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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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Womensfiction The Women Of Heachley Hall by @RachelJWalkley

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Women Of Heachley Hall by Rachel Walkley

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When this book presented itself, I was in the mood for some chick lit. The title intrigued me, and since I love old Victorian houses and mysteries surrounding them, I had to read it. It proved to be a great read, and I can only hope this author gives us more in this line.

The story:

Twenty-eight-year old Miriam Marsters, a freelance illustrator, is shocked to discover she is the sole surviving heir to her Great Aunt Felicity’s fortune. Depending on referrals for paying jobs, she sees selling the Victorian mansion bequeathed to her, Heachley Hall, as a way of being able to sell her cramped old city flat and buy a house with a studio. There is only one catch – in order to get the house, she has to earn it, by living in it for one year and one day. It’s hardly habitable, having been empty for five years and decaying even before her great aunt left it, far from the memories of a color-filled home with splendid gardens she has from her youth.

Other people want the estate, valued at around one million pounds, even in its present condition: Mr. Bridge, the avaricious estate agent who brings her to Heachley, and a nosy, superior neighbor, Liz Pike, who has had designs on the estate for years. Even her solicitor seems to be plotting against her, claiming that despite Felicity’s clearly worded will, it took him five years to find Miriam and now he is unwilling to release monies from the estate to help Miriam make it habitable.

Despite the odds, Miriam decides to stay and begins to transform the house into a place liveable for the year, with the help of a handyman who seems to come and go like a wisp of smoke. From Glenda and Bert, the companionable the owners of the local pub (the only place with wifi for her to transmit her drawings and interact with clients), she finds electricians and plumbers and also learns a little more about her mysterious handyman, Charles.

Miriam knows next to nothing of the hall’s history and even less about her great aunt, so she follows leads wherever she can to learn more. In particular, she believes the answers to many of her questions lie in a box that was Felicity’s last possession and that seems to have been lost or misplaced. She is particularly obsessed with finding out why Felicity specified she live in the hall for a year and a day.

In the last third of the book, Miriam’s world is turn upside down with the discovery of Heachley’s past and the tragedy of a family that lived there many generations ago. What happened when a fire consumed part of the house? Are the noises in certain locations in the hall ghosts, as her aunt’s last housekeeper thinks? What will she find in the dark, menacing basement? I can’t say more without giving away secrets.

This book had so many parts to it that attracted me, I could hardly put it down. Having grown up in a 150-year-old creaky house, I found Heachley Hall to be a main character and I loved the author’s descriptions of it. I wanted to get in there and renovate it myself! The people who populated the story were three-dimensional and believable, the dialog flows easily, and for the most part, the descriptions were crisp and clear. And I was caught by surprise when the mystery of the handyman was solved.

The only small detractors for me were some over-blown prose at the beginning, which disappeared soon enough, and a slowing of the book toward and during the denouement; I expected the ending in several places before it actually arrived!

All in all, a very satisfying and enjoyable read, especially for a debut novel, and I look forward to this author’s next outing.

Book description

Miriam has one year to uncover Heachley Hall’s unimaginable past and a secret that only women can discover.

The life of a freelance illustrator will never rake in the millions so when twenty-eight year old Miriam discovers she’s the sole surviving heir to her great-aunt’s fortune, she can’t believe her luck. She dreams of selling her poky city flat and buying a studio.
But great fortune comes with an unbreakable contract. To earn her inheritance, Miriam must live a year and a day in the decaying Heachley Hall.
The fond memories of visiting the once grand Victorian mansion are all she has left of her parents and the million pound inheritance is enough of a temptation to encourage her to live there alone.
After all, a year’s not that long. So with the help of a local handyman, she begins to transform the house.
But the mystery remains. Why would loving Aunt Felicity do this to her?
Alone in the hall with her old life miles away, Miriam is desperate to discover the truth behind Felicity’s terms. Miriam believes the answer is hiding in her aunt’s last possession: a lost box. But delving into Felicity and Heachley’s long past is going to turn Miriam’s view of the world upside down.

Does she dare keep searching, and if she does, what if she finds something she wasn’t seeking?

Has something tragic happened at Heachley Hall?

About the author

Born in the Midlands, I grew up in East Anglia and am now firmly lodged in the North West of England. My first writing achievement was my Brownie badge and after that I’ve never let go of the dream of becoming of an author. Once a librarian and caretaker of books, I’m now a teller of tales and want to share with you the secrets that hide in the pages of my books.

Rachel Walkley

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #UrbanFantasy Gypsies, Tramps And Weeia by @elleboca

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Gypsies, Tramps And Weeia by Elle Boca

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Elle Boca is the prolific author of seven books about Weeia, and three in the Marshalls series, of which this is the first. Although I have not read the previous books, it was easy to immerse myself in this one.

The Weeia look like normal humans but they possess special powers for the sole purpose of protecting humans and Weeia alike. Their lifespan is longer than humans, but they are subject to the same dangers. Marshalls are trained to police Weeia hiding among humans.

At the opening of this story Danni Metraeux, who, while constantly bullied at the academy, completes her final exam and becomes a level 3 Marshall. The bullying is the result of something that happened to her family, but it’s not explained, so I was left wondering exactly what had marked her. Expecting to be given an assignment in a backwater place, Danni instead receives a plum assignment to Paris. Arriving there, she discovers why the assignment isn’t plum: her housing is less than substandard, her immediate superior isn’t interested in working with her, and her predecessors all died.

Nevertheless, Danni, who is strong, persistent and inventive, gradually overcomes all the negatives and finally – one her own – discovers a purpose for her being in Paris: to find a missing Weeia man in the underworld of gypsies and tramps who also populate the city.

The author does a good job of creating a three-dimensional protagonist with special powers and a whole host of tangential characters: a sort-of boyfriend named Ernie, who as second to the school’s Weapon Master, supplies her with the weapons she needs for her work; her BFF Marla, with whom she can share her troubles, both at school and in Paris; Odile Marmotte, an overly-made up matriarch who handles the day to day affairs of Weeia Marshals and is largely dismissive of Danni until Danni stands up to her; and the handsome Alain, who takes her on a tour of Paris on a motorbike, introducing her to the city. Of course, there is also Paris, and the author makes the city real and immediate.

In Paris, Danni comes into her own, as her growing powers allow her to be successful. I did like the paranormal aspects of the Weeia and enjoyed this world the author created.

There were a few issues for me, in addition to wondering about Danni’s parents. The pacing of the book was somewhat uneven. The testing of new marshals at the beginning started the book at a good pace but was followed by a lot of background information slowing the story. The tempo finally picked up around the middle of the book.  The author does a great job with action scenes – I just wish there were more of them!

This book will definitely appeal to readers interested in the colorful world of a paranormal race, and there are two more books in this series.

Book description

Sworn to protect the secrets of their race, marshals are trained to police Weeia hiding among humans. After completing her advanced marshal training, Danni is blown away by her new plum assignment to Paris. But, all is not well in the City of Lights; the offices are a shambles, her boss is apathetic, and her predecessors died under mysterious circumstances; it’s almost like somebody doesn’t want the law there. Despite that she risks her life in the seedy underworld of gypsies and tramps to search for a missing Weeia man.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Vintage #Mystery A Clerical Error by J New @newwrites

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading A Clerical Error by J New

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This review was written for Rosie’s book review team and it was purchased by this reviewer.

A Clerical Error is a cozy, the third in the Yellow Cottage Vintage Mystery series. I read the second in the series, The Curse of Arundel Hall, so I am familiar with the setting, and I was looking forward to this next adventure. What appeals to me about these books is the historical setting, the paranormal aspects of the stories, and the fact they are cozies.

The Yellow Cottage series is set in the 1930s, and the author is developing her characters and the back story with each further adventure. Following the death of her husband, Ella Bridges moves to Linhay Island, spurred by a strong suggestion from her husband’s boss, the British Home Secretary, that she move away and forget her husband. She takes up residence in a refurbished cottage that was once a part of the Arundel Hall estate – a cottage inhabited by ghosts. In this volume, only Phantom, a cat ghost and companion to Ella, remains. Ella develops a reputation as something of a local sleuth, following her solution of a murder in the previous book.

In A Clerical Error, Ella takes a bike ride around the island and meets two ladies involved in raising funds for their church. Despite their somewhat off-putting interaction, they persuade Ella to run a stall to make money for the church at the May Day Fete. The action begins with the sudden death of the vicar, Father Michael, at the Fete. The vicar had only recently returned from a sabbatical and while liked, was not well known by his [parishioners. Characters previously introduced reappear, cleverly woven into the story: Sergeant Baxter, a policeman Ella had worked with before; her ever supportive Aunt Margaret; her housekeeper Mrs. Shaw, and her Uncle Albert, the Police Commissioner at Scotland Yard.

Confounding the threads of the investigation and shocking Ella is the discovery that her husband is still alive and the fact Mrs. Shaw is not who she claims to be.

The descriptive narrative is very well done, if at times not completely necessary. I particularly liked the walled garden – I could almost smell the flowers and hear the bees. I also enjoyed learning more about the island and Ella’s cottage, both of which are characters themselves. The author does a good job of creating well-rounded and sympathetic people to populate her books, and she keeps the reader in the 1930s. Best of all she provided enough plot turns to engross the reader in finding out who done it.  While Phantom appears from time to time in the story, I would have liked to see more of Ella’s paranormal skills, and the story of her husband’s reappearance and the sequalae was somewhat of a stretch.

All in all, though, a satisfying read and one which keeps me interested in reading the next book in the series. This is a book to cuddle up with on a rainy day, and the ending does leave you hanging!

Book description

When the crime scene is pure coincidence and there’s no evidence, how do you prove it was murder?

Ella Bridges faces her most challenging investigation so far when the vicar dies suddenly at the May Day Fete. But with evidence scarce and her personal life unravelling in ways she could never have imagined, she misses vital clues in the investigation.
Working alongside Sergeant Baxter of Scotland Yard, will Ella manage to unearth the clues needed to catch the killer before another life is lost? Or will personal shock cloud her mind and result in another tragedy?

‘A Clerical Error’ is set in 1930’s England, and is the third of The Yellow Cottage Vintage Mystery series.
‘Miss Marple meets The Ghost Whisperer’ – Perfect For Fans of Golden Age Murder Mysteries, Cozy Mysteries, Clean Reads and British Amateur Sleuths

About the author

J. New is the British author of The Yellow Cottage Vintage Mystery series. Set on the fictitious island of Linhay in the south of England during the 1930’s, they are an homage to the Golden Age mysteries but with a contemporary twist.

J. New

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery Bad Blood Will Out by William Savage @penandpension

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Bad Blood Will Out by William Savage

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This review is for Rosie’s Book Review Team. The book was purchased by the reviewer.

Bad Blood Will Out is the fourth in the Ashmole Fox series of mysteries set in Georgian England. The protagonist is the owner of a bookstore and is also the purveyor of rare books in central Norwich. He was introduced in the first book in this series, The Fabric of Murder, as somewhat of a fop, who frequents ladies of the night, the theater, and fine dining establishments. Over the series, he has grown into a much more established figure, well-know to the leaders of Norwich as a successful investigator of more serious crimes. His bookstore is now run by a widow with clever business skills: the proper, reliable and clever widow Mrs. Crombie. He also has an apprentice, Charlie Dillon, who was rescued by Fox from a life in the streets. Charlie has retained his connections to the street urchins, which proves of inestimable value in Fox’s investigations. Fox is one of the few elite of Norwich with a genuine understanding of, and care for, these children.

Bad Blood Will Out is probably my favorite in this series, and I have read and reviewed them all. It works well as a stand-alone mystery, which should tickle the reader to take a look at the first three. Before I go into my reasons for this, here’s the story line.

Fox has the bad luck to be presented with two murders at much the same time: one of a wealthy chandler (a dealer in supplies for boats and ships) and the other an alcoholic, over-the-hill actor at a local, run-down theater, the White Swan. Fox tries to avoid being involved in investigating the second murder because he loathes the manager of the White Swan. At the same time, he is forced by his inconsiderate brother, a moralistic preacher in the countryside, to entertain his nephew Nicholas, who is trying to find a profession for himself. Fox begins to unravel the chandler’s stabbing, which occurred while he was hosting a masquerade ball and was surrounded by guests., But Fox finds his mind wandering to the theater murder, which he finally decides to tackle by using the network of street children to gather evidence. What does the death of a popular actress twenty years ago have to do with the theater murder?

In this Fox adventure, we meet some interesting new characters, among them the local Cunning Woman – the Georgian term for a folk healer and herbalist – who in this case has some clairvoyant qualities. She has some past history with Fox and sends him a cryptic message about his necessity to solve both murders.

As usual, William Savage has woven his story into the historical tapestry of Georgian England, with wonderful details of life at that time, its customs and mores, and the nature of theater in places apart from London. His mystery, as always, is complex – lies and deceit abound. His characters are wonderfully drawn and three-dimensional, and there is a subtle but lovely sense of humor in the dialog and interactions between his people.

The reason I particularly liked this latest Ashmore Fox adventure was a compelling first chapter – really a prologue – and the evolving maturity of Fox. Although we are introduced to his sins of the flesh, I got the distinct feeling he might eventually consider marriage. It seems a likely direction, but I leave that to the author!

A great addition to the Ashmole Fox series, I highly recommend it!

Book description

Ashmole Foxe is approached by the mayor of Norwich and the manager of one of its oldest theatres, both wanting him to investigate sudden, baffling deaths. Foxe loathes the theatre manager, so he’ll have nothing to do with his tale of ghostly apparitions and the murder of an alcoholic, has-been actor. Instead, he turns to the mayor’s request — to resolve the killing of a rich merchant. The trouble is Foxe can’t quite put the theatre mystery out of his mind.

Both cases contain inexplicable events. How did someone stab the merchant as he was hosting a grand masquerade ball surrounded by his guests — without anyone seeing what happened? What has an actress dead for twenty years to do with the murder of someone who shouldn’t even have been in the current cast?

Urged on by cryptic messages from a local Cunning Woman and supported by his extended household and the street-children of the city, Foxe is soon entangled in webs of secrecy and deceit going back into the past and outwards as far as London itself.

“Bad Blood Will Out” is Book 4 of the Ashmole Foxe mystery series. Like the rest, it’s set in the fascinating world of 1760s England. The story shows how betrayal, greed, ambition and grief lead to a toxic mix of thwarted passions, grim obsession and slow-burning hatred. Before the end, it’s going to bring Foxe face-to-face with the most callous, cold-hearted and remorseless killer he has ever known.

About the author

I started to write fiction as a way of keeping my mind active in retirement. I have read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels. One of my other loves is history, so it seemed natural to put the two together. Thus began two series of murder mystery books set in Norfolk.
All my books are set between 1760 and around 1800, a period of turmoil in Britain, with constant wars, revolutions in America and France and finally the titanic, 22-year struggle with Napoleon.
The Ashmole Foxe series takes place at the start of this time and is located in Norwich. Mr Foxe is a dandy, a bookseller and, unknown to most around him, the mayor’s immediate choice to deal with anything likely to upset the peace or economic security of the city.
The series featuring Dr Adam Bascom, a young gentleman physician caught up in the beginning of the Napoleonic wars, takes place in a variety of locations nearer the North Norfolk coast. Adam builds a successful medical practice, but his insatiable curiosity and knack for unravelling intrigue constantly involve him in mysteries large and small.
I have spent a good deal of my life travelling in Britain and overseas. Now I am more than content to write stories and run a blog devoted to the world of Georgian England.

William Savage

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