Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Medieval Adventure Lord Edward’s Archer by @HoskerGriff @EndeavourQuill

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Lord Edward’s Archer by Griff Hosker

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Author Griff Hosker has written 116 books, all centered on warfare, many in the Middle Ages with knights, Vikings, swordsmen, and Saxons, but some set in WWI and WWII. He’s a very popular author, so I decided to read this book, which I purchased for review.

The story is set in the 13th century in Wales, France and England. The main character is a young man named Gruffyd, who has been trained by his father, a famous archer, to follow in his footsteps. His father is retired from his life as a hired soldier and ekes out a meager living, enough to support him and his son. At seventeen, Gruffyd is already a strong, smart and able bowman and is hired by the lord of a nearby castle. The lord is a base and cowardly man, and when the nobleman commits a devastating deed affecting Gruffyd, the young man makes a life-altering decision. For a while he lives as an outlaw living wild in the woods while seeking a passage to France. There are a considerable number of obstacles in his journey but when he reaches France, he is hired as an archer by Lord Edward, heir to the throne of England. Edward is waging war against certain French factors who are a threat to his father’s throne. He quickly becomes captain of Lord Edward’s archers and plays a major role in some of England’s most decisive and ruthless battles, both in France and in England. Gruffyd is very young for such an important post and must continually prove not only his own worth, but also the value and importance of his archers in winning significant battles.

Did I enjoy the book? Yes and no. The author’s style of writing – short sentences, almost staccato in style and with sparse description—took a bit of getting used to. The story itself moves quickly and is true to both the history and battles of the time and the use of the longbow. As a reader, I learned a great deal about archery (long bow, cross bow, and the pros and cons of both), how archers were used to advantage in battle, and the life of an outlaw in England – it’s not all Robin Hood. The battle scenes spared no gruesome detail, but then battles in the Middle Ages were gruesome affairs.

What I found somewhat off-putting were the deaths of most of Gruffyd’s friends, while he himself moved seamlessly and without injury through challenge after challenge, always finding just the right solution and earning a lot of money from his employer in the process. It was a tiny bit too perfect. The name Gruffyd chooses to disguise who he really is – Gerald War Bow – felt an off note, but considering the names of other characters, such as Dickon of Downholme, Matty Strawhair, and Rafe Oak Arms, perhaps not so much. The author has an enormous grasp of warfare in the Middle Ages and the history of the time, so it’s perhaps just the writing style that threw me off.

I was drawn along by the story, despite the drawbacks, and if you like historical novels, you might want to sample one of his books to see if his storytelling appeals to you.

Book description

13th Century, Wales and England.

To young Gruffyd, life has been unkind. Eking out a meagre living with his father, he has learned very quickly how to look after himself in the hostile borderlands. His father, an archer, has taught him well and at seventeen Gruffyd is a keen and able bowman. Young, loyal and skilled, it’s not long before Gruffyd finds himself following in his father’s footsteps, working as an archer in the bordering castle. But tragedy strikes when his lord commits a devastating deed, and Gruffyd is forced to make a life altering decision.

This is the story of a young archer’s riotous journey from avenging outlaw to merchant’s bodyguard to, finally, the captain of archers for the heir to the throne. Gruffyd must prove not only his own worth, but the importance of archery in some of England’s most decisive and ruthless battles.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Social drama The Swooping Magpie by @LizaPerrat

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Swooping Magpie by Liza Perrat

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I had not read the preceding book by this author, also set in 1970s Australia, but based on a review by another member of Rosie’s book review team, I decided to delve into this one, The Swooping Magpie, purchasing the book for review.

Having lived through the 1970s sexual revolution, the core theme of the book was one I was intimately familiar with, and my memories heightened the tension and my connection to the unfolding story.

Lindsay Townsend, a beautiful and popular sixteen year old high school student, comes from a home where her father beats her and her mother ignores her. Her teenage hormones fuel her irresistible urge to attract one of her teachers, Jon Halliwell. Much to her surprise, he returns her interest and their interaction blossoms into a physical relationship. As a result of their affair, Lindsay finds herself pregnant. Pregnancy was a huge fear of teenage girls at that time, and parents took a variety of steps to deal with babies conceived out of wedlock. Lindsay’s parents take a truly drastic step and Lindsay is thrust into a world unimaginable to her – one of deprivation, bone-deadening work and dark despair.

While I found myself frustrated by Lindsay’s naiveté and stubbornness in the first part of the book, her strength of character in the face of horrible circumstances was impressive. She does indeed make lemonade from the lemons of her life, until about mid-book, when a truly terrible twist finally beats her down – and the reader along with her. Her trauma defines her future, when she and other women like her work to right the wrongs done to them. Thus the story ends with a message of hope.

The author uses first person to tell Lindsay’s story, which is very effective. The use of constant dialogue heightens the emotions and the tensions. The other young women who fill Lindsay’s world are each unique in their own way; the author does a marvelous job creating them. The anger this book rekindled in me, derived from the Jon Halliwell character, was my anger at that time: men escaped all responsibility, leaving the women to pay the price. The author definitely achieved that goal! While the story is set in Australia, its theme is universal.

I highly recommend this book, especially for younger women who needs to recognize how far we have come.

Book description

The thunderclap of sexual revolution collides with the black cloud of illegitimacy.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsay Townsend is pretty and popular at school. At home, it’s a different story. Dad belts her and Mum’s either busy or battling a migraine. So when sexy school-teacher Jon Halliwell finds her irresistible, Lindsay believes life is about to change.

She’s not wrong.

Lindsay and Jon pursue their affair in secret, because if the school finds out, Jon will lose his job. If Lindsay’s dad finds out, there will be hell to pay. But when a dramatic accident turns her life upside down, Lindsay is separated from the man she loves.

Events spiral beyond her control, emotions conflicting with doubt, loneliness and fear, and Lindsay becomes enmeshed in a shocking true-life Australian scandal. The schoolyard beauty will discover the dangerous games of the adult world. Games that destroy lives.

Lindsay is forced into the toughest choice of her young life. The resulting trauma will forever burden her heart.

Reflecting the social changes of 1970s Australia, The Swooping Magpie is a chilling psychological tale of love, loss and grief, and, through collective memory, finding we are not alone.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery Black As She’s Painted by @penandpension #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Black As She’s Painted by William Savage

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Black as She’s Painted is the fifth book in the Ashmole Foxe Mysteries series by William Savage.  His other series is the Dr. Adam Bascom Mysteries and both are set in Georgian England, in and around Norwich. I will be honest and reveal I am a huge fan of William Savage and have enjoyed both of these mystery series. However, even though I come from a medical background, the Ashmole Foxe books are slight favorites, possibly because of the charismatic, unconventional and quirky protagonist.

Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller with his own shop, run largely and profitably for him by an entrepreneurial widow, Mrs. Crombie. Foxe is a dandy and an unrepentant hedonist, a lover of beautiful women in his bed, fine wine and a surfeit of good food, but despite all these social faults, he has solved several other mysteries for Norwich’s political and mercantile elite. Thus it is natural for him to be approached for assistance when a rich goldsmith turned banker Samuel Mellanus goes missing. Almost immediately there is further news: the banker’s wife, who has a promiscuous reputation, has been found naked and strangled to death in her own bed.

A group of politicians/merchants need Foxe to find Mellanus, since having a missing banker is catastrophic for a bank and its money, but they also need him to discover how thousands of pounds have been stolen from the bank, without anyone noticing they were missing…until now. Add to this conundrum is the fact that Mellanus had closed his gold smithing business for no apparent reason, letting all his workers go, and Foxe discovers that coins and jewelry were taken from Mr. and Mrs. Mellanus by their pretty maid Maria.

Can Foxe find Mellanus and the missing money? Was Eleanor Mellanus as black as she was painted, or was it simply her misfortune to be both desirable and dumb, used and betrayed by the men she welcomed to her bed?

To solve these crimes, Foxe will use his considerable investigative powers and intellect, plus the help of characters introduced in previous books: a motley crew of street children, Mistress Tabby – a so-called Cunning Woman or folk healer, who practices folk medicine and magic, and a sea captain, Captain Brock, who has just returned from his honeymoon.

As usual, the author wraps the solution to these crimes in layer upon layer of hard- won information, much of it not useful at the time of its uncovering, plus a number of tangential crimes. Also as usual, the reader learns a great deal about specific aspects of Georgian life. In each book one of these aspects is a focal point, in this case coinage and banking.

William Savage is a living compendium of Georgian life, and he creates a world into which the reader is absorbed, alternatively colorful and dangerous, and populated by characters that become real. Over the series, I have come to look forward to the reappearance of many of them, interested in how their lives are evolving, as they most certainly do.

I was not disappointed by the tangled ball of yarn created by the author to be unwound by Ashmole Foxe. The pacing of this mystery series is slow, in keeping with life in Georgian England, and is something I have learned to enjoy. It allows the reader to savor the story.

If I had one criticism, it is the length of time it takes to get to the mystery. There is always a period of introduction at the beginning of the Foxe stories but this one was long enough to be on the tedious side.

I was also disappointed that the changes in Foxe’s life in the last book – his turn to more sedate attire and true consideration of the women in his life – were not evident in this one. Can this man go on forever in his present state? Will age catch up with him? I guess I will have to wait for the next book to find out.

In any event, as always, I strongly recommend this latest Ashmole Foxe adventure to anyone who likes historical mysteries and to anyone who might!

Book description

Samuel Melanus, a rich goldsmith turned banker goes missing, and his promiscuous wife is found naked and strangled on her own bed. It’s yet another case for Georgian Norwich’s most cunning and unconventional crime-solver, the bookseller Mr Ashmole Foxe.

Foxe is approached by representatives of the city’s mercantile elite to find the missing banker before his disappearance causes a financial panic. Then, right at the start, news comes that the man’s wife has been found murdered. Thus begins a tale of intrigue, deceit and hatred, involving one of Foxe’s most loathed enemies.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Scifi Killing Adam by Earik Beann @EarikB #SundayBlogShare

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Killing Adam by Earik Beann

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I enjoy a good science fiction book, and this one did not disappoint. How many of us watch people fixated on their cell phones, iPad, or other digital devices? How many of us are one of these addicts? Author Earik Beann has taken this a step further in his world, where small implants behind the left ear allow people to experience anything they could ever imagine.

These Alternate Reality Chips are the ultimate addiction: some people spend twenty-three hours a day online, only disconnected when their chip forcibly disconnects them twice a day so they can eat. Jimmy Mahoney’s wife is one of these. Once a vibrant, loving woman, her addiction to her ARC is slowly sucking the life out of her and she spends her days in bed, disconnected to the world around her. Many in her situation have died already, unwilling or unable to log off to take care of even their most basic needs, and Jimmy fears for her future. Jimmy, on the other hand, doesn’t have an ARC. He is one of the few incompatibles (without the device) because of a brain injury which occurred during his years playing football, rendering him unable to connect. He rides on a bus full of silent, detached people to a meeting of similar incompatibles, just for company. To the people who are not connected, being without an ARC is worse than being blind and deaf, and they struggle to hang on to what’s left of a society they are no longer a part of.

There is no more hunger, no more crime in Jimmy’s world – it’s called the Golden Age of Humanity. But is it? A few of the incompatibles see the cracks, although they have no idea what to do about it. One day Jimmy meets Trixie, a newcomer to the meeting. She is actually a singularity (artificial intelligence) who can inhabit the bodies of different people (in sequence), and she introduces Jimmy to Adam, the singularity who runs the world and who thinks he is God. Adam has destroyed other singularities that have arisen from computer programs in different parts of the world, but it has been unable to eliminate the one inhabiting Trixie. Jimmy is chosen to be the conduit for the virus that will help Trixie destroy Adam, because Jimmy can transmit but Adam can’t get into Jimmy’s mind. So it’s the case of a good vs bad singularity.

Once Jimmy becomes acquainted with Adam, he is drawn into a life and death struggle – which he doesn’t completely understand at the outset – with the most powerful and omniscient computer-based brain on earth, a being that exists everywhere and that has limitless power.

I was completely drawn into this story, even though I had a few questions; but aren’t there always in science fiction? Based on many op-ed pieces I’ve read about the changes inevitable to the human race with the development of computers, the premise is all too realistic. Just consider the many uses to which Watson, IBM’s super computer, has been put – in medicine, agriculture, space travel and winning at Jeopardy. There is a lot of action after the initial premise is laid out, a roller coaster ride that leaves the reader breathless and compels you to turn the page.

Beann’s writing is smooth and his characters are drawn well enough – they are definitely not cardboard cutouts. Crazy Beard, an odd ball man who lives under a tree and who is dragged along on the wild ride, may not have been essential to the story, but he is a calming diversion when the action becomes too frantic.

All in all, I strongly recommend this book for science fiction fans and I’m looking forward to his author’s next outing.

Book description

The world runs on ARCs. Altered Reality Chips. Small implants behind the left ear that allow people to experience anything they could ever imagine. The network controls everything, from traffic, to food production, to law enforcement. Some proclaim it a Golden Age of humanity. Others have begun to see the cracks. Few realize that behind it all, living within every brain and able to control all aspects of society, there exists a being with an agenda all his own: the singularity called Adam, who believes he is God.

Jimmy Mahoney’s brain can’t accept an ARC. Not since his football injury from the days when the league was still offline. “ARC-incompatible” is what the doctors told him. Worse than being blind and deaf, he is a man struggling to cling to what’s left of a society that he is no longer a part of. His wife spends twenty-three hours a day online, only coming off when her chip forcibly disconnects her so she can eat. Others are worse. Many have died, unwilling or unable to log off to take care of even their most basic needs.

After being unwittingly recruited by a rogue singularity to play a role in a war that he doesn’t understand, Jimmy learns the truth about Adam and is thrown into a life-and-death struggle against the most powerful mathematical mind the world has ever known. But what can one man do against a being that exists everywhere and holds limitless power? How can one man, unable to even get online, find a way to save his wife, and the entire human race, from destruction?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistFic The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau @Tudorscribe @Endeavour_Media

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

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This book is about porcelain, something I’ve never really thought much about, except for choosing my tableware pattern before I married. I never realized that in eighteenth century England, fortunes could be made or lost on it. In The Blue, historical fiction writer Nancy Bilyeau crafts a story as lovely and colorful as the porcelain about which the tale centers.

Genevieve Planché, London-born descendent of French Protestant Huguenots who fled the persecution of Kings Louis XIV and Louis X, views porcelain with disdain. She has talent and wants to be an artist, but her grandfather, with whom she lives in London, has arranged a career for her as a decorator of porcelain at the Derby Porcelain Works. The thought of it makes her want to scream. No male artist in London will take on a female apprentice, so in a last desperate attempt to avoid her fate, she crashes a party at the home of William Hogarth, the internationally famous painter. She pleads with him to accept her as a student but is rudely rebuffed. While there, she meets Sir Gabriel Courtney, a charming roué, from whom she escapes when she leaves the party.

Her unavoidable departure for Derby is complicated by two things – first, the reappearance of Denis Arsenault, journeyman silk weaver with whom Genevieve had been besotted. Arsenault is wanted by the law for leading a riot in the workshop where he worked. He’s returned to take Genevieve to New York with him. But before that can happen, the second complication occurs: Sir Gabriel reappears as a dinner guest at her home and offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse – learn for him the secrets of porcelain manufacture at the Derby Factory and in particular the formulation of a new, unknown color of blue. If she does, he will send her to Venice to study art.

She travels to Derby, takes up her apprenticeship, but in doing so learns more than she wants – not only about porcelain but also about industrial espionage.  Genevieve resolutely faces the obstacles to her dreams with no idea of the danger that lies in what she’s been asked to do.

The Blue is a rich romp into 18th century patriarchal society and the role of women. The author has crafted a tale with colorful, memorable characters against the teeming background of London and the midlands in the 1700s – all impeccably researched. Even the lesser characters have a three-dimensionality. The political animosity between England and France during that century (the colonial wars, the Carnatic wars) creates an unsettling daily environment in which the reader becomes immersed and feels much in the time.

Genevieve is a great leading lady: dogged, intelligent, and brave, but has compassion and understanding, even when she’s been wronged. Sir Gabriel is a worthy villain, debonair and desperate. The reader may find themselves almost liking him when his reasons for drawing Genevieve into his plots are revealed. Thomas Sturbridge, the chemist responsible for formulating the blue, is an aw-shucks sweet man with a backbone of kindness. In general, with the exception Thomas and Genevieve’s grandfather, the men in this book are unpleasant, rude and often crude; I suspect that in a competitive situation with the amount of money and fame at stake, this would be the case. In any event, the author is clearly invested in her characters.

The real surprise is the descriptions of the production and decoration of porcelain, something fragile and unimportant in the historical scheme, but which fans the flames of fancy and avarice in people rich and poor and tests the limits to which the very rich and important will go to possess the finest. I was heretofore completely ignorant of this aspect of 18th century life, and the author demonstrates a fine touch of ingenuity in making this the centerpiece of the story.

The plot has many surprising twists and turns which take the reader one way and another. Spies, secret writings, robberies, chemical experiments, kidnappings and escapes – there are many things to entertain woven into the story. I also appreciated that the morality of industrial espionage, even in those times, was not ignored.

If you are looking for an increasing wild ride of well-informed historical fiction, this book is for you.

Book description

A novel of suspense that asks: What would you do for the most beautiful color in the world?

The year is 1758, and a headstrong woman artist, 24-year-old Genevieve Planche, is caught up in a high-stakes competition to discover the ultimate color that threatens to become as deadly as it is lucrative.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #middlegrade The Snow Witch by Rosie Boyes @RosieTheAuthor

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Snow Witch by Rosie Boyes

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Christmas, lots of snow, a grandfather clock in an old mansion, a powerful curse, and a witch in two time periods. What’s not to like? This book is intended for middle grade children, but it is so well-written and so darned compelling, at least from this adult’s point of view, I can recommend it to everyone.

The story:  It’s December 2018. Twelve- year-old Kes Bunting and his younger sister Star, both orphans, are living in a cold, dilapidated foster home overseen by the devious Mrs. Auk. She receives an official letter from Hoop, Hoop, Hoop, Hoop and Sons, announcing the children’s legal guardian has been found, and shortly they are off by train to meet their grandmother, Lady Bunting. She resides in a large country mansion called St. Flurries, which is supposed to be haunted. They are followed there by an elderly man in a dark gray suit. What a great beginning!

St. Flurries is a wondrous old house, populated by a seven foot tall major domo named Goldie, who has a black eye patch; their white-haired grandmother whom they call Granny Bird; the rotund cook named Mrs. Chiffchaff; a tiny, bird-like old woman named Genevieve, who talks in riddles and acts most strangely; and Chat the cat. One of the first things the children notice is a grandfather clock which keeps time running backward.

It is snowing heavily, the countdown to Christmas has begun, and Star falls ill. Kes is told of the haunting of St. Flurries by a Snow Witch, and outside, exploring, he thinks he sees her.

December 1918: Twelve-year-old Kitty Wigeon can’t wait for Christmas at St Flurries, a grand old manor house in the countryside. When she goes to the local Christmas Fair, through no fault of her own she earns a curse from the old matriarch of a powerful gypsy clan. Then, on the chilly night after the funeral for her oldest brother, who died in the war, she vanishes without a trace. The only thing found is her locket, which now resides around Star’s neck.

What happened to Kitty? Is she really the Snow Witch? What was the curse? Is there an evil force behind Star’s illness? What can Kes do to solve the mystery, in a house brimming with secrets? Who is the man who followed them to St. Flurries?

Hopefully, I’ve revealed enough, without giving a lot away, to make you want to read this book. The inventiveness and creativity of the author have made this one of my favorite children’s book, with whimsical and wonderful characters and setting. She has woven an intricate mystery against a colorful and compelling background that spans time and place. Her descriptions of Christmas at St. Flurries are spun like dreams, with food and outlandish decorations, and her characters are so lovingly imagined, you want to meet them in person. Have you ever met a snow white hedgehog called Bob the Snodge? She has also rendered the children in an amazingly down to earth fashion, so even in the face of unimaginable, they are real.

Five stars for this book!

Book description

A GRANDFATHER CLOCK. A GLASS LOCKET. A POWERFUL CURSE UNLEASHED ON CHRISTMAS EVE.

Twelve-year-old Kitty Wigeon can’t wait for Christmas at St Flurries, a grand old manor house in the countryside, until one chilly night she vanishes without a trace.

One hundred years later… Still grieving over the death of their mother, Kes Bunting and his younger sister Star, are sent to live at St Flurries. They find a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets.

Who, or what, is making footprints in the snow?

And what evil force is taking a cold grip on Star?

Wrap up warm as you join Kes, and a cast of eccentric snow creatures, in a race against time to solve a hundred-year-old curse. Will he succeed? Or will the fate of his sister be decided by a shivery kiss from… the Snow Witch?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Histfic Queen Of The Darkest Hour by @kimrendfeld

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Queen Of The Darkest Hour by Kim Rendfeld

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This novel is set in the late eighth century and the queen of the title is Fastrada, the fourth wife of Charles, King of the Franks, also known as Charlemagne. This is a challenging era about which to write, given the constant upheavals and realignments in Europe amongst the various warring factions. King Charles the Great, or Charlemagne, became king of the Franks and made it his mission to unite all Germanic peoples into one kingdom and convert his subjects to Christianity. A skilled military strategist, he spent much of his reign engaged in warfare to accomplish his goals. In 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans.

Charles had many wives and children. The reader is fortunate because the author has named the four wives, a forceful concubine, and the children, along with other major characters, both real and fictitious.

Fastrada comes from lands east of the Rhine and is relatively uneducated when she arrives in Charles’ court. This puts her at a distinct disadvantage in serving as an advisor to Charles as well as mother to his children – the older three of which are well-read and educated in Latin, Greek, and other languages. Charles divorced his first wife, Himiltrude, who is now the abbess of a nunnery. Their son Pepin, his oldest, has profound antipathy to Fastrada and a major theme of the story is Pepin’s scheming to rid the court of her presence. His hatred is stoked by the preference of his father for his second son, Karl. Pepin is deformed with a crooked back, thought to be the result of his mother’s sin, and thus can’t be Charles’ heir. He is not allowed to carry a sword or fight and has been told he will take orders and inherit a bishopric, a fate he rails against.

Fastrada also has to guard her tongue and her dignity in the presence of Kunigunde, Charles’ favorite concubine, who is heavy with child and living at court.

The author does an excellent job in describing life in the eighth century court: food, clothes, social customs, and the profound religiosity of the king and his family. The reader can easily see the surroundings and feel part of this history.

The metamorphosis of the naïve Fastrada to an educated woman and a crafty political advisor to her husband makes for a wonderful story. She becomes much more than Charles’ lover, but an intelligent, caring and formidable force. I am impressed that the author, knowing of Fastrada’s long bout with an illness that left her physically weak after the birth of her second child, portrayed her as suffering from anemia.

Court life, with its politics, scheming, and back-stabbing are excellently described.

There were a few negatives. Missing is some indication of positive things Charles did during his reign and of which Fastrada must have been aware, if not involved in. His impressive construction projects are mentioned, but there is also his wide support of education, scholarship, literature and art and the development of a common currency. The emphasis of the book is on the many battles he waged to unite the country, and although the brutality and bloodiness of warfare at the time are well wrought, I did become confused with the various warring factions. A minor point: there are nagging repetitions of Pepin’s scowling, which seemed to be his only expression, and the references to the rushes on the floor and the herbs scattered with them.

All in all, this is a very satisfying historical read, and I plan to read the author’s other books, which should give a strong indication that I liked this one!

Book description

Family Strife Imperils the Realm
Francia, 783: Haunted by the Saxons’ attack on her home fortress, Fastrada obeys her father and marries Charles, king of the Franks and a widower with seven children and an eighth on the way by a concubine. As more wars loom, Fastrada’s greatest peril lurks within the castle walls: Pepin, Charles’s son by his embittered former wife. Blaming his father for the curse that twisted his spine, Pepin rejects a prize archbishopric and plots with his uncle and mother to seize the throne. Can Fastrada stop the conspiracy before it destroys the kingdom?
Based on historic events during Charlemagne’s reign, “Queen of the Darkest Hour” is the story of a family conflict endangering an entire country—and the price to save it.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Histfic #shortstories Long Shadows by @ThorneMoore

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Long Shadows by Thorne Moore

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I do love books about old houses, having grown up in one myself. This book details the history of the different form of a house and its main occupants from the Victorian times of the 1880s, to the time of witches in the 1660s, to medieval times of the 1300s, in that order. Llys y Garn is an estate in Wales with a history that goes back centuries, and the author has woven tales of the estate at these three different time periods.

The first story, The Good Servant, is set in the Victorian era, when the house is a rambling Victorian/ neogothic amalgam of many rooms. There is a distinct upstairs/downstairs, where the survival of a servant, with endless days and nights of back-breaking labor and a bleak, loveless future, hinges on the good will of their employer – who can dismiss them for any perceived transgression, even a minor one. The tale follows the career of Nelly Skeel, an ugly woman who works her way up through the hierarchy of life below the stairs. She is not loved or even liked, but when she encounters the orphaned and unwanted nephew of the manor’s owner, she eagerly takes on the task of being his mother, giving him the love no one else will and only hoping for his love in return, while scheming to avoid dismissal.

The Witch is the second tale and takes place in the 17th century; it tells of another strong-willed woman, whom her father plans to use as a pawn in marriage to advance himself. Llys y Gar is a Tudor residence with a crumbling great hall. Devereux Powell’s daughter Elizabeth is isolated there with her two brothers to be raised by her grandmother, who is devolving into madness fixed on the dark doings of the Devil. Clever and strong-willed Elizabeth loves Llys y Garn and wants to remain there but is unsure of whether her life is at God’s will or the devil’s. She manipulates her father into accepting her betrothal to a childhood friend, Huw, who is of poor nobility and lives on a nearby farm. She assumes her dowry will be Llys y Garn. But it seems the devil has other plans for her, and tragedies ensue.

The third and final story is set in medieval times, which despite the chattel status of women in the previous two tales, is yet more harsh in their treatment. Little is known of what stood on the land of Llys y Garn in the 1300’s, but it was occupied by the family of the loud and brutal Owain ap Elidyr. Angharad’s story opens with a birthing gone horribly wrong, leaving her and her older sister Marged and younger brother Ieuan motherless and subject the whims of the despotic father, an impoverished descendant of a royal line. Angharad’s one joy in life is attending Curig’s fair, where she meets a girl of her own age, Johan, daughter of a cloth trader.  Their meeting becomes an annual thing and Angharad longs to live Johan’s life, traveling to distant lands, eating exotic food and wearing nice clothes. Like Marged, however, she will be used as an asset in marriage as her father plots to expand his land and recover old rights. In overcoming horrible odds, Angharad has the happiest outcome of the three women.

The author has written a book with a sweep of time similar to books by James Michener, but much more limited in scope and place. I had expected the three women would be bound by an explained lineage, but instead found the link was their resistance to the roles demanded by society. This, even more than Llys y Garn, binds the narrative.

The female characters are well-limned and compelling. Their strength in the face of implacable norms and demeaning roles sticks with the reader. It is unfortunate the men, with one exception, are depicted as priggish, selfish, self-serving, brutal and bullying – this certainly elicits fear and loathing, but I longed for a few sympathetic or kind men.

This author is known for her historical research, and it shows. The detail is impeccable and sets three distinctive scenes. The dialogue is crisp and reasonable for each of the time periods. While the brutality and gore of some scenes might drive away a few readers, it is appropriate to the stories and the times.

I would definitely pick up another book by Ms. Moore.

Book description

Llys y Garn is a rambling Victorian-Gothic mansion with vestiges of older glories.

It lies in the isolated parish of Rhyd y Groes in North Pembrokeshire. It is the house of the parish, even in its decline, deeply conscious of its importance, its pedigree and its permanence. It stubbornly remains though the lives of former inhabitants have long since passed away. Only the rooks are left to bear witness to the often desperate march of history.

Throne Moore’s Long Shadows: Tales of Llys y Garn comprises a trio of historical novellas that let us into secrets known only to these melancholy birds.

The Good Servant is the story of Nelly Skeel, loveless housekeeper at Llys y Garn at the end of the 19th century, whose only focus of affection is her master’s despised nephew. But for Cyril Lawson she will do anything, whatever the cost.

The Witch tells of Elizabeth Powell, born as Charles II is restored to the English throne, in a world of changing political allegiances, where religious bigotry and superstition linger on. Her love is not for her family, her duty, her God or her future husband, but for the house where she was born. For that she would sell her soul.

The Dragon Slayer tells of Angharad ferch Owain in the early decades of the 14th century. Angharad is an expendable asset in her father’s machinations to recover old rights and narrow claims, but she dreams of bigger things and a world without the roaring of men. A world that might spare her from the seemingly inevitable fate of all women.

In these three tales the rooks of Llys y Garn have watched centuries of human tribulation – but just how much has really changed?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Scifi / #Horror Survivors’ Club by @MKMartinWriter

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Survivor’s Club by M.K. Martin

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Although this is a review for Rosie’s book review team, I purchased a copy.

Survivor’s Club was exhilarating. Reading it felt like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. After a gradual start with lots of ominous clues portending something nasty, you’re off. I read this book because it was listed as sci-fi, a favorite genre of mine, but I consider this also in the horror genre. I couldn’t sleep the night I first started reading it.

Geneticist Marius Tenartier, a wide-eyed viral geneticist who wants to save the world from its worst diseases, is hired by Chrysalis Biopharmaceuticals, ostensibly because of his background. He doesn’t know he possesses something within him that Dr. Viers, the head of virology at Chrysalis wants and has gone to unspeakable lengths to find. The isolated setting of Chrysalis, miles from anywhere in the desert, and the unbelievable levels of security, immediately set off bells, but it was not until Marius is sent to pick up Dr. Viers’ daughter Miranda at her private school that the truly bizarre begins.

Marius is accompanied by John Courage (aptly named), the head of Chrysalis Security, and several more members of the security team, but their helicopter is downed when it hits some large, strange birds. The three survivors of the crash, including Courage and Marius, hike to the school, where they are attacked by some large dog-like creatures. From there, it’s the rushing, a downward part of the ride until the story climbs again. More I will not say.

For the most part, the characters are well-drawn but close to the edge. Amberlee Simms, the company’s CFO, teeters on the edge of caricature as well as on her stilettos, John Courage proves inhumanly hard to kill, and Marius is a genius jack-of-all-trades in his ability to improvise and his insane bravery. His transition from naivete to suspicion, however, did seem to take a long time. Miranda, the third member of the Survivor’s Club along with Marius and John, vacillates between self-absorbed teenage behavior and dreaming about Marius and truly unselfish acts. The creatures are gory and frightening, but when I pictured them I had to smile – they would make for great anime.

The writing is spare but nimble; there are no long, drawn-out discussions about corporate greed, which is a sub-plot, or scientific morality. The aim of the author is action, and we get a lot of that. The science, something I have often criticized in other sci-fi books, is credible although beyond cutting edge – so the premise is believable. The book is written from multiple points of view; thus the reader has to stay alert. After the first transition and this recognition, it was an easier read.

All in all, this is a satisfying sci-fi (and horror) read. I recommend it, if this is your genre, and guarantee you’ll enjoy it. I’d welcome a sequel.

Book description

People have always wanted to be stronger, faster, smarter, better. The scientists at Chrysalis Biopharmaceuticals believe they’ve found a virus that will allow them to unlock humanity’s hidden potential. The cost is small. A few lives here and there, but it’s all for the greater good … and the corporate bottom line.

Brilliant and idealistic geneticist, Marius Tenartier, has dedicated his life to battling the world’s worst diseases – from malaria to Ebola, tuberculosis to cancer. When Chrysalis offers Marius the chance to carry on his work with no budget caps, he accepts, no questions asked.

While Marius tackles the most challenging pathogens, Chrysalis secretly uses his work to develop an experimental vaccine intended to artificially evolve the human race. Instead of making people into super humans, it mutates them into terrifying abominations. After Marius is caught in an outbreak, he realizes that Chrysalis has been using him. Worse, they’ve covered up the outbreak.

Bureaucracy, incompetence, and greed threaten civilization and even the human race’s survival. Surrounded by danger and cut off from the outside world, time is running out to contain the virus, and Marius can’t do it alone.

Who can he trust – Chrysalis’ ambitious vice president, the rigid head of security, or the CEO’s fearless daughter?

Can Marius discover the truth about the virus’s origin before it’s too late to prevent a global pandemic?

About the author

M. K. Martin is a motorcycle-riding, linguistics nerd. A former Army interrogator with a degree in psychology, she uses her unique knowledge and skill set to create smart, gritty stories that give readers a glimpse into the darker corners of the human mind.

M.K. Martin

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #thriller Finding Max by Darren Jorgensen @authordarren

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Finding Max by Darren Jorgensen

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Note: This book was given to me for a fair and honest review through the auspices of Rosie’s Book review Team. Also, I need to give a disclaimer since there are some plot elements revealed in my review.

Finding Max, by Darren Jorgensen, is really the story of Gary, a social worker, who is still struggling, seventeen years later, with the abduction of his five-year-old brother Max from the playground where Gary was supposed to be watching him. It is clear there was nothing eight-year-old Gary could have done to prevent the event, and when the police didn’t believe his story, his alcoholic mother was arrested, tried and found guilty of Max’s murder.

Perhaps because of his profound sense of helplessness, Gary now helps other lost people at a homeless shelter in New York City. One day he interrupts a co-worker interviewing a homeless man for assistance at the shelter and discovered that ‘David’ is really his brother Max. Reintroducing himself and getting to know his brother and what happened to him requires patience, tact and delicacy because Max is a deeply traumatized young man. At the same time, Gary is balancing a new relationship with a young Asian woman, Jean, whom he met when she served him coffee at a local shop. This is Jean’s story, too, since she has been cast out by her father for her modern ways.

Max was abducted by a man who traffics in young boys for pedophiles, and his enforcer, an evil man called Quinn, who has been searching for Max ever since he escaped from the basement in which he’d been held for years while being loaned out. Quinn has an unnatural sexual attraction to Max, which he considers love, and which is why Quinn didn’t kill him when Max reached puberty. Max has been hiding among the homeless in NYC to escape Quinn, who is tracking him.

During the period when Gary, Jean and Max learn to love and trust each other, they become a functional group dedicated to protecting Max from Quinn, who has managed to find him. They must make a choice: to run from Quinn or stand and face him.

My review:

This book is not for the faint of heart. It is very gritty, with graphic sex and violence, which normally I abhor, and it deals with pedophilia and homelessness, two topics that most people find very uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it is written with such brutal honesty that it was difficult for me to put the book down. The relationships were extraordinarily real as were the descriptions of pedophilia and the homeless – so much so that I wondered if the author himself was recounting some aspects of his own life.

The pursuit of Max by Quinn was a thriller, and I didn’t mind the longer passages of exposition since they enriched the story. Quinn’s reappearance, initially as he probed Max’s new relationship with his brother, and later as he pursues Max, Jean and Gary into the homeless underground of the city was absorbing.

The only weakness I found was the nature of Jean’s supposed illness – she is emaciated and gaunt to the point of appearing like a concentration camp survivor – which left me wondering where she found her considerable energy and why she had not sought medical attention. Lack of medical insurance these days is not much of an excuse.

I can recommend the book if the readers are prepared for what it contains. It Is powerful and searing and the characters and their situations stayed with me a long time after I finished it.

Book description

Five-year-old Max is abducted from a playground on a hot summer day while his brother, Gary, has his back turned. Seventeen years later, Max returns to Gary’s life in a serendipitous twist with a disturbing tale to tell. As they learn to love and trust each other, they must outwit and outrun the nefarious Quinn, who seeks to re-abduct Max for his own evil purposes. Killing Gary and his new girlfriend, Jean, to get them out of his way is just part of his plan. Will they escape? And when all is said and done, will Max and Gary ever truly be freed from the shackles of guilt and pain from the past?

Amid the gritty, harsh landscape of New York City, Finding Max explores those areas of society we seldom like to look at—homelessness, hunger and sexual abuse—with profound delicacy, brutal honesty and compassion. This thrilling novel will keep you reading long into the night.

About the author

Darren M. Jorgensen has always fed his passions through book clubs and writing groups. After working at the United Nations and attending Brown University, he eventually found his way back to his first love, writing. He wrote Finding Max, in just 12 days. He now lives in his native Alberta with his extraordinary wife, Ginette, and likes to walk with his dogs, Molly and Dobby—both named for Harry Potter characters—through the golden fields behind his home on a farm with too many snakes slithering through the grass. He was twenty-two when he wrote his first book, The Searing, and states that his occupation is writing, all the time.

Darren M. Jorgensen

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