wolf-touched, he makes a powerful enemy. But Tara’s visions bring them hope that the world might still be saved.

Edan must break away from tradition and cross the Summer Lands in search of a new future, but where does that future lie? With Phelan’s wolf clan? With the Fomor sea-devils? Or with Tara’s uncertain hope for salvation?

The Drowning Land takes us back eight thousand years to the Mesolithic Period when a lost land, Doggerland, still connected England to France across what is now the North Sea. Inspired by the extensive research conducted by archaeologists over the past two decades, this is a story of our distant ancestors and how they confronted the climate catastrophe that overwhelmed their world. 

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Thriller STALKING GIDEON CAIN by @KerryDenney

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Stalking Gideon Cain by Kerry Denney

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The author sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Stalking Gideon Cain is by all accounts a thriller. It involves an all-knowing enemy seeking revenge for a perceived slight decades earlier and the subject of his enmity is a well-known mystery writer whose protagonists are fantastical female vigilantes.

After reading the first two chapters and thinking I had somehow descended into the world of Roger Rabbit, I had to investigate the author. Kerry Alan Denney, as I discovered, is an award-winning author who combines suspense, thriller, horror, scifi, fantasy, supernatural, and paranormal in his books, according to his author profile. This appears to be his first thriller. Since I’d never encountered his books before, knowing this was a help.

Gideon Cain, the protagonist in this latest book, thinks he is losing his mind. The femme fatales in the books from which he makes a good living – think Jessica Rabbit on steroids – are cartoonish in their sensuality and over-the-top appearance and begin to show up in Cain’s life, live and in person. The first encounter is intriguing and puzzling, but the second of these in-living-flesh characters tries to poison him on a flight home from a book-signing tour. He soon figures out that this is a cruel joke played by an implacable enemy who toys with, and not in a nice way, everyone to whom he turns for help.

With the exception of one policeman investigating Cain’s poisoning, his parents – talented and intellectually remote, and the couple who are his best friends, the people who help him are women – very much like the women in Gideon Cain’s books – gorgeous, talented, strong, and resourceful. A rather interesting twist.

The author also included a ghost, that of Cain’s wife who appears from time to time. He was deeply in love with her, but she abruptly left him without explanation when she was several months pregnant with his first child and suffering from cancer. He had searched for her but only knew of her death when her body is returned by her twin sister for her funeral.  What happened to the child?

How will Cain manage to find and stop the madman who is stalking him and his friends and family, when his enemy is always two steps ahead and has created a substance that can kill at the touch of a button?

When I sat down to write this review, I faced a conundrum akin to Schrödinger’s cat. The premise is brilliant and intriguing and there was good tension. The book had enough twists and turns to keep me reading, and the death concoction that allowed the stalker to blow his victims up from the inside was evilly lovely. Many of the action scenes had me on the seat of my chair, and the author has a good handle on description. I could always envision the scene in detail.

On the other hand, there were some rather long sections that made me want to say “get on with it, already!” If your life and the lives of those around you is at stake, you don’t spend a lot of time rehashing the past and your feelings. There was one chapter written from Gideon Cain’s dog’s point of view which really threw me. Who knows what a dog thinks?

The several women helping Cain seek and eliminate the stalker also became a little tiresome in their perfect appearance, physical skills, and intellectual superiority. A great idea but too much of a good thing. I’m also not entranced by clichéd dialogue, which seems to be a masculine trait, and there was a lot. But again, if this a Roger Rabbit redux, the clichés fit.

So how to rate this strange (to me) book based on a rather brilliant concept? I think it will appeal to Denney’s fans and should definitely make some new ones.

Book description

What does a famous author do when the villains from his novels come to life . . . and try to kill him?
~~~
Bestselling author Gideon Cain is losing his mind. Everywhere he turns lately, the femme fatales from his psychological thrillers show up—live and in person. Are they actresses playing a cruel joke on him, figments of his increasingly terrifying delusions, or fantastical vigilantes sprung to life from the pages of his books? All he knows for certain is if he doesn’t find answers soon, he’s bound for the psych ward.

When one of his fictional antagonists poisons him on a flight home from a book-signing tour, he realizes that someone isn’t just messing with his mind—they’re trying to kill him.

Now he’s running for his life from an enemy with a weapon so deadly it can kill with the touch of a button. Only an enigmatic woman from his tragic past can help him discover the truth behind his adversary’s vendetta. And time is running out to stop the madman who is stalking Gideon Cain.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS due out May 21st.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Scifi The Rings Of Mars by @RachelFoucar

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Rings Of Mars by Rachel Foucar

The Rings of Mars was a pleasant surprise. I do love science fiction (having been groomed to it at my father’s knee) but I all too frequently find modern science fiction lacking the elements of a good read. The Rings of Mars is a good read, even if I disagree with some of the science – or the lack thereof.

The story opens with Jane Parker standing in line, one of five hundred people selected from millions who applied, to board a shuttle to take them to a ship, the Sleipnir, that will carry them to Mars. It seems she doesn’t know why she was selected, and this was a one-way trip for everyone. Although not clearly stated at first, the colonization of Mars is necessary because, according to the group funding it, Earth has become too polluted to sustain life much longer.

During the shuttle trip and her arrival on the Sleipnir, the reader is introduced in separate chapters to the people who will become her friends: Danni, a native American; Pat and Kaitlin, two bona fide astronauts; and Mark. And then Jack, whose alias is Alex, clearly being sent to sabotage the trip.

The ship is huge with a cylindrical center portion around which three rings rotate, creating gravity for the passengers who will live and work there. The description of the ship was interesting, along with the segregation of the passengers into various departments for their work assignments (agriculture, cleaning, cooking, etc).  Food and its supply, entertainment and diversions for the passengers, and the living quarters were nicely described, along with the weightless environment that some would work in.

Tension begins with the explosion and destruction of the space station from which the Sleipnir has just departed and the decision whether to continue on or abort the mission.

The middle of the book slows a bit as Alex inserts himself into the life of the crew with a bent for destruction, but speeds up as Jane reveals herself to be an agent sent on the trip to stop him and whatever he’s planned. Why must the Sleipnir be sabotaged? Will Jane be able to stop Alex or will the ship and its passengers be destroyed?

Some of the characters are drawn well and can be visualized, others are a little fuzzy. Jane is clearly a badass, and that role she fills to perfection. I love that there is a strong female protagonist, especially since many of the other women characters are weak and/or not very perceptive. A few characters die unexpectedly and shockingly and there are plenty of plot twists and turns created to amp the tension. In addition, the descriptions of the ship and the limitations it exerts on the lives of the passengers, along with the drudgery of the day to day work, are compelling.

I wish there had been more discussion amongst the characters as to why they decided to leave Earth forever. There would have been a richness added to them through those conversations. There is really no mystery to Jane’s pursuit of Alex, since it is clear why he is there, only her growing irritation of not being able to catch him in his various acts of sabotage. And I must admit total frustration with the captain of Sleipnir, who seems unaccountably unwilling to accept that a saboteur is on board.

There were a few other minor things that itched due to my interest in space travel. For example, the ship had windows, and I wondered how those, along with the ship’s construction would protect the travelers from cosmic rays and solar activity during the trip.

The Rings of Mars was an enjoyable read and should attract the attention of science fiction fans, especially those who like a strong female in the lead and good tension.

All in all, the author has done a very creditable job for her first novel.  She has a real future as a writer and I hope to read more from her.

Book description

For most people, colonising Mars is the opportunity of a lifetime. A chance for adventure. But for Jane, it’s a chance to escape her old life.

As the Earth grows more inhospitable, humanity’s best hope for survival is to start again on Mars. Jane Parker was lucky enough to be chosen from millions of applicants to join the first ship of colonisers. But before the crew of the Sleipnir can begin taming the red waste, they have to survive the voyage over. And there are those who would rather they didn’t reach their destination.

Trapped on a ship with a deadly saboteur, Jane will be forced to use her unique skills to keep the crew of the Sleipnir and her new friends safe. But will Jane be able to get the ship to its destination and keep her past a secret?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

 

 

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ComingOfAge THE BOY AND THE LAKE by Adam Pelzman

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Boy And The Lake by Adam Pelzman

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Coming of age, teenage love, adolescence in a Jewish community, the social upheavals of the 1960s, murder mystery – all of these themes are woven together in The Boy and the Lake and set against a luminously described backdrop of life on a lake.

Sixteen-year-old Benjamin Baum is fishing from a dock on his beloved New Jersey lake, feet dangling in the water and the sounds of people having fun echoing across the water, when the bloated body of his next door neighbor Helen floats to the surface. Her loss shakes his world and he stubbornly refuses to believe she died by accident, searching for clues to her death in the insular Jewish middle class community that lives around the lake.

His mother, Lillian, is a narcissistic and emotionally unpredictable woman with a punishing attitude toward both Ben and his long-patient father, Abe. Ben is detached from his mother but clearly understands what makes her tick. He loves his father, who is hardworking and caring physician, practicing in Newark, and an enabler of Lillian’s behavior. These three have all been affected differently by the early death of Ben’s younger sister. They normally come to the lake only in the summer, but with the increasing tension and fear from the Newark riots in 1967, the family decides move to there. Ben continues to infuriate both family and friends, especially one exceptional friend and budding love named Missy, with his unwelcome search to discover how Helen died.

As time passes, fractures and truths appear in the people populating Ben’s world, and he comes to realize that the prosperity and contentment he associates with the lake community is not what is seems to be. The complexity and depth of these relationships, drawn by the author in a compelling way, keeps the reader turning the pages, following as Ben grows in maturity and understanding while maneuvering through a variety of social situations that challenge the gawky teenager. 

The author is a wonderful story teller. Ben comes across as a typical teenager for that time (one which I remember), with his mother alternating between a practical housekeeper and unlikeable shrew. I felt deep sorrow for the long-suffering Abe but also the love Ben’s grandparents have for him and which he reciprocates.  Even the lake develops a personality. He has created in exquisite detail the ambiance of a lake in summer that brought back some memories of my own, the push and pull and occasional pain of Ben’s family, and the darker undercurrents that Ben discovers in the surrounding community. The historical detail is spot on. The reader becomes emotionally invested in Ben, his plans for the future, and his awkward interactions with, and his growing admiration and affection for, Missy.

The twists and turns kept me reading quickly. I will warn potential readers, though, this book is more character-drive than a murder mystery – there are large sections where Helen’s death is not in play – even though a death opens the book and a tragedy ends it.

I recommend this book for what it is and will definitely read more by this author.

Book description

Set against the backdrop of the Newark riots in 1967, a teenage Benjamin Baum leaves the city to spend the summer at an idyllic lake in northern New Jersey. While fishing from his grandparents’ dock, the dead body of a beloved neighbor floats to the water’s surface—a loss that shakes this Jewish community and reveals cracks in what appeared to be a perfect middle-class existence. Haunted by the sight of the woman’s corpse, Ben stubbornly searches for clues to her death, infuriating friends and family who view his unwelcome investigation as a threat to the comfortable lives they’ve built. As Ben’s suspicions mount, he’s forced to confront the terrifying possibility that his close-knit community is not what it seems to be—that, beneath a façade of prosperity and contentment, darker forces may be at work.

In The Boy and the Lake, Adam Pelzman has crafted a riveting coming-of-age story and a mystery rich in historical detail, exploring an insular world where the desperate quest for the American dream threatens to destroy both a family and a way of life.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #FamilyDrama BIRDS DON’T CRY by Sandy Day

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Birds Don’t Cry by Sandy Day

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This review is done as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I purchased the book.


Birds Don’t Cry is a story of relationships between siblings, something to which most of us can relate. Middle-aged Kaffy Sullivan, ornery and set in her ways, lives in Sullivan House, an old inn set next to a magnificent forest and open for tourists to stay. She hopes to live out her life there, maintaining her grandparents’ legacy to their three grandchildren. Kaffy, with the volunteer help of her sister-in-law, Sylvia, is determined to keep the inn going. She has come to rely on Sylvia for setting up, chicken dinners on Saturday nights, and lively conversations with the guests (something which Kaffy can’t manage). Now she is faced with a reviewer from The Lonely Tripper books coming to stay at the inn, something that could make or break its reputation. Trying to bring the lovely inn upto date, she has hired her creepy brother, Red, Sylvia’s husband, to expand the front porch before the visit.

One morning before that visit, Sylvia doesn’t show up at the inn and seems to have disappeared. Kaffy is puzzled and also apprehensive that she can get Sullivan House ready in time without Sylvia’s help. It takes some time before Kaffy realizes that Sylvia is really missing – distracted as she is by keeping a horse and its foal she finds in the woods, knowing full well the horses belong to a neighbor who comes looking for them.


She finally realizes her brother doesn’t seem to care that his wife is missing and after several days starts asking questions, eventually calling the police. Adding to her stress is the impending reading of her grandmother’s will and wondering if she will be allowed to keep Sullivan House. In the meantime, her brother and her conniving and greedy older sister Maxine are conspiring to remove her and sell the house. The stress brings out memories buried for years, making the world a much darker place for Kaffy.


Where is Sylvia? Can Kaffy get her life under control? Will her odious brother and nasty sister throw her out of her beloved home?

This is definitely a psychological story of sibling rivalry and buried memories, but I had some problems with it. Perhaps the author intended for Kaffy to seem as somewhat distractible and clueless as she first seems, although her character improves as you read further into the book. Her taking the horses she found in the woods while looking for Sylvia was an odd and an unlikely diversion. Red seems equally oblivious to the disappearance of his wife. Is his aimlessness and waffling a family trait? He is also not averse to some skullduggery with his older sister, Maxine, that would have a profound effect on Kaffy, and there is much more to his relationship with Kaffy than initially apparent. Maxine plays much less of a role in the book but is sharply drawn and eminently unlikable. Nevertheless, the author created enough interest in the characters to keep me reading.


The author touches on a lot of subjects involving these siblings – mental health, sexual assault, theft – and manages to move between them fairly deftly, but there is a certain awkwardness to the book that I can’t quite put my finger on. I will say the ending was somewhat unsatisfying – I wanted more, which tells me I had become invested in the characters.

Book description

Sometimes sisters and brothers don’t get along – even when they’re middle aged.

Kaffy Sullivan lives and works in the business her grandparents began in the 20th century. Reclusive and offbeat, Kaffy hopes to inherit the inn and, with the help of her sister-in-law, operate it for the rest of her life.

When an important publication makes a reservation, Kaffy is under pressure to get Sullivan House spruced up in time for the review. But Sylvia, who Kaffy depends on, has disappeared. She hasn’t shown up for work, and Kaffy’s bad-tempered brother doesn’t seem to care that his wife is missing.

Cracking under the pressure to get the inn ready, and more urgently, find Sylvia, Kaffy struggles through a harrowing nest of repressed memories and traumatic family rivalries.

For readers of women’s fiction and domestic thrillers, Birds Don’t Cry is a page turner that drops you directly into one family’s conflict and search for survivors.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #HistoricalRomance HIS CASTILIAN HAWK by @abelfrageauthor

Today’s team review is from Noelle. She blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading His Castilian Hawk by Anna Belfrage.

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This review is written as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and the book was purchased. 

Romance is not to my taste, but historical fiction is. So I decided to dip my toes in the waters of a romance novel set in Wales in the late 13th century. I was also encouraged by the fact that  Anna Belfrage is recognized as a prolific writer of historical romance and time travel novels (a favorite genre of mine) and has a large, enthusiastic following. His Castilian Hawk is the first book in her latest series, The Castilian Saga.

The story: Robert FitzStephen has served King Edward I of England, known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, since he was a boy of twelve. Robert is bastard-born but follows his king loyally and is now riding with him once again to bring the rebellious Welsh under control. In protecting Edward at the end of a battle, Robert unknowingly kills an ally of the king, Sir Ralph d’Outremer, along with his son. Edward decides to make Robert return the bodies to the one remaining member of d’Outremer’s family, his daughter, and also gifts Orton Manor, home of the d’Outremer family, to Robert as a reward for his years of loyalty – with one condition. He is to wed the daughter to keep the manor and lands under Edward’s control.

Thus the author sets the basis for an improbable love story. Opposing this arrangement most forcefully is Edith, sister to one of Robert’s traveling companions for many years. She saved Robert’s life fifteen years previously and has been serving as his wife in all ways except formally for all that time. Eleanor d’Outremer, called Noor, is in her early teens when she learns of her father and brother’s death (but not who killed them) and is now entirely alone. She has no choice but to comply with the King’s order to marry the unknown Robert FitzStephan. Her life is further complicated by her blood ties to the Welsh princes, Llewelyn and Dafydd ap Gruffydd, with whom Edward is attempting to negotiate a peace.

Noor is very young and innocent but is also feisty, proud and brave. As she grows from a ‘small brown hen’ to a beautiful woman, she gradually falls in love with Robert and is determined to be a good wife, but she has to face down Edith and deal with the havoc Edward is wreaking on Wales. Robert also falls in love with Noor and comes to call her his Castilian hawk, recognizing her Spanish heritage, spirit and grit. However, when faced with the chance to save one member of the Gruffydd family, Noor sides with Wales. Will Robert stand with his king or follow his heart and protect his wife from both the King and the wiles of Edith? What will Noor do when she learns Robert is the man who killed her father and brother? Who will tell her?

This book is delightfully complex and engrossing with its many conflicts, both personal and royal, and is populated by very real, three-dimensional characters – not handsome, not beautiful, but flawed with inner demons and doubts. I like that these characters evolve over time in the face of increasing pressure from without, and I found myself alternating between disliking and then sympathizing with the various personae, as one might do with people in real life. The dialogue is real and natural, and the author weaves in enough descriptions of the country, the manors and palaces, and the battles to set the historical scene, of which I knew little. It led me to do a little exploration of the history on my own. Thus I can see why this author has built such a following.

However, I have to warn any potential readers: there is a lot of sex in this novel and it is graphic and detailed. Since I don’t read romance novels, but see this in many other genres, I suspect the sex is expected. I did find myself rather bored when it was inserted at various times when I felt it wasn’t really necessary and detracted from the flow of the story.

Overall, I was impressed with the author’s story-telling and ability to plop the reader right into the middle of it. I might even read the next book in the series.

Book description

For bastard-born Robert FitzStephan, being given Eleanor d’Outremer in marriage is an honour. For Eleanor, this forced wedding is anything but a fairy tale.

Robert FitzStephan has served Edward Longshanks loyally since the age of twelve. Now he is riding with his king to once and for all bring Wales under English control.

Eleanor d’Outremer—Noor to family—lost her Castilian mother as a child and is left entirely alone when her father and brother are killed. When ordered to wed the unknown Robert FitzStephan, she has no choice but to comply.

Two strangers in a marriage bed is not easy. Things are further complicated by Noor’s blood-ties to the Welsh princes and by covetous Edith who has warmed Robert’s bed for years.

Robert’s new wife may be young and innocent, but he is soon to discover that not only is she spirited and proud, she is also brave. Because when Wales lies gasping and Edward I exacts terrible justice on the last prince and his children, Noor is determined to save at least one member of the House of Aberffraw from the English king.

Will years of ingrained service have Robert standing with his king or will he follow his heart and protect his wife, his beautiful and fierce Castilian hawk? 

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #FamilyDrama THE SUM OF OUR SORROWS by @lisettebrodey

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Sum Of Our Sorrows by Lisette Brodey

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The Sum of Our Sorrows is first and foremost a story of the worst kind of loss – that of a mother, leaving behind with her young daughters. It weaves into the tragedy the kindness of a dear friend, the slow healing of the mind (with and without professional help), the behavioral changes in both children and husband such a loss can create, and redemption. A lot to pack into a book!


Abby, the mother of three daughters and wife to Dalton, is tragically killed in a car accident in northern California. Charlotte, the middle daughter, is in the car and survives but is emotionally and mentally altered by the experience. I was completely drawn to the oldest daughter, Lily, who while suffering the same loss, is told by her father that she must give up her job and her plans for college to stay home and take care of her sisters and him. She acquiesces without quite understanding why her father would ask that of her, and it is clear that none of his daughters truly know him, except from a distance. Lily desperately wants a life of her own and is torn between knowing she has to care for her family and wanting to leave. She realizes that if she leaves her two younger sisters they may not recover from the loss. When her father makes more and more demands of her, treating her as his wife in all but the physical sense and demanding she no longer interact with her friends, her desperation only grows.


Lily’s voice is obviously very strong, as was Charlotte’s, the middle child. I truly felt Lily’s confusion, guilt and sorrow and Charlotte’s continuous rebellion against her family as an outlet for her grief. Her troubles only pile up as time goes on, and Lily is patient when she can’t reach her. Maybe too patient, but Lily is not one to make demands or voice her own opinion except to her closest friends. Willow, the youngest child at twelve, was not as clearly defined. She seemed preternaturally old for her age, and sometimes her voice was so akin to Lily’s that I felt Lily was talking to herself. I would have liked to see her with some normal preteen problems.


Dalton, the father, was so ignorantly overbearing and dismissive of Lily’s needs that I wanted to give him a good shake, so in that sense, the author did a good job creating his character. His dismissal of Kady – Abby’s best friend and now Lily’s confidant – from their lives hinted early on that there was much more to this family than initially apparent. Just when Lily’s life has reached its lowest point, something wonderful happens, but that something only makes things even more difficult for Lily. You have to read the book to find out.


I will say the ending is a little too tidy for me. Life is messy and its struggles are rarely resolved by being tied up in a bow. So I wish the end was not so perfect, although it should please many readers.


This was a good book, one that kept my attention long enough to be riveted by the twists arising from the backstory of Abby’s life and the surprises in Lily’s. For readers who like family dramas with some right turns and a little romance, this will be a pleaser.

Book description

In an idyllic suburb in Northern California, tragedy strikes the Sheppard family when Abby, the mother of three daughters and wife to Dalton, is killed in a car accident. Charlotte, the middle daughter, is in the car with her mother and survives without physical injury but remains deeply scarred on the inside.

Dalton tells Lily, his eldest daughter, that she must sacrifice long-awaited college plans and put her life on hold to take care of her sisters. Lily is torn between her devotion to family and an increasing need to find her place in the world — but how can she leave, knowing her family may crumble?

Will her presence eventually cause more problems than it resolves?

The Sum of our Sorrows reveals how the aftermath of a family tragedy can precipitate sorrows never imagined.

It is a tale of grief, hope, healing, coming-of-age, friendship, and survival. It is also a love story of two broken souls living through pain in search of better days and the renewal of one’s spirit.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Fast Paced #Thriller SENTINEL by @CarlRackman

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Sentinel by Carl Rackman

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I will confess I am a fan of Carl Rackman’s books but somehow missed the first book in this series, Voyager.  Nevertheless, I plowed ahead and discovered that the author covered enough of the high points from Voyager that I could hit the ground running. I was not disappointed.

Four years have passed since Voyager One sent back chilling photos of a spaceship from deep in interstellar space. However, with terrorism, pandemics and political turmoil consuming the news, the story faded to the back page and the public has accepted it as a hoax. All but the Triumvirate, a global and powerful conspiracy that has inserted itself into the highest levels of various governments. They have created a wall of subterfuge so they themselves can welcome the Visitors, the occupants of the spaceship, who are coming with sinister plans.

Countering the Triumvirate are the strong characters typical of Rackman’s writing: Matt Ramprakash, former airline pilot and now an officer of the British intelligence agency MI5; his wife, Callie Woolf, who once headed the Voyager One mission and who believes that the spaceship is not a hoax; former FBI agent Brad Barnes who now leads Sentinel, a private intelligence and counter-terrorism operation founded to counter the Triumvirate; and Alex Ephraim, a superhuman soldier, thought to be genetically engineered, and a former Triumvirate assassin who has switched sides to join Sentinel.

The story opens a little slowly, which is where I think it could have been improved, but then starts to pick up speed until by the end, the reader is reading and flipping pages as fast as possible. The action scenes are meticulously plotted and easy to visualize and employ incredible technology. From a diversionary airplane hijacking to action on the icy cold and barren reaches of Antarctica, this suspense thriller pulls you in and then delivers a solid punch with a science fiction twist, leading directly to a third book in this series. Which I await.

This is a cracking good read.

Book description

The Voyager story continues…

Four years have passed since Voyager One sent back chilling photos of a spaceship from deep in interstellar space.

A shocked world prepared to meet the Visitors, but terrorism, pandemics, and global political turmoil have now consumed it. Discredited as a hoax, the Visitors have faded from public attention.

But the powerful global conspiracy known as the Triumvirate is behind much of the chaos. Creating a screen of subterfuge and misdirection, they prepare a clandestine welcome for the Visitors, whose origins may be more sinister than the aliens of popular fiction.

Standing in their way are the few brave men and women who foiled the Triumvirate’s last attempt to upset the world’s fragile balance of power:

Former FBI agent Brad Barnes leads Sentinel, a private intelligence and counter-terrorism operation founded in the wake of the Triumvirate’s last deadly plot.

Alex Ephraim – the former Triumvirate assassin known as Mirage – is Sentinel’s major weapon against terror.

Matt Ramprakash, former airline pilot and now an officer of the British intelligence agency MI5, is embroiled in a deadly standoff when an airliner is hijacked.

Callie Woolf, once the project manager of the Voyager mission, struggles against the sceptical government’s bureaucracy to continue the search for the elusive Visitors as her time and funding runs out.

Sentinel is the only organisation capable of taking the fight to the Triumvirate’s door – flexible, unorthodox well-funded and free of government red tape.

But as they pursue the Triumvirate from the streets of London to the wild, deadly wastes of Antarctica, Brad will need Matt and Callie’s help to stop the Triumvirate, which has its own plans for putting Sentinel – and especially Alex – out of the picture for good…

Sentinel is the pulse-pounding second instalment in the Voyager trilogy by Carl Rackman

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Steampunk OUT OF THE LONDON MIST by Lyssa Medana @Lmedana

Today’s team review is from Noelle, she blogs here https://saylingaway.wordpress.com

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Out Of The London Mist by Lyssa Medana

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I believe Out of the London Mist may be the first steampunk novel I’ve read. The book was purchased for review by Rosie’s Book Review Team.

The story opens with the visit of John Farnley to the East End of London to the shop of a metal worker who has frequently made parts for Farnley’s aether-powered plane. The shop was the last place John’s brother, Sir Nicholas Farnley, visited before being killed in a nearby street. This area of London was one which Sir Nicholas would never visit, and John is determined to trace his last steps and find his murderer.

John is faced with now being a nobleman, Sir John Farnley, and all that entails, plus having to sort out family business and holdings, which entail the mining of aether crystals, a source of power in Victorian England. He must also comfort his sister-in-law, who was a decorative wife to his brother but proves to be a competent household manager of the little-used London home.

A dense London fog is blanketing London, and it becomes a character unto itself, well drawn by the author. She also creates the world of the East End slums, a deadly place where life is cheap and people walking alone are preyed upon.

John discovers that his brother was helping the father of the metal worker, a rabbi involved in creating something monstrous which now lurks in the mist-shrouded corners of the East End. People are dying from being beaten with inhuman force, and John suspects his brother was one of the victims. Aiding him in his investigation is the resourceful Miss Sylvia Armley, brave and fearless. John has an intimate understanding of the aether lines that flow above London and of the advantages and disadvantages of using aether crystals as a power source, and he is helped to understand why his brother was collaborating with the rabbi by the erudite advice of Professor Entwistle, a close friend of the rabbi.

Together with Miss Armley, John travels though the darkest part of London to determine exactly what his brother was doing and to stop the aether-powered monster that killed him. The ending was not at all what I expected, and I can see another book to follow this one.

The author does an excellent job limning her characters and creating a steampunk world. I enjoyed the detail and the dialogue moved crisply along. The most compelling aspect was the way in which she created the foggy world, at once opaque and frightening. The mystery compels you to read on. For my first adventure into steampunk, this book is a winner.

The author tells a good story, and I am going to download some of her other books.

Book description

When news of his brother’s murder reached him, aether pilot John Farnley raced back to his old family home.

While he comforts his bereaved sister-in-law, and tries to sort the family business and holdings, he also wonders why his brother, Lord Nicholas Farnley, had ventured into the cramped streets of the East End of London where he had met his violent end. The slums are a deadly place where life was cheap and murderous thugs preyed on the weak and lost.

Now, in the midst of a thick, London fog, something even more monstrous is waiting in the mist-shrouded shadows. Something that has been brought to life by the refugees crowding Bethnal Green and Mile End. Something his brother might have had a hand in creating.

Aided by his friend, the resourceful Miss Sylvia Armley, his own understanding of the aether lines that flow above London, and guided by the erudite advice of Professor Entwistle, John is forced to find his way through the darkest part of London to avenge his brother and stop whatever aether powered monster is lurking there.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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