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

Today’s team review is from Frank. Find out more about him here https://franklparker.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Frank has been reading Stalking Gideon Cain by Kerry Alan Denney

At first I thought the set up for this psychological thriller was unrealistic. Perhaps it would turn out to be one of those tongue in cheek spoofs. I am not sure at what point I became hooked, but I did. I surrendered completely, suspending disbelief and settling back to enjoy the ride. And what a ride it was!


The principle protagonist is a successful writer, recklessly pursuing a playboy lifestyle. It does not take long, however, to realise that he is still wracked by grief resulting from the tragic loss of his wife and daughter a decade before.


As I became engaged in the increasingly complicated plot; as new, well rounded characters were introduced, I thought of one of my favourite British writers, Kate Atkinson. But Denney is an American author, writing for an American audience, so there is far more violence than you would find in any of Atkinson’s novels. In addition to the violent scenes, there is some clever technology deployed in the campaign against Gideon and by his helpers in retaliation. This made me think that the book is much closer to Stieg Larson than to Kate Atkinson. But interspersed with the violent scenes are some beautifully described periods of respite during which Gideon’s relationships with his parents and his closest friends are explored, complete with interesting back stories. The settings, interior and exterior, in Georgia, are exquisitely described without over embellishment.

Among the characters are animals, children and mentally handicapped youngsters, all brought vividly to life. A number of different points of view are utilised. Two extraordinarily well realised scenes come to mind in particular: a dog running away from one of the villains, written entirely from the dog’s point of view; a mentally handicapped youth in captivity describing his situation and his captors. Both are completely believable without falling into the trap of becoming over sentimentalised. They demonstrate the range of skills Denney is able to deploy and that raise this book way above the high tech, high body count, bloodfest it might otherwise have become.


Gideon’s parents, too, are sympathetically drawn and play a significant, if minor, role in the plot’s resolution. Along the way we are introduced to several characters whose talents make them candidates for inclusion in future novels from this author. Indeed, it is quite possible that one or more have already appeared in previous novels. Whether they have or have not, I intend to delve deeper into Denney’s oeuvre in the future.

As already indicated, this is a book for you if you enjoyed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. If too much gore and an escalating body count put you off, you might want to avoid it. But I would urge you not to. You might discover, as I did, that you will be captivated by the sheer skill of this writer as he takes you on a roller coaster ride in the company of a cast of memorable characters.


I unhesitatingly give it five stars.

Desc 1

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

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

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

AmazonUk | AmazonUS (publication May 21st)

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #urbanfantasy SOMETHING WICKED by @TomCW99

Today’s team review is from Sherry. She blogs here https://sherryfowlerchancellor.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Sherry has been reading Something Wicked by Tom Williams

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Detective Chief Inspector Galbraith is called to the home of Lord Penrith when the lord’s body is found dead. The strangeness of the death is that the body has been drained of all its blood but the room is not covered in blood.

The investigation begins and soon, DCI Galbraith is joined by a mysterious visitor from Section S—a section no one in the precinct has heard of before. This mysterious officer is John Pole and he explains his section deals with issues of national security and the investigation of the death of Penrith flagged in their office.

They team up to try to figure out who killed the lord and how. DCI Galbraith learns some things about an unknown group who operate in the dark in London. There are some scenes of the past that are intriguing and enjoyable to read.

I enjoyed this book and it seems there may be additional stories involving this crime solving duo in the future. Both have good qualities and seem to have a great working relationship. The way they deal with the crime is clever and a bit surprising. I, for one, am hoping for more adventures with these characters.  I give this one 4 stars.

Book description

A peer of the realm dead in his study, his body drained of blood

A tango club where the Undead and the living dance together

A 500 year old policeman

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Noir #Mystery BLACK IRISH BLUES by @andrewcotto

Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading Black Irish Blues by Andrew Cotto

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4.5*
Black Irish Blues is a long novella (or possibly a short novel) featuring Caesar Stiles, a man whose childhood was spent in a rough area of a small town in industrial New Jersey.  His father left the family when Caesar was thirteen, and his two brothers are now dead; he loved the older one who died in a tragic accident, whereas the middle brother was a vicious thug. Caesar spent most of his life travelling all over the country, but returned when his mother died, moving into the family home and buying the local inn.


The story centres around blasts from the past, friends reunited, mysterious disappearances and the local gangsters.  Written in the first person, much of the narrative details Caesar’s observations about small town life and his impressions of the town and people in which and with whom he grew up.

The plot is perfectly paced and structured, and fits well into the shorter length; although the story itself is fairly standard, I loved Caesar, the writing itself is as good as that of any classic American novel, and the characterisation is outstanding, making it a real page turner.  All the side characters are beautifully observed, the dialogue is spot on, and the atmosphere is vivid and so well described without ever being wordy.  I could tell by reading this that the author really knows his subject, along the place, time and people about whom he has written.  I’ll definitely read something else by him, probably the book before, which I’ve already had a look at.  Highly recommended.

Desc 1

Black Irish Blues is the return-to-origin story of Caesar Stiles, an erstwhile runaway who returns to his hometown with plans to buy the town’s only tavern and end his family’s Sicilian curse.

Caesar’s attempt for redemption is complicated by the spectral presence of his estranged father, reparation seekers related to his corrupt older brother, a charming crime boss and his enigmatic crew, and – most significantly – a stranger named Dinny Tuite whose disappearance under dubious circumstances immerses Caesar in a mystery that leads into the criminal underbelly of industrial New Jersey, the flawed myth of the American Dream, and his hometown’s shameful secrets.

Black Irish Blues is a poetic, gritty noir full of dynamic characters, a page-turning plot, and the further development of a unique American character.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #UrbanFantasy SOMETHING WICKED By Tom Williams

Today’s team review is from Shelley. She blogs here https://shelleywilsonauthor.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Shelly has been reading Something Wicked by Tom Williams

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Vampire novels are my favourite, so I jumped at the chance to read Something Wicked when I spotted it on Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team list.

The story begins with a murder – always a great hook! The body of Lord Christopher Penrith is discovered by his butler, drained of blood. We meet Detective Chief Inspector Galbraith, who is tasked with solving the case.

In my mind, Galbraith was a cross between Columbo and Horatio Caine. He gives off the tortured detective vibe. His investigations lead to the dance hall, La Cieguita. Before he can get too deep into the case, Galbraith comes up against Section S, a counter-terrorism department. Enter John Pole, a 500 year old policeman who shares an interesting hidden world with Detective Galbraith.

Trying to solve a murder using modern policing isn’t going to work. Galbraith needs to rethink how he deals with the various suspects and additional killing and how on earth he hopes to close a case like this.

Something Wicked is well written with plenty of atmosphere. For me, it was a bit too deep into police procedure over vampire action. I had hoped for blood and gore, but instead, there was a hefty amount of ‘crime novel intermingled with historical fiction and politics’.

It was a good novel for anyone dipping their toe into urban fantasy, but my personal tastes meant it didn’t quite work for me. I like my vampire novels to have a bit more bite!

3 stars.

Book description

A peer of the realm dead in his study, his body drained of blood

A tango club where the Undead and the living dance together

A 500 year old policeman.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Comedy FIVE TIME LUCKY by P. David Temple #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Olga. She blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Five Times Lucky by P. David Temple

Five Times Lucky by [P. David Temple]

I didn’t know the author before I came across this novel but after checking a sample of it, I thought it would be the perfect antidote to the dreary mood that seems to hang over everything these days. I looked forward to a light read. This is a funny book (laugh-out-funny at times), but it comes with its share of serious moments as well. And I enjoyed both aspects of it.

What to say about the plot of this novel… Well, I’ve said it’s funny, and it is a comedy, or rather, it touches on several comedy genres at once: a soap opera; a romantic comedy (yes, there is a central love story and other possible ones hovering around the edges); a quasi stand-up comedy routine full of jokes; a madcap comedy at times; there are elements of physical comedy; we have big spectacle as well (and it’s easy to see how handy the author’s experience with the World Wrestling Federation has been); a more intellectual/phylosophical-style comedy, and everything in between. The description of the novel does a pretty job at providing some semblance of a plot, and the story starts with BunnyLee, a —no longer so young— woman who after trying to become an actress has been working as an English teacher in Thailand for several years and is on her way back to LA to attend the wedding of one of her best friends. She is also going to stay at her friend’s apartment for a couple of weeks while she’s away on her honeymoon, but as her luck (she’s been told by a shaman priest that she is five-times-lucky) would have it, through a series of misunderstandings (I forgot to mention the farce, didn’t I?), she ends up staying as a guest in the house of an ageing Hollywood star, Buck LeGrande, who isn’t quite ready to become a has-been yet, and their friendship/perhaps-something-else falls victim to further misunderstandings and more than a fair bit of paranoia and jealousy. Somehow, the novel becomes a road trip for a while, and a whole host of new characters join the motley crew of BunnyLee, Buck, Buck’s chauffeur (and aspiring scriptwriter), Buck’s Chinese cook (for whom popular culture, media, and his Chinese relatives seem to be the source of all knowledge), and Puddles, the dog, a labradoodle and a true star. Austin, a cowboy and WWF celebrity on his way down, is also on the road, running away from a couple of women on a pink camper van, and their paths are, of course, set to cross. Characters from the world of professional wrestling, a local cowboy, a waiter, a Native American fish and game warden, staff at a Zen spa… also come into the story, don’t ask me to explain how. If you want to know, I invite you to read the book.

Fame, the world of TV and acting, Hollywood, celebrity culture, grief and loss, philosophy and the search for meaning, family relationships… these themes and more make it into the novel as well, and as I’ve said, despite the comedic elements I felt quite touched by the story at times.

I’ve mentioned some of the characters we come across, and although a few of them play small parts, all of them are pretty memorable. The book might be written as a comedy, and we might laugh at the characters at times, but they are not mere caricatures, rather all too human, and no matter how distant they might be from our everyday experience, they are universally recognisable and have endearing and redeeming qualities, even when (or because of) they are making total fools of themselves. Because, who hasn’t been there, especially when there are toupees and tight Spandex leggings involved? (If I had to choose one character, I admit to having a soft spot for Austin, the wrestler, although it’s difficult to top Puddles).

The book is narrated in the third person from a number of different points of view, which are clearly separated in the novel, so there’s no risk of getting confused about whose perspective we are following. This is a very self-aware novel, and an omniscient narrative voice sometimes pokes fun at the whole enterprise, in an interesting exercise of metafiction. It is a very visual novel with scenes that scream to be turned into set pieces in a movie or TV series, and this is combined with digressions where characters and/or author wonder about all kind of weighty subjects, from fate, to the nature of love and life itself. We have contemplative moments interspersed with scenes that explode in a whirlwind of action, energy, and laughter creating a perfect combination of light fun and reflection.

I have highlighted many jokes, insightful and crackwise comments, and many of the scenes, but some are far too long to share. As usual, I’d recommend readers to check a sample of the novel before deciding if it is a good fit for them, but I couldn’t resist sharing a few examples of what you might find.

Like the reader of fiction, one needed to have faith in his or her author, faith in the belief that the narrator knew how best to tell the story, faith that what may have seemed like irrelevant philosophical digresssions were in fact well-crafted artifices both necessay and sufficient to the telling of a compelling story. 

He wasn’t afraid of heights per se. It was the depths surrounding them that gave him pause —gravity being the one law you should never tempt breaking.

Like so many icons afoot these days in the pantheon of emerging American heroes, Chief Tenaya was a confluence of mixed metaphors. He was an icon in search of a meaning.

The ending fits both the comedy and the romance conventions. It ends up in a high note, and that’s exactly what most of us need right now.

So, if you’re looking for a fun/crazy read, with a bizarre catalogue of characters, are prepared to put your faith in the author and his criteria, are happy to follow him down some unusual and unexpected paths, and are looking for a break from the grey and dreary reality, this is your antidote. I hope this turns into a TV series or a movie, because it will be a hoot.

Book description

In FIVE TIMES LUCKY, an intrepid traveler gets more than her share of tabloid celebrity. Who hasn’t wondered what life was like inside the velvet rope of the Hollywood in-crowd? In this fast-moving comedy by P. David Temple, the quest for fame has no boundaries…but celebrity has its downside. We follow ex-actress BunnyLee Welles, who returns to Los Angeles for her best friend’s wedding and finds that she is instantly recognizable. From the customs officer to the baggage clerk to the Lyft driver, everyone knows her single-dimple smile. They mimic her. They take selfies with her. They hand her unsolicited film scripts. In the four years she has been traveling abroad, her sole commercial role for Dial-a-Denture has recently become an online meme. Like it or not, BunnyLee is now famous.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

Five Times Lucky by [P. David Temple]

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team Art Themed #HistoricalMystery LOST CHILDREN by Willa Bergman

Today’s team review is from Lynne. She blogs here https://just4mybooks.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Lynne has been reading Lost Children by Willa Bergman.

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Art, history and a very clever mystery – Could this book be any more “up my street”? I seriously doubt it.

Despite what might be for some a slow start, I loved the time the author spent to lay the foundations for this story. With a particularly addictive writing style, she had me hooked.

The background specifics of the main character’s childhood in France – and what she and her mother and brother subsequently had to do – set the scene beautifully (or should I say set the scene perfectly for misdirection LOL) , and it was no surprise that Eloise (Elle) went on to work in the industry of finding lost art and antiquities, after all she had been surrounded by beautiful pieces for years.

At times, it was as though I were in the midst of an art history lesson, with sumptuous details about the painting at the centre of the story, and its fascinating history.

And then, wham! Elle is commissioned to find the Portrait of the Lost Child for an unidentified buyer. Why choose her? She’s not the most senior within her department, but she does have a good track record. However, it soon becomes apparent that she has a particular association with the painting, and finding it before others do becomes vital if she is to keep her family’s secret from getting out.

They say you always have a choice. But what is my choice here? The choice between hurting the ones I love, or helping the ones I hate

Eloise (Lost Children)

From here on, the pace picks up dramatically and it becomes addictive reading, being both informative on the art front and insightful on the personal, family front. Can she find the painting before competitors within her field? And then what? Hand it over and risk exposure to something that could have dire consequences for her family, herself included.

Without disclosing any spoilers, let me just say this is an original and inventive mystery with an extraordinary ending that is both dramatic and satisfying.

My thanks go to the author and Rosie’s Book Review Team for my e-copy of this, which I have reviewed voluntarily and honestly (and loved every minute of it!)

Book description

A celebrated painting, the Portrait of the Lost Child, has been missing for over a decade. Eloise Witcham is commissioned to find it, but if she does she will have to confront a past she thought long behind her and face up to the dark fears that still haunt her dreams.

A stylish, intelligent, contemporary thriller set in the secretive world of high end art.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS available from May 11th 2021

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT Writedown: Lockdown in the Galloway Glens at the Time of Covid by Margaret Elphinstone et al @marysmithwriter

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

#RBRT Review Team

Jenni has been reading Writedown: Lockdown in the Galloway Glens at the Time of Covid by Margaret Elphinstone et al

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I have to be honest, Writedown 2020, a collection of lockdown accounts from writers in the Galloway Glens, was a difficult read for me.

Not because it is bad, quite the opposite. Each writer is beautifully in touch with both their own experience and the world around them, and expresses themselves with stunning combinations of memoir, anecdote, diary, and poetry.

Nor was it difficult because it is overwhelmingly sad. This is not page after page of building sorrow, loss upon loss piled until is suffocates the reader. Writedown contains melancholy, there is pain from these authors as there was pain for all of us across 2020 and the first ten months of quarantine, but it is not oppressive.

What is pervasive though, what made this such a difficult book for me, was the isolation. In one early chapter, an adult daughter is dropping off groceries to her mum and needs to use the toilet terribly. She frets over whether it was safe for her to enter her mum’s home and pee. She worries that a simple bodily function, a necessity of life and that caving to it might accidentally bring the virus to her loved one.

The daughter does enter the house, she touches nothing until she gets to the bathroom, and carefully wipes down every surface in the bathroom after she finishes, giggling through the door with her mum at the ridiculousness of the situation.

She leaves the house without touching her mum.

In years to come, I pray that the mum and daughter in this story continue to laugh at this moment, at the height of lockdown insanity, when going to the bathroom became dangerous. I hope that the children of the family laugh at the craziness of it for years to come when mum and grandmum decide to tell and re-tell it.

I hope that next time I read Writedown, it doesn’t make me cry, because it’s the missing hug at the end that does it for me. The fact that at the end of this silly little episode, mum doesn’t get to wrap her daughter up and tell her everything will be okay. Instead, mum is left alone in her home, while the daughter returns to “her own family where hugs abound.” 

After months in quarantine, seeing no one but my housemates and my cat, I can feel the weight of missed hugs, both my own and others. The absence of back-slaps, shoulder nudges, high fives and handshakes, cheek kisses and warm hugs aches, and that is why Writedown was hard for me, because instead of transporting this reader out of our bleak reality, it nailed me to it, and I have remind myself to be grateful for that. To savor every second in this world, regardless of how isolated I feel these days.

Writedown is beautiful, at times painful, but always honest. It is a necessary record of an extraordinary year, and every contributor should be proud for the part they have taken in it.

5/5, but brace yourself.

Book description

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #MurderMystery WHEN MURDER COMES HOME by Shana Frost

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

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading When Murder Comes Home by Shana Frost.

When Murder Comes Home: A suspenseful murder mystery with a hint of romance (Aileen and Callan Murder Mysteries Book 1) by [Shana Frost]

3 stars

Reopening her grandmother’s neglected inn set in a Highland village in Scotland proves much harder work than she expects for accountant Aileen McKinnon, but the locals remembering her from her childhood are keen to join in. Aileen soon becomes close to Bakery owner, Isla, who helps her with the cooking, but soon they are also working together to solve murder and theft.

As soon as ten guests arrive to the newly opened hotel, a gruesome murder occurs, and Det. Insp. Callan Cameron is certain he can solve the case without assistance. He and Aileen clash, seemingly unaware of an underlying attraction between them.  The case becomes increasingly complex as a valuable item is stolen from the safe and then another guest is murdered. Cameron agrees to involve Aileen in the investigation and they gradually discover secrets about every one of the guests.

This is an interesting cosy mystery, and the two main characters show promise for further adventures; the storyline makes it an enjoyable novel. However, it does need a good tidy up as there were too many spelling errors and incorrect word usages for me to ignore. Added to which there was also an overuse of adjectives, idioms and clichés which was a shame; it just needs a good polish to lift the writing to the level of the crime script.

Book description

An adventure she’d asked for, being a murder suspect? Not really.

A solitary inn in the Scottish Highlands welcomes ten new guests. But when one is murdered in his own bed and the other dangles over the windowsill, all hell breaks loose. Then a mysterious heirloom goes missing. Who is responsible?

Introverted yet brilliant (former) accountant Aileen Mackinnon needs to figure out whodunnit and save her grandmother’s inn from ruin. But when someone steals a family heirloom from the safe and her guests start to drop dead, her mission gets tougher by the minute. 

One-man-show Detective Inspector Callan Cameron finally has a murder to solve, but these ten new guests are not who they seem to be. Can he join forces with the new innkeeper and stay sane?

Aileen and Callan venture into a world of bloody murders, deception, and heists. The tension is high, so is the heat. They might not always see eye to eye, but can they agree: whodunnit?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

When Murder Comes Home: A suspenseful murder mystery with a hint of romance (Aileen and Callan Murder Mysteries Book 1) by [Shana Frost]

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Short Story Collection: Historical Stories of Betrayal @tonyriches #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Historical Stories Of Betrayal

Betrayal: Historical Stories by [Judith Arnopp, Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Derek  Birks, Helen Hollick, Amy  Maroney, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Tony Riches, Mercedes Rochelle, Annie Whitehead, Elizabeth St.John]

Historical Stories of Betrayal is a wonderful collection of short stories written by a variety of authors, with dates ranging from AD 455 when Roman leader Ambrosius needs people around him he can trust, up to 1849 and the present when Carina must discover the ancestor who betrayed the family or it will result in devastation for the family.

A couple of my personal favourites include Heart of a Falcon by Amy Maroney which tells the story of Estelle, a young Frenchwoman, whose family live in Rhodes town where her father is falconer to the Grand Master. When Estelle is invited by the King of Cyprus to be companion to his daughter and tutor his forthcoming grandchild her dreams are dashed as she soon discovers the underlying reason behind her being sent away.

Road to the Tower by Elizabeth St. John tells of events in 1483 when Lady Elysabeth Scrope stood as godmother to the young Prince Edward. When she received an urgent summons for herself and her husband from the Duke of Gloucester, her husband was not at home. King Edward IV was dead and the prince was in danger. He must be taken to London immediately for the coronation. Elysabeth believed in Sovereynté – the right of women to make their own decisions…so she undertook the journey to London.

All the stories are of a high standard, offering a glimpse into the past when treachery, injustice and treason were rife, and includes historical figures such as Thomas Percy who is trapped in a no-win situation, Francis Drake coping with trouble at sea, Margaret Beaufort found guilty of treason, and pirates Anne Bonny and Calico Jack to name but a few. Anyone who loves historical fiction would find stories to enjoy in this collection.

Book description

Read twelve tales by twelve accomplished writers who explore these historical yet timeless challenges.

AD455—Roman leader Ambrosius is caught in a whirlpool of shifting allegiances
AD940—Alyeva and cleric Dunstan navigate the dangers of the Anglo Saxon court
1185—Knight Stephan fights for comradeship, duty, and honour. But what about love?
1330—The powerful Edmund of Kent enters a tangled web of intrigue
1403—Thomas Percy must decide whether to betray his sovereign or his family
1457—Estelle is invited to the King of Cyprus’s court, but deception awaits
1483—Has Elysabeth made the right decision to bring Prince Edward to London?
1484—Margaret Beaufort contemplates the path to treason
1577—Francis Drake contends with disloyalty at sea
1650—Can James Hart, Royalist highwayman, stop a nemesis destroying his friend?
1718—Pirate Annie Bonny, her lover Calico Jack, and a pirate hunter. Who will win?
1849/present—Carina must discover her ancestor’s betrayer in Italy or face ruin.

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

Betrayal: Historical Stories by [Judith Arnopp, Cryssa Bazos, Anna Belfrage, Derek  Birks, Helen Hollick, Amy  Maroney, Alison Morton, Charlene Newcomb, Tony Riches, Mercedes Rochelle, Annie Whitehead, Elizabeth St.John]

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #ShortStories PENNY PINCHING TIPS FOR THE MORALLY BANKRUPT by @LibraryMarshall

Today’s team review is from Aidan. He blogs here https://ricketttsblog.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Aidan has been reading Penny Pinching Tips For The Morally Bankrupt by Libby Marshall

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This is probably the first collection of short stories I’ve ever read, and I had such a good experience that I will definitely be doing it again in the future. Libby Marshall has a seriously twisted sense of humour, and I loved it. The stories themselves were very short, with the longest being maybe twenty pages, and the majority being about five.

I couldn’t possibly cover all the stories in this review, but some of my favourite were: Act Of God, where a recently homeless woman has a morbid, yet uplifting conversation with a Sears employee about buying a fridge; Signs, in which a woman has become dependant on a sign that tells her what her current emotion is; 90 Day Fiance: Dracula (the title really speaks for itself). 

One of the key draws of this collection was its black humour. Its ironic, sarcastic and sometimes snide nature lined up well with the type of book I enjoy reading. I felt that it would probably be best enjoyed by a young, liberal audience.

The nature of reading short stories means that you will inevitably enjoy some of them more than others, and it was no different for me. There were a handful of the 43 stories that I didn’t like very much, and a number that I thought were mediocre or didn’t fully grasp. However, that’s the beauty of an anthology: the next one is a fresh start. Moreover, the extremely varied nature of the stories means that there is a significant chance you will find ones that you enjoy.

The stories themselves were very imaginative and out there. On multiple occasions I was astounded by just how strange the premise of one was. However, there were also plenty that were beautifully simplistic, although no less poignant. They covered a wide range of themes, with jokes on almost every topic relevant to the current social climate.

Due to just how short the stories were, the characters were often quite archetypal, although in some ways that was good. Playing into such stereotypes allowed the humour to be punchier and sharper, I thought. The dialogue was excellently constructed to give a sense of the character in the shortest space possible. However, a few of the characters were a bit deeper in some of the longer stories, which again was nice for the sake of variety.

Overall, I’d give the collection a 5.5 out of 7. There were plenty of stories that I liked and a few that I loved. The experimental ones that didn’t quite work for me were easily overlooked. If you haven’t read a short story anthology, this is a really easy place to start.

Book description

Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt is a fantastically funny, wonderfully weird, and surprisingly sincere collection of short stories, humor pieces, and miscellaneous bits.

Debra, an unhappy billionaire’s wife, decides to resurrect the 18th-century trend of hiring a man to live on their property as an ornamental garden hermit. An elderly serial killer, bored by her dull nursing home existence, finds a deadly new purpose when her high school nemesis ends up living down the hall. In 1953 a young couple drives to Makeout Point where instead of an evening of heavy petting, they find mountain lions, a man with no gaps in his teeth, and the opportunity to kill Henry Kissinger. Within these pages, a man tries to date after losing his wife to The Salem Witch Trials, a Wi-Fi router gains sentience, a series of cardboard boxes oozing with smoky-sweet baked beans mysteriously appear at a woman’s front door, and a Chuck E. Cheese is haunted by the spirit of Princess Diana.

Boldly strange, deliciously satirical, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Penny Pinching Tips for the Morally Bankrupt swings from the grim and ghastly to the exquisite and lovely. This one-of-a-kind book takes the reader on a surreal journey through the compulsory despair of daily life and concludes that the only sensible reaction to that much pain is laughter.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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