Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Thriller Ryan Kaine: On The Defensive by @KerryJDonovan

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Ryan Kaine: On The Defensive by Kerry J Donovan

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This is the third in the Ryan Kaine series by Kerry Donovan, and it’s been interesting to see how the main character and his story evolve through the books. This one is quite a change from the first, which left me out of breath by the end, with its fast and furious pace, and the second, where the pace had slowed marginally but gathered steam as it went along.

On the Defensive opens in a small Greek bistro in London, where the owners, Justina Constantine and her husband Orestes, struggle to keep the business open. Justina’s father-in-law, Papa Onassis, had been killed when a missile exploded the plane he was on to Europe – a missile fired by Ryan Kaine, who didn’t know at the time he’d been set up to do this. The Constantines now owe thousands of pounds to the bank and business is way off because a developer has bought the block where the bistro is located and is systematically forcing the tenants to leave. This day Justina is visited by two men, who smash up the restaurant, rough her up and threaten to harm her daughters if her husband won’t sign papers selling their place to the developer. A terrifying opening and a great hook.

What bothered me about the book is what came next: a long, long digression to a villa in France. There Ryan Kaine lives with the veterinarian Lara, who is introduced in the first book when she rescues him from the people sent to kill him. She must now remain with him for her own safety. Filled with their badinage, the story drags while Kaine, who has promised to make restitution to the families affected by the deaths on the plane, is informed of the Constantines’ situation. His plan to help them, his interactions with Lara, and the arrangement for a backup for him in London occupy the next seven chapters and to me, the story dragged here.

Admittedly, the author needs to fill in information about Kaine, Lara, and the mechanism by which Kaine is told when and where he might be needed. There is also Kaine’s internal struggle not to fall in love with Lara – a struggle he is losing – because of the mortal danger their relationship brings. However, this long a digression from what I’ve come to expect – a fast-paced story – detracted from my enjoyment.

Once the story returns to London, the pace picks up and the reader becomes engrossed in how Kaine inserts himself into the Constantines’ lives, identifies and finds their tormentors, manages to wreak justice on the man at the top, and rescue the bistro and the family. This is pure Donovan.

As usual, the author’s descriptions of places are succinct but well-wrought and the villains are loathsomely three dimensional. All the characters are clear and identifiable, with quirks and foibles. There are the usual twists and turns along the way, leading to a satisfying ending, with more foreshadowed to come.

All in all, a good, fun read, but maybe not up to the level of the first and second books. Nevertheless, for Ryan Kaine fans, this latest adventure will please.

Book description

A simple act of vandalism. A victimised family. One man will protect them.

When Ryan Kaine, former Royal Marine and current fugitive, learns of the Constantine family’s problems, he leaves his coastal hideaway and rushes to their aid. The only problem is, he is the most wanted man in the UK and his face is on every billboard and news bulletin.

Choosing his vow of protection for The 83, the eighty-three families of the people he killed on Flight BE1555, over the pleas of his friends, Kaine risks his life and takes the first plane to London.

Fully recovered from his recent injuries and with a London safe house full of toys at his disposal, Kaine won’t stop until the Constantines are safe.

Can Kaine find out why the family are under attack, neutralise the threat, and make it out of London without being recognised?

About the author

Internationally bestselling fiction author, Kerry was born in Dublin. He spent most of his life in the UK, and now lives in the heart of rural Brittany with his wonderful and patient wife, Jan. They have three children and four grandchildren (so far), all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely thankful for the advent of video calling.

The cottage is a pet free zone (apart from the field mice, moles, and red squirrels).

Kerry earned a first class honours degree in Human Biology, and has a PhD in Sport and Exercise Sciences. A former scientific advisor to The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, he helped UK emergency first-responders prepare for chemical attacks in the wake of 9/11. This background adds a scientific edge to his writing. He is also a former furniture designer/maker.

Kerry J. Donovan

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WW1 #PTSD Novella Fred’s Funeral by @sandeetweets

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Fred’s Funeral by Sandy Day

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Fred’s Funeral is a novella by Sandy Day, inspired by hundreds of letters written by the author’s Great Uncle Fred, but a wonderful concoction of her imagination.

Fred Sadler has just died in his room in a hospital for the mentally ill. He sees his cousin and his brother and a whole family of those who died before him, congregating on the other side of an ethereal divide. The problem is, he can’t cross the divide. He finds himself – or at least his consciousness – watching from the ceiling of his room, as his priggish sister-in-law, Viola, and her brother, Thomas, open his one possession, an old battered suitcase. It is Viola who gives her interpretation of Fred’s life based on old memories and the contents of the suitcase.

As they paw through his belongings, Fred is shocked to find Viola’s version of the events of his life is not as he remembers it. Why had he spent so many years locked up in Whitby Hospital for the Insane?

As Fred moves through his funeral and the gathering of the family afterward, and between his memories and the pronouncements of Viola and others, we learn that the young Fred went off to fight in World War I and came back damaged: addicted to binge drinking, constantly angry and full of anxieties. At that time, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome was not recognized, and the remainder of his life was consumed by his trying to govern his emotions and fit in, his family’s attempts to provide and adjust for him, and finally, his placement in the hospital. We are reminded of the barbarity of the so-called modern treatments for patients at that time in such institutions.

What I particularly liked about this story are the ways different people look at the same events, and the ability to see how his confusion, frustration, and mental breakdown – now so understandable – were met with misunderstanding by his family. Fred desperately wants to gain control of his life, to spend his life in the home and with the family he so values, but can’t help pushing them away.  The reader can feel his angst and understand his actions, but at the same time see themselves in the family’s shoes. The author does a wonderful job of describing family relationships and deep-seated feelings.

This is a short, but very profound read.

Book description

Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to WWI, and the ghost of Fred Sadler hovers near the ceiling of the nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish sister-in-law, Viola. As she dominates the remembrance of Fred, he agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.

Was old Uncle Fred really suffering from shell shock? Why was he locked up most of his life in the Whitby Hospital for the Insane? Could his family not have done more for him?

Fred’s memories of his life as a child, his family’s hotel, the War, and the mental hospital, clash with Viola’s version of events as the family gathers on a rainy October night to pay their respects.

About the author

Sandy Day is the author of Poems from the Chatterbox and Fred’s Funeral. She graduated from Glendon College, York University, with a degree in English Literature sometime in the last century. Sandy spends her summers in Jackson’s Point, Ontario on the shore of Lake Simcoe. She winters nearby in Sutton by the Black River. Sandy is a trained facilitator for the Toronto Writers Collective’s creative writing workshops. She is a developmental editor and book coach.

Sandy Day

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#NewRelease The Viscount And The Vicar’s Daughter by @MimiMatthewsEsq #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Viscount And The Vicar’s Daughter by Mimi Matthews

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The Viscount and the Vicar’s Daughter – A Victorian Romance – is a tender and sweet romance novel. It is not the first by this author, who has clearly developed her style. Romance is not a genre I truly appreciate, but the historical aspect appealed, and I was not disappointed.

Tristan Sinclair, Viscount St. Ashton, is wallowing in melancholy and decides to attend a Christmas house party in wilds of Yorkshire, hosted by a woman renowned for her orgiastic feasts. He has admitted to himself that after years of debauchery and spending, he has hit rock bottom. What does he have to lose?

On his way there, he is distracted by the sobbing of a woman in the woods and discovers Valentine March, a prim and upright vicar’s daughter who has come on hard times. With the death of her father, she has had to find employment and is currently a companion to Lady Brightwell, an old crone with a vicious temper and pension for abusing and discarding companions.

Tristan discovers he has fallen in love with Valentine at first sight, and she is initially attracted to him – until she learns that he is a most infamous rake. Tristan pursues her with charm, wit and warmth, and not surprisingly, she eventually surrenders. But theirs is a doomed relationship, a scandalous liaison in a house of poor repute between a wealthy lord with a repugnant reputation and a woman not only from a poor background, but also born on the other side of the blanket. Her mother was pregnant with another man’s child when the vicar, out of the kindness of his heart, married her.

There is more to Valentine’s background than meets the eye, and it is not clear whether their fragile romance will survive the continuing revelations of their true characters and the outside pressures brought to bear by virtually everyone around them.

This is truly a romance in every sense of the genre. The characters are colorfully fleshed out, the dialogue is believable and witty. Ms. Matthews has created a believable Victorian world from her studies of 19th century style, fashion and history. The historical detail is just enough to set the scene but does not overwhelm. I was not surprised to find the typical romantic themes permeating the story. Even with my limited (but growing) background in romance literature, I find they can be over-used, and their predictability of outcome can create a sense of ennui. However, this author has managed to infuse a freshness in these tropes and keeps the story moving at a good pace, so that the reader keeps turning the pages.

I am certain fans of this genre will find The Viscount and the Vicar’s Daughter a satisfying read.

Book description

England, 1861. A world-weary rake and a prim vicar’s daughter are thrown together during a holiday house party. Will they discover there’s more to each other than meets the eye? Or will revelations from the past end their fragile romance before it begins?

A WORLD-WEARY RAKE

After years of unbridled debauchery, Tristan Sinclair, Viscount St. Ashton has hit proverbial rock bottom. Seeking to escape his melancholy, he takes refuge at one of Victorian society’s most notorious house parties. As the Christmas season approaches, he prepares to settle in for a month of heavy drinking…until an unexpected encounter changes his plans—and threatens his heart.

A PRIM VICAR’S DAUGHTER

Valentine March is not the drab little spinster she appears to be. When her new job as a lady’s companion lands her smack in the middle of Yorkshire with England’s most infamous rake, she resolves to keep her head down and her eyes fixed firmly on her future—a future which most definitely does not include a sinfully handsome viscount.

A MATCH MADE IN SCANDAL

A friendship is impossible. An affair out of the question. But when one reckless act binds them together, will two star-crossed souls discover there’s more to each other than meets the eye? Or will revelations from the past end their fragile romance before it begins?

About the author

Mimi Matthews is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries (Pen & Sword Books, November 2017) and A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty (Pen & Sword Books, July 2018). Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. When not writing historical non-fiction, Mimi authors exquisitely proper Victorian romance novels with dark, brooding heroes and intelligent, pragmatic heroines. Her debut Victorian romance The Lost Letter was released in September 2017.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT A Tincture Of Secrets And Lies by @penandpension #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading A Tincture Of Secrets And Lies by William Savage

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

A Tincture of Secrets and Lies is the fourth book in the Dr. Adam Bascom Mysteries series by William Savage.  His other series is the Ashmole Foxe Mysteries and both are set in Georgian England, in and around Norwich. I’ve read the previous three Dr. Adam Bascom books, mainly because I love mysteries, history, and am married to a physician. A perfect syzygy for Savage’s books. Despite being part of a series, A Tincture of Secrets and Lies can be read as a stand-alone, without any confusion on the part of the reader.

The main character, Dr. Adam Bascom, practices medicine in Aylsham, a small town in Norwich. His closest friend, and the person off whom he bounces ideas, is Peter Lassimer, a pharmacist and a confirmed ladies’ man. Dr. Bascom’s unmarried status has the subject of many of their interchanges, but this book hints that his status may change,  sooner or later. Dr. Bascom has fallen in love with Lady Alice, young and wealthy widow of one of his former patients.

The story opens on the night of April 13, 1793 with two significant events. Bascom is thrown from his horse on his way home, and lies unconscious for a long time on a remote country road. At the same time, some miles away, a young woman is viciously stabbed, her body pushed under a hedge to prevent it from being discovered.

The good doctor, although badly hurt, rouses himself enough to let his horse lead him home, but his injuries are serious enough to keep him there for an extended recovery period. In previous adventures, Bascom has developed into an astute detective, and when two other murders are discovered, he is naturally sought out to solve them. However, this time he is frustratingly confined to his bed and must use Peter Lassimer, the nephew and niece of Lady Alice, and even his groom, William, to be his eyes, ears and legs to find the killer.  Through them, he uncovers a plot to destabilize the country, already on edge with a threatened invasion by the French, and the topic of smuggling, rampant on the English coast, becomes entwined in the story.

I shared the sheer frustration of Bascom, being confined to his room and then his home, and at the mercy of his housekeeper, Mrs. Brigstone; Hannah, the nervous parlor maid; and Mrs. Munning, a warm-hearted young widow brought in to nurse him. I was nearly tearing my hair out, right along with the patient. How the author managed to keep the plot afoot from Bascom’s confines is a real feat, but allows him to write from different characters’ points of view, which keeps the readers interest. I particularly enjoyed, Professor Panacea (wherever did Savage get that name?), a snake oil salesman with real charisma but no medical knowledge.

Characters from previous books in the series evolve in this one. Lady Alice’s niece, Ruth Scudamore, is a young woman who dislikes the trapping s of traditional society, and is more than happy to investigate and interview people at Bascom’s direction. She reminds me of a Georgian Nancy Drew. Her twin brother Charles, who has been unable to find a focus for his life other than genteel leisure, discovers what he’s made of working for the doctor. Through him, the reader gets to experience a military attack to stop a group of rebels. The reader is kept hanging about the outcome of the doctor’s relationship with Lady Alice, who keeps a huge secret from Bascom. Perhaps in the next book?

The author’s ability to weave interesting characters into the social mores and historical detail of the day is his strength, along with a complex and complicated storyline. The book is written at the pace of the time, and there is lengthy dialogue, both of which can take a period of adjustment for the reader; however, but with the varied settings and points of view, the mystery never flags. I recommend it to all, but especially to readers who love mysteries in perfectly described, historically accurate settings.

Book description

The night of April 13th, 1793 has proved unlucky for at least two people. Dr Adam Bascom has been thrown from his horse to lie injured, unconscious and alone on a remote country roadway. Barely a mile away, another man is thrusting the body of the young woman he has just murdered as far under a hedge as he can. Thus begins one of Adam Bascom’s most complicated mysteries; one that will end in many more deaths and a fight off the coast of Norfolk between a navy frigate and a French privateer. Trapped at home by his injuries, Adam still finds ways to use his friends and family as his eyes and ears as he uncovers the solution to a series of local murders — and a plot to destabilise the country as it awaits the threatened invasion by the French revolutionary government.

About the author

William Savage grew up in Hereford, on the border with Wales and too his degree at Cambridge. After a career in various managerial and executive roles, he retired to Norfolk, where he volunteers at a National Trust property. His life-long interest has been history, which led to research and writing about the eighteenth century.  But his is not just a superficial interest in history, but a real desire to understand and transmit the daily experience of living in turbulent times.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Action adventure Ryan Kaine: On The Rocks by @KerryJDonovan

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Ryan Kaine: On The Rocks by Kerry J Donovan

Ryan Kaine: On the Rocks: Book Two in the Ryan Kaine action thriller series by [Donovan, Kerry J]

I was completely mesmerized by Kerry Donovan’s first book in the Ryan Kaine series. It left me panting with the exertion of reading it, so of course I had to read the sequel. I hope this is a long series.

Ryan Kaine on the Rocks was slower paced (but only slightly) from the first book and is a more than worthy continuation, since it picks up where the first left off.

Martin Princeton is trapped on a ledge halfway down a cliff in the wilds of Scotland. He is severely injured, bleeding and, without a heavy jacket, freezing to death. He is preparing himself to die. He was there because he had to get away from the mourning for his brother, who was killed in a plane crash. A  crash that had been orchestrated by Ryan Kaine.

When news of Martin’s disappearance reaches Kaine, he abandons the effort to clear his name and instead, in an act of contrition, heads to the Highlands to find Martin. Still hampered by injuries from his previous confrontation with the people behind the crash, and with an unofficial bounty on his head, Kaine goes to the site of the rescue organization and manages to convince the rescue team of his good intentions without alerting them to his identity. He must first find out everything about Martin’s route in the mountains and the people who were with him, treading a fine line to keep himself anonymous. What he brings with him is an intimate knowledge of the area, mountaineering skills, and special forces training, which allows him to strike out on his own to find Martin.

Kerry Donovan is in his element. He clearly knows the Highlands and its people and has an intimate knowledge of mountain climbing and rescue. His descriptions of the area are compelling – I could feel the wind and the rain – but the author never loses sight of the plot and shoves the story forward at an exhilarating pace. You are never unaware that the clock is ticking, both for the boy and for Kaine, who has to keep his butt out of jail while engaged in the search.

Once again, his characters are fun, even the really bad ones. The clashes between the locals and the English armed response team which arrives to take over the search are both humorous and confrontational. How could you not like a villain named William (Buffalo Bill) Cody? Donovan writes good, tight dialogue for these characters, spartan almost, but smooth.

This is escapism at its best, and once again, my only minor complaint is that at his age, Kaine is nearly superhuman in his strength and ability to endure pain. I will admit I got slightly lost in the descriptions of the mountaineering and climbing gear, but I’m sure aficionados of this sport will have no complaints.

So, I’m again looking forward to the next Kaine outing, and I rate this book up there with the best in its genre. What a fun, breathless read!

Book description

Ryan Kaine is back in the action-packed sequel to the hit adventure thriller, Ryan Kaine: On the Run. 

Fresh from finding evidence that might clear him of terrorism charges and still carrying the scars of battle, Ryan Kaine heads to Scotland to help find missing schoolboy, Martin Princeton.

Facing arrest for shooting down civilian aircraft, Flight BE1555, and killing the 83 people aboard, Kaine is desperate to help find the boy. Why? Martin’s brother was on that plane and Kaine has vowed to protect the families of the victims–The 83.

Hunted by the authorities, can Kaine escape capture long enough to find the boy, or will the police and his more dangerous enemies find him first?

From the pen of Kerry J Donovan, Ryan Kaine: On the Rocks, is a powerful, action-packed novel set in the mountainous highlands of Scotland.

Ryan Kaine is a new addition to the great military action characters in the tradition of Lee Child, Mark Dawson, Chris Ryan, and Matt Rogers.

About the author

Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. Kerry earned a first class honours degree in Human Biology, and has a PhD in Sport and Exercise Sciences. A former scientific advisor to The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, he helped UK emergency first-responders prepare for chemical attacks in the wake of 9/11. This background adds a scientific edge to his writing. He is also a former furniture designer/maker. He is the author of a sci-fi/thriller, The Transition of Johnny Swift, which reached #1 on the Amazon Bestsellers List in December 2014.

A citizen of the world, he now lives in the heart of rural Brittany with his wonderful and patient wife, Jan. They have three children and four grandchildren (so far), all of whom live in England. An absentee granddad, Kerry is hugely grateful for the development of video calling.

Kerry J Donovan

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Rosie’s Review Team #RBRT #Thriller Nothing Bad Happens Here by @NikkiCAuthor #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley

Nothing Bad Happens Here by [Crutchley, Nikki]

This is Nikki Crutchley’s first book, and for an initial outing, it’s pretty darned good.

The story:

A young tourist disappears from Castle Bay, a small tourist town on the east coast of North Island of New Zealand. When her mangled and mauled body is discovered, news crews and journalists descend on the town. Among them is Miller Hatcher, a young magazine writer battling alcoholism, who is sent there by her editor with the promise of a huge splash in the magazine if she can assemble a strong story for the next month’s edition.

Leading the investigation in Castle Bay is Sgt. Kahu Parata, a Maori and twenty-year member of the local constabulary, at least Detective Nicholson and a team of four arrive. Nicholson pushes Parata aside, leaving him to the day to day running of the station and the odious task of informing the victim’s parents. But Nicholson doesn’t know the town like Parata does. Castle Bay has some dark and well concealed history, but everyone believes nothing bad ever happens there.

Miller finds the only housing available at a wellness retreat a few minutes out of town. It is recommended to her by the wife of the head of the Town Council who herself is going there for a few days’ respite. The wellness center is populated by a small group of women experiencing a variety of crises and has a threatening caretaker who has found needed isolation there after losing his family.  A visitor at the wellness center disappeared from there many years previously, but she was never found, and the town’s residents still believes Castle Bay is safe and welcoming.

***

There are several threads to this mystery, which the author unravels deliberately and with excruciating tension, before wrapping them together tidily in a completely unexpected ending. There are also a couple of ‘gotcha’ moments that gave me a chill. The pacing of the story is excellent and keeps you turning pages (or swiping your Kindle, as the case may be). But the best part of the book are the characters, whom Ms. Crutchley details in such precision that you can easily see them in your mind’s eye. What I particularly liked was that each of them had flaws – their imperfections made them three dimensional and human.

Of the two characters from whose point of view them mystery is seen, I found myself liking Parada, who while caring for a gentle wife with an undisclosed but serious illness, mourns the fact they’ve been unable to have children. Miller is less likeable – her need for alcohol interferes with her investigative journalism and causes her to pull her hairs out one by one in disgusting detail. Nevertheless, she is largely fearless and determined to follow events wherever they lead, even when one of the women at the wellness center subsequently disappears.

The town itself – in an exotic locale for those of us not from that part of the world – becomes a character, full of interesting detail, and darkly looming, surrounded by jungle. As Miller investigates the trails leading into the jungle, the black cloud of evil that seems ever-present for most of the book is cloying, palpable, and ominous.

This is a satisfying read and I recommend it – a great first book for this author.

A quote to tempt you:

“She looked away from his face and took in the clear spring night, full of stars. Her last thoughts were of her mother. Would she finally care, when one day they found her body, and a policeman came knocking at her door?”

Book description

“She looked away from his face and took in the clear spring night, full of stars. Her last thoughts were of her mother. Would she finally care, when one day they found her body, and a policeman came knocking at her door?”

The body of missing tourist Bethany Haliwell is found in the small Coromandel town of Castle Bay, where nothing bad ever happens. News crews and journalists from all over the country descend on the small seaside town as old secrets are dragged up and gossip is taken as gospel.
Among them is Miller Hatcher, a journalist battling her own demons, who arrives intent on gaining a promotion by covering the grisly murder.
Following an anonymous tip, Miller begins to unravel the mystery of the small town. And when another woman goes missing, Miller finds herself getting closer to the truth. But at what cost?

About the author

After seven years of working as a librarian in New Zealand and overseas, Nikki now works as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. She lives in the small Waikato town of Cambridge in New Zealand with her husband and two girls.
Nikki has been writing on and off her whole life and recently has had success in flash fiction. She has been published in Flash Frontier, Flash Fiction Magazine and Mayhem Literary Journal. Crime/thriller/mystery novels are her passion. Nothing Bad Happens Here is her first novel (but hopefully not her last), set on the Coromanadel Coast of New Zealand.

Nikki Crutchley

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #HistFic The Forsaken Queen by @Mexisue1 #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Forsaken Queen by Susan Appleyard

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Susan Appleyard is the award-winning author of six books of historical fiction. Her latest, The Forsaken Queen, is about Queen Isabella of England, wife of the feckless Edward II.

Isabella’s reputation is not sterling – she has been called the ‘She-wolf of France’ – in part because of her contravention of custom and her extravagant lifestyle, plus her determination not to be the victim of corrupt men.

Isabella was the youngest surviving child of Phillip IV of France and Joan I of Navarre. She was married in 1308 at the age of 12 to Edward, a handsome young king. At that time England was experiencing a period of growing conflict between the king and powerful baronial factions. Despite that, her early married years were happy and productive – she and Edward had four children, one of whom would rule as Edward III of England and another as Queen Joan of Scotland. When Edward came under the spell of a charismatic young man, Piers Gaveston, with whom he was rumored to have a romantic relationship, the Queen continued to support Edward, forming a working relationship with Piers and using her relationship with the French monarchy to bolster her own authority and power. During this time, Isabella was known for her beauty, diplomatic skills, and intelligence.

Gaveston was killed by the barons in 1312, only to be replaced by a new favorite of Edward’s, Hugh Despenser the Younger. Edward was a weak king and, ruled by Hugh Despenser, tried to take revenge on the barons, resulting in internecine warfare and internal repression across the country. Isabella hated Hugh Despenser and considered him to be the cause of her disintegrating marriage. Hugh turned Edward against her and persecuted her, keeping Isabella as a virtual prisoner – until she took destiny into her own hands.

Historically, Isabella is not an endearing character; elsewhere she has been compared to Cercei in Game of Thrones! Nevertheless, the author makes her worthy of the reader’s sympathy, creating a three-dimensional character who is all too human, with understandable foibles and the need for love and support. She is a fierce mother not only to her children but to her adopted country, England, becoming the first person to depose a sitting king and serving as regent and advisor to her son until he is old enough to become an effective leader.

I do love a good historical novel, especially one with a strong woman character and Appleyard does not disappoint. She brings the age to life with great attention to detail. Her characters live and breathe passion, romance, ambition, greed, evil, and duplicity. There is also a sizzling romance which develops into a life long love. This book is not a dense read, as some historical novels I have read have been, but it entertains, teaches history, and makes you feel a connection to Isabella. If you like historical novels, this is a must read. It reminded me of the novels of Phillipa Gregory, who is a favorite of mine.

Book description

Isabella Queen of England, often called the ‘She-wolf of France’ has been compared to Cercei in Game of Thrones. Persecuted by her husband Edward II and his ‘favourite’ the infamous Hugh Despenser, she escaped only when she was sent to France to negotiate a peace treaty. No longer prepared to be a victim of corrupt men, Isabella took her destiny in her own hands and refused to return unless Despenser was banished from her husband’s side. While in France she met the exiled Roger Mortimer, one of her husband’s bitterest enemies. With Mortimer and other supporters, Isabella gambled on her husband’s unpopularity to invade England with the determination to dispose of Despenser for good. But the question then arose: What to do about King Edward?

About the author

Susan Appleyard was born in England, which is where she learned to love English history. She now lives in Canada in the summer. In winter she and her husband flee the cold for their second home in Mexico. Susan divides her time between writing and her hobby, oil painting. Writing will always be her first love. She was fortunate enough to have had two books published traditionally and is very excited about publishing ebooks.

She is the author of six other historical novels including This Son of York, Queen of Trial and Sorrow,  The First Plantagenet, and The Remorseless Queen.

Susan Appleyard

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #HistFic The Silver Horn Echoes: A Song Of Roland By @MichaelEging

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading The Silver Horn Echoes: A Song Of Roland by Michael Eging and Steve Arnold

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I chose to review this book because I am largely ignorant of most of the history of the Dark Ages, except for some marginal knowledge of Charlemagne, King Charles the Great. However, I am acquainted with The Song of Roland (La Chanson de Roland), an epic poem based on the Battle of Roncevaux Pass in 778, during Charlemagne’s reign. It is the oldest surviving major work of French literature. This book is an homage to that epic.

The Dark Ages was a time of great turmoil and the collision of empires. As the young Frank kingdom, led by King Charles, prepares to defend itself against the Saxons in the east, Roland, heir to the Breton March, has been relegated to guard duty. Everything changes when a foreign emissary entrusts him to bring Charles vital word of a new threat to the kingdom from a Muslim invasion from the south. Roland joins the king’s retinue and discovers there are traitors plotting regicide within the peerage and knights. Roland is well-acquainted with one of them – his step-father, whom he suspects of killing his father on the battlefield to assume his lands and take Roland’s mother as his wife.

The story is written from an omniscient point of view, which sometimes breaks the train of the main story, but is necessary to understand the many obstacles faced by Charles as he works to hold his kingdom together. Nevertheless, the focus is on Roland’s development into a great warrior and the right hand of Charles, along his deepening love for the sister of his good friend and the plots of his step-father and others who desire to seize the throne. It revisits an age of court intrigue, chivalry and valor, the clash of arms, and a final, fateful decision made before the Battle of Roncevaux.

I enjoyed this book. It is filled with superb medieval historic detail as it pulls together various threads in the life of King Charles and Roland. I particularly liked the visitations of Roland’s father William in ghostly form, to advise Roland and counsel him. While Charles remains a less formed character, Roland’s progression from an impetuous youth seeking revenge to a canny and powerful warrior is well limned. Most of the other main characters – the stepfather Ganelon and his equally treacherous son Gothard; Saleem, the son of Marsilion, the Muslim king; Oliver, Roland’s good friend; Aude, Oliver’s sister and Roland’s love – are also three-dimensional and unforgettable. There are many minor characters, related to various aspects of the story, who require vigilance on the part of the reader to keep in mind, but they added to the richness of world the authors have created.

The Silver Horn is reminiscent of the stories of King Arthur, with courtly love, knightly honor and dark treachery; it also reminds me of a favorite book of my youth, Ivanhoe. The unrelenting battle scenes, although a necessary part of the story, can be overwhelming: their descriptions are not for the faint of heart and bear witness to the brutality of waging war in medieval times. I could still hear the clash of swords and the screams of dying men after I put the book down.

With its sacrifice and loss, the ending was deeply affecting, and the discovery of the silver horn in the distant future was reassuring testament to the endurance of Roland’s legend. This is a truly epic tale which will resonate with many readers and which does honor to La Chanson de Roland.

Book description

The Dark Ages—a time of great turmoil and the collision of empires!

As the Frank kingdom prepares for war, Roland, young heir to the Breton March, has been relegated to guard duty until a foreign emissary entrusts him with vital word of a new threat to the kingdom. Now Roland must embark on a risky journey to save all he loves from swift destruction.

And yet while facing down merciless enemies, he must also reveal the hand of a murderer who even now stalks the halls of power and threatens to pull apart a kingdom reborn under the greatest of medieval kings, the remarkable Charlemagne.

For Roland to become the champion his kingdom needs, he must survive war, intrigue and betrayal. The Silver Horn Echoes pays homage to “La Chanson de Roland” by revisiting an age of intrigue and honor, and a fateful decision in the shadows of a lonely mountain pass—Roncevaux!

About the author

Michael Eging wanted to write since he was very young. His earliest memories are of carrying a battered old notebook around full of illustrations and stories. While in college, he was inspired by professors and visiting writers. Literary classics such as Song of Roland and Inferno were often in his backpack, along with Russian textbooks. Recently, Eging has pursued an interest in writing screenplays for feature films with his first option being The Song of Roland. He continues to focus on a variety of script/movie projects, most recently a horror thriller, Feast of Saint Nicholas, and a political thriller, The Prince. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Lori and his children.

Steve Arnold grew up on a farm in Northeast Ohio where he spent his free time reading Burroughs, Lovecraft, Zelazny and Tolkien, and his earliest writing efforts were creating adventures for his Dungeons & Dragons group. After several years of supporting his family through blue-collar jobs he joined the military and returned to school in his thirties, obtaining a BS in mathematics and then an MD. A veteran of the Army and the Navy, he is currently a Family Medicine physician near his hometown where he lives with his family, their dog, cat and two geckos, and relaxes by creating pencil illustrations, working on other literary projects with Mike Eging, and dreaming of building an airplane.

Eging and Arnold have previously co-authored Anwyn’s Blood, a dark fantasy tale with elements of the undead.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Thriller A Kiss Before Killing by @keithpmccarthy @EndeavourPress

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading A Kiss Before Killing by Keith McCarthy

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As written in the book description: This is not for the faint-hearted reader of crime thrillers — it shines a light into the darkest recesses of the human soul.

I will state at the outset there are parts of this mystery which are grisly. The author is a physician/pathologist and clearly knows about dissection and forensics, which lends great reality to his story. I am a trained anatomist and have done many cadaver dissections, so I could deal with the descriptions, but there may be some potential readers who couldn’t. Fair warning.

As for the story itself, it is multi-layered and the reader needs to pay close attention to detail. The main characters – Beverly Wharton, John Eisenmenger (with whom she had had a relationship), and Tom Bayes, the rookie, are well-drawn and compelling. Wharton’s relationship with Eisenmenger is interesting and nuanced and I enjoyed watching the gradual maturation of Bayes as Wharton’s partner. Superintendent Lambert was clearly intended to be an irritant as he oversees Wharton’s work, and he certainly is, but I found his interactions with somewhat over the top and not particularly professional.

Dr. Claire Woodforde, by contrast, was pale and indeterminate. I never really got a feeling for her as a person, and the part of the mystery concerning the unexpected deaths in the hospital proceeded at a lethargic pace. The portrayal of the hospital administration was all too real, but even though this aspect of the book ultimately tied into the search for the murderer of the owners of the headless and limbless bodies, it never really captured my interest.

While there is great tension towards the last third of the book, there was an overall lack of emotion on the part of the characters with regard to the deaths. The dialogue was realistic and the author did a good job carrying the story forward, although at drastically different paces.

Overall, this book was a competent and occasionally compelling read, with enough twists and turns to hold your interest.

Book description

Each man kills the thing he loves…

Edward Marsham is admitted to the Royal Infirmary having hung himself in his prison cell.

As predicted, he dies.

In the wake of several unexpected deaths at the hospital, however, Dr. Claire Woodforde suspects there is a killer amongst the staff. As Detective Chief Inspector Beverley Wharton and her new sergeant Tom Bayes begin to investigate Marsham’s death, they too start to wonder if it was natural or whether someone…

helped him along.

But as they start to make headway on the case, something much more sinister comes to light.

A body is found in an empty house.

A body without its limbs. And head.

Dr. John Eisenmenger is tasked with examining the torso to uncover clues which will lead to its identity and cause of death; a grisly job even for the most hardened of pathologists.

But as the investigation unfolds, the team discovers that there is much, much worse to come, and in addition, there is growing suspicion that there is a link between the two cases.

This not-for-the-faint-hearted crime thriller shines a light into the darkest recesses of the human soul.

About the author

Keith McCarthy is a pathologist and writer of crime fiction, known for his Eisenmenger-Flemming Forensic Mysteries. He also writes under the name Lance Elliot.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Speed Bump Himalayas by @mark_mgiblin #Travel #Memoir

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

#RBRT Review Team

Noelle has been reading Speed Bump Himalayas by Mark Giblin

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The reader knows there will be some fun in this book from the introduction by Sean Lock, a well-known British comedian who just happened to share a part of this travel adventure with the author. However, this is definitely not your average travelogue: it is gritty and horrifying for much of the time.

I will admit I was not entertained – except by the humor – for the first third or so of the book, which was basically the wanderings of a 20- something young man and his friends on a drug-infused trip through India and Nepal in the late 1980s. However, I was drawn in to Giblin’s gruesome story of survival, trekking out of the Himalayas, and his equally disturbing and unpredicted recovery from the undiagnosed illness that drove him home. Quite a contrast. The dry jocularity made it all palatable and ultimately, a page-turner.

Mark’s adventure begins at a time when young Englishmen were drawn to India and Nepal with the promise of cheap drugs, free love and high adventure. He is traveling solo in Nepal and in a dumb and dumber move, decides to cross a glacier with only his slick-soled shoes and no other equipment. He nearly loses his life escaping the glacier, but his adventures in India and Nepal send him home to earn enough money to return. He talks his friend Sean Lock into accompanying him, but they choose the wrong time of year for their trip. Sean becomes nearly unhinged when they arrive in a steamy, humid, pre-monsoon Dehli. When the two go looking for fellow travelers, liquor and drugs, all they find is boredom, mosquitoes, and snakes with nothing but humor, getting high and/or drunk and the occasional book to keep them occupied. Until they reach Katmandu…

Once there, with Sean healed from a bout with what is nicely described as arse-boils, they decide to try a four-week trek into the mountains, even though Mark is not feeling quite right. By the time they are halfway to their destination, Mark is feeling bad enough to send Sean to continue on his own. What began as ‘not feeling right’ turns into monumental pain and frightening, continuous loss of body fluids. At this point, it became a book not to be put down, even though you know the author survives.

I had my suspicions about what he suffered from, but that’s because of my medical background. Turns out I was close, but not quite on spot.

I was awed by Mark’s bravery, humor and determination to survive despite the increasing odds that he wouldn’t. The story of how he managed to get back to England in incredible pain, with no sleep, no food and little water, and most especially without any treatment (there were no MDs qualified to treat him) is unbelievable. His ability to make interesting observations, find kindness in strangers and even make fun of his situation may have helped him survive and definitely helps the reader! Even after getting to a hospital at home did not guarantee his survival, as his treatment threatens to kill him.

This book begins as a series of travel misadventures, but quickly morphs into a remarkable journey, seasoned with dry humor, and a testament to the human spirit, which runs strong and true in the author.

Book Description

It’s 1986. Mark Giblin discovers the ideal escape from the brawling pubs and concrete towers of Thatcher’s Britain.
India. Its vast scope for travelling mayhem suits Mark perfectly. His mate – a young Sean Lock – joins him after a carefully plotted eviction from acting school.
Once Sean regains his senses from landing in steaming hot, pre-monsoonal Delhi, the pair stumble aimlessly through Kashmir and Nepal. But on a remote mountain track, Mark discovers something far worse than the terrifying boredom of English suburbia, and is thrown headlong into a journey few could survive.
Speed Bump Himalayas will have you in stitches and tears as Mark charts the true tale of his remarkable journey, and his is fight to stay alive.

About the author

Mark Giblin

Mark Giblin is a cartoon making, song writing, guitar playing, banjo twanging English man. He also makes classic motorbike and car art for his company Revs And Threads.

Sean Lock is successful British comedian and TV personality. His TV appearances include QI, 8 Out of 10 Cats, TV Heaven, Telly Hell, Live at the Apollo, 15 Stories High. He also won the Perrier Comedy Award.

Speed Bump Himalayas has a forward by the English comedian Sean Lock. I had to check him out on You Tube, and he IS hilarious. It seems he shared this adventure with the author Mark Giblin, and I am glad he survived to write about it!

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