Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistFic NEW YORK 1609 by @AuthorHarald #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Sean, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sam has been reading New York 1609 by Harald Johnson


New York 1609 – Harald Johnson


This novel tells the story of the birth of New York, from its early days in 1609 and the arrival of Henry Hudson on the river that now bears his name, to the emergence and consolidation of the Dutch in the late 1640’s.

It is told, in the third person, primarily from the point of view of Dancing Fish, a young native in 1609 whose grandfather was white.

This is an omnibus edition, with the different stages having previously been released as 1609, 1612-13, 1625-26, and 1640-44.

Main Characters:

Dancing Fish: Orphaned aged about eight, he never feels fully accepted by his tribe, the Manahate. He has visions, and struggles to find his place. However, he grows in strength and presence as he gets older. He invents ways to do things faster, or more efficiently, and slowly his ideas get adopted.

High Limb: Dancing Fish’s great rival, for power in the tribe and for Willow. He grows into a powerful warrior.

Marie Boucher: Wife to deadbeat Jakob, she is a Walloon woman who from poor beginnings grows to wealth.

Minor Characters:

Willow: Love interest of both Dancing Fish and High Limb, she becomes the epitome of native women, strong and resourceful.


We open with the rescue of the young Dancing Fish, as his parents are drowned in a raging river. Fast forward five years, and the young boy is the first to spot Henry Hudson, as Hudson discovers the mighty bay and river. Initially in awe of these “Spirits” or “Salt People”, the restless boy (with the agreement of his Sechem or Chief) travels upriver with the Europeans, ostensibly to guide them, but also to learn their language and ways.

His mentor, Owl, tasks him with discovering whether these people will be good or bad for his people, in accordance with an old prophecy. This is a question that plagues him for the rest of his life.

On this journey, and the longer he spends with them, he realises they are not god-like. He sees they have great technology, but are also morally and behaviourally less than his own people.

The natives take more time and care over the prophecies, and initially do not think these Salt People are much of a threat. Theirs is a complex and considered response to the newcomers, and alas as we know a fateful one. We get a great insight into how these societies worked, with a thread of open discussion, mutual respect and honesty running through it. On both the European and Native side there are some superb characterisations, and the characters are fully realised human beings with all the flaws and strengths.

We also get a feel for the relatively simple (to us) life of  young native, fishing, hunting, and playing. It was of course a hard life, with bouts of food shortage, inter-tribal conflict, and the possibility of being mauled by a bear, etc., but there is an affinity with the land that was integral to their way of life, and speaks to a deep appreciation of and respect for the earth, which we are only truly re-discovering now.

As the years pass, more traders come, and the natives become more experienced in dealing with them. However, the tribes are greatly reduced by the effects of Fever (we know now it was smallpox and other diseases) The two young tribesmen (Dancing Fish and High Limb) watch on as their clan is devastated, and High Limb learns trading lessons from the White Man that stays with him for life.

They also find Claude Boucher, abandoned feared lost by his shipmates, who through that winter comes to share fully in their life. In return, he teaches Dancing Fish Dutch, English and French, and the rudiments of writing.  This skill comes in very useful as the novel progresses, as the traders begin to put down roots on the island Mannahatta. We see how the natives begin to get seduced by the Salt People’s goods, kettles, and knives, and how they begin dipping their toes into trade, eventually exploiting the white man’s love for tobacco, and in turn exploited for their love of the Fire Drink.

We follow the evolution of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, from its abject beginnings as effectively a shanty town, to one which was building a fort, and a stone Town Hall. The filth, grime and grubbiness of this is starkly contrasted with the semi-nomadic way of life of the natives, who largely are cleaner, more adapted to the environment conditions, and completely self-sufficient.

Into the last section of the omnibus, we see that growing numbers of settlers leads to an imbalance in the relationship, and the first of the infamous  land purchases and treaties are signed. This leads to what could have been an avoidable outcome, or war and hostilities between the two cultures. Dancing Fish and High Limb are leaders in this fight, but also have their own inter-tribal difficulties, with other stronger tribes now preying on the enforced weakness of the Manahate. Through his intelligence and inventiveness, and with some help from Marie, Dancing Fish is able to stave off total disaster, but there are consequences for him and his people, which play out until the very end of the novel.

What I Liked:

  • It was very well written, very easy to read, and the world-building was impressive.
  • The level of research is extensive, and the author fills in the obvious gaps (the Manahate had only oral traditions) believably.
  • The characterisation was very well done, and I felt I was actually in their world, as if it were living history.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • There was very little about this story that didn’t appeal.


A thoroughly good read, with lively engaging characters, clever blending of real and fictional personages, a strong historical narrative, and some excellent plot twistings throughout. I really enjoyed this entertaining book, and recommend it.

Book description

Welcome to New York City, 1609.
When a Native American (Lenape) boy joins Henry Hudson’s expedition up the river that now bears his name, the fearless and visionary–and misunderstood–Dancing Fish doesn’t realize his entire world and way of life are in peril. Enthralled at first by these strangers, he begins to discover their dark and dangerous side, touching off a decades-long struggle against determined explorers, aggressive traders, land-hungry settlers, and ruthless officials. If his own people are to survive, the boy-turned-man must use his wits, build alliances, and draw on unique skills to block the rising tide of the white “salt people.”

Ambition and fear, love and loathing, mutual respect and open contempt bring Europeans and “savages” together in the untold story of the founding of New York City and the fabled island at its heart: Manhattan.

AmazonUK | Amazon US


Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror #shortstories The Sea Was A Fair Master by @CalvinDemmer

Today’s team review is from Sean, she blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading The Sea Was A Fair Master by Calvin Demmer



23 short stories, or flash fiction as the style is known, the main themes of which are the darker sides of humanity, and dealing with the places where the visible and otherworld connect, and things break through.


There are 23 short stories, some very short, and mainly in the horror genre. Given that the author has so short a time to build the tension, I found the writing to be terse, intense, and very well-crafted to bring about the desired atmosphere.

There is definitely an echo of the short-lived “Hammer House of Horrors” in these stories (A classic TV show at a time when people had recently purchased colour TV’s!). The stories draw you in immediately, the scene is quickly set, and each tale has a twist or two. Some highlights:

“On The Seventh Day” has a biblical-sounding title, and the tale bears out a sense of being Justice being meted out, an eye for an eye vengeance.

“Trashcan Sam” was a grisly peek into an underworld, and one I felt has depth enough that could be enlarged into a novella.

“The Snakes or the Humans” – a man has the power over every species of life – what decision will be made when priorities change?

“Hangman” was a dark look at a security man’s night-time rounds, and the things that go on in school after hours!

The eponymous story offers a cure for when you find yourself becalmed at sea with your Navy comrades.

There are some touching stories as well, the most shining example of this being “Yara”. Love is shown as a powerful emotion, more powerful than death, but so is revenge! However, most stories featuring the heart tends to have it being carved out of someone!!

What I Liked:

  • The writing was excellently paced.
  • The characterisation is classic short-story, with the barest outline. However, the author really created a memorable cast of characters.
  • There are no contrived endings – the author shows the horror genre real respect and, while short, every story delivers a superb punch.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Some (very few) of the stories reminded me of others that I had read before (e.g. Restrooms ending was a little like the Stephen King short Popsy, but I’m sure it this is only in my mind, and not intentional).
  • Some of the stories were too short!


This is an excellent short story collection for the horror fan, and an intriguing entertaining read for the more mainstream reader. Unfortunately, you can read this over a couple of hours, and you are left wanting more! I really loved it, I felt the writing was crisp and succinct, and the author’s ability to generate compelling atmosphere with such an economy of words is deeply impressive.

Book description

The world’s fate lies with a comatose young girl; an android wants to remember a human she once knew under Martian skies; men at sea learn that the ocean is a realm far different from land, where an unforgiving god rules; a school security guard discovers extreme English class; and a man understands what the behemoth beneath the sea commands of him.

The Sea Was a Fair Master is a collection of 23 stories, riding the currents of fantasy, science fiction, crime, and horror. There are tales of murder, death, loss, revenge, greed, and hate. There are also tales of hope, survival, and love.

For the sea was a fair master.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS



Fun #Saxon #HistFic Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army – Edoardo Albert

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army by Edoardo Albert



A light humorous tale of medieval England, where Vikings terrorised the Saxons, looting and pillaging as they went. Two monks, one devout, the other a total chancer and not really a monk at all, somehow find themselves having to travel through dangerous country to get to the Saxon King, to warn him of the Viking invasion.

Main Characters:

Conrad Monk: A schemer, selfish, and always looking to turn every situation to his own advantage. A plausible liar, there really are no redeeming features.

Brother Odo: Humble, honest, naïve in many respects, he is the complete opposite to Conrad, his manipulative companion.

The Vikings: A Danish horde, led by the three sons of Ragnar Lothbrok –  everyone flees before their mindless orgy of violence.

Minor Characters:

Abbot Flory: A man of the world yet still spiritual, he led the monastery until its sacking by the Vikings.

King Ethelred: The last hold-out against the Danish invasion, Conrad and Odo travel there to warn him, and seek safety.


Essentially, it is a medieval car-chase, with our two “heroes” running from the Vikings to get to the Saxon camp, with various situations to be met and resolved along the way.

We first meet Conrad and Odo literally up to their necks in it, as they are hiding in a pigsty. The Vikings are ransacking the Abbey, looking for all the gold and silver treasure, and to take prisoners as slaves to be sold. Most of the monks got away to a secret location, except for our two.

We immediately see Conrad for what he is – prepared to sacrifice the unsuspecting innocent Odo in order to save his own skin. This leads Conrad to meeting with the Viking leader, then revealing the whereabouts of the monks and betraying them to the slavers. As he keeps repeating to Odo and anyone else who would listen, this is all actually a ruse to get everyone to safety. However, Odo was not sold at the slave market, so Conrad has to buy him, and is lumbered with him for the rest of the book. All part of the plan, of course.

The most important treasure is the intricately decorated Gospel, a holy book covered in gold and precious gems. Flory had entrusted its safety to three monks, but they had been compromised. Conrad wants this for himself – his pension plan I would think – but innocent Brother Odo believes him when he says they are taking it to the Saxon King for safe-keeping. Having retrieved it literally from under the noses of the vicious Viking brothers, they are forced into making a run for it.

The type of humorous escapades in the book include Conrad using Odo as a human horse to escape the oncoming Heathen Army, obtaining a valuable bishops ring by removing it from the said dead bishop’s posterior, and escaping his captors by means of projectile diarrhoea.

What I Liked:

  • The author’s research is thorough.
  • It reads easily and fast, with action happening on nearly every page.
  • This approach to history may make the subject more interesting to a younger audience.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The humour did not appeal to me, being way too slapstick and appealing to a scatological-type mindset. (Yep call me a snob!).
  • I didn’t particularly like either of the main characters, Conrad being too stereotypical as a self-absorbed chancer, and Odo too much of a docile wet blanket.


I liked how the author brought the historical figures to life, and it is a good approach to humanising history. I think however it is an opportunity missed, as this type of humour won’t appeal to everyone. The book is written to entertain first, and for those who like this style it will absolutely do that. A three-star for me.


I received a .pdf of this book as part of Rosie Amber’s Review Team, in return for an honest and objective review.

Book description

Conrad is a monk, but he has become a monk through trickery and against his will. So, it is fair to say that his heart isn’t really in it.

Conrad is also clever, charming, entirely self-serving, self-absorbed and almost completely without scruple — but in Anglo-Saxon England, when the Danish invaders come calling, those are very helpful attributes to have.

And so it comes to pass that Conrad finds himself constantly dodging death by various means, some reasonable, some… less so. His tricks include selling his brother monks into slavery, witnessing the death of a king, juggling his loyalties between his own people and the Danes, robbing corpses and impersonating a bishop.

By his side throughout is the gentle and honourable Brother Odo, a man so naturally and completely good that even animals sense it. He is no match of wits for the cunning Conrad but can he, perhaps, at least encourage the wayward monk to behave a little better?

AmazonUk | AmazonUS


A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity by @TrishaNicholson #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity by Trisha Nicholson



This is a unique book, and in a good way. It is an enthralling look at us, humanity and how we tell each other stories, and takes as its main character Story itself, giving her a presence that has been with us since the dawn of our species.

Main Characters:

There are no characters as such, mainly milestones along the road of development of stories, and how deeply intertwined it is with our cultures.


The author starts naturally at the beginning. We are given a scene of an old woman, surrounded by her audience, telling us an Aboriginal story of how the buumbuul tree became such a source of food. We can imagine that this oral tradition was how vital survival knowledge and techniques were passed down throughout generations, by people who could detect regular patterns in their environment, and wanted to pass it on.

Evidence of use of controlled fire dates back 300,000 years, and we can imagine our forebears huddled around, seeking warmth shelter and a means of understanding the world.

From this point, the author uses Story to detail the unfolding of modern humanity, showing major points of interest such as when stories were first recorded, in cuneiform on the clay tablets of Sumer, notably the great Epic of Gilgamesh (which the author does a neat job of summarising), then to the development of the fable, where animals have much knowledge and wisdom to impart to their equal partners in the world, humans.

The pace of Story picks up in tandem with the growing modernisation of the world. In Story’s company, we cross deserts and icy North seas. We hear Bedouin love stories, find out how Scheherazade saved her life and gave us 1001 Nights, and set out the foundation for Marvel comics as Snorri Sturluson gathers up the old Norse sagas and breathes life into the old gods.

How Story was used for political and religious gain is clearly shown, as we see Irish Celtic monks converting Celtic gods and heroes into Christian saints – to be fair, they were not the only culprits.

The author skilfully leads us through the emergence of printing, with interesting anecdotes and references, and the explosion as printers such as Caxton begin to print in the vernacular, and broadsheets are used to make political points.

It is not just Western developments that are covered. We are given an excellent summary of the Ramayana, written by Valmiki in around 400 BC. We jump continents from the woodcut block printing of China, to the emergence of Islam (initially open-minded and science-orientated, then succumbing to a more narrow view of the Prophet’s teachings), and eventually to the Crusades, where two cultures collided.

Story is not just told by the men. The formidable Marguerite of Navarre is profiled, and a mention is made of Aphra Behn, reputedly the first Englishwoman to earn a living from writing in the 1670’s.

However, we are now in the age of exploration and conquest, giving rise to the novel and the historical novel, epitomised by the writings of men such as Walter Scott and James Fenimore Cooper.

Finally, although Story won’t ever end, we sweep through the industrial and other revolutions, to catch up with the present, digitalised day.

What I Liked:

  • This meticulously-researched book read very easily. The narrative just flowed, and the author did an excellent job making it seamless.
  • It is structured along a timeline, but also allows you to dip in for referencing (well-compiled index!), which I think will be the long-term appeal of the book.
  • Brings life to some of the historic figures (e.g. Rabelais, Gutenberg).

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Nothing


I found this book to be a joy to read. It is historical, and a lot of it will be familiar to anyone who is interested in history, but it gives a unique perspective, doesn’t drown the reader in superfluous facts, and reinforces how important telling each other stories is, how much a part of our DNA it is, and why books are so important. There are many, many familiar names, but also some new ones, and hopefully you will find out things that you may not have known before. Isn’t that the point of a story??


Through Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team, I received a free copy of this book from the author, in return for an objective and unbiased review.

Book description

Trish Nicholson brings us a unique interweaving of literature and history seen through the eyes of storytellers, making a fascinating journey for general readers and students alike. From tales of the Bedouin, to Homer, Aesop and Valmiki, and from Celtic bards and Icelandic skalds to Chaucer, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Scott and Chekhov, some of the many storytellers featured will be familiar to you; others from Africa, Asia and the Pacific may be fresh discoveries.

Beginning with oral tales of our foraging ancestors, the emergence of writing, the great migrations, the age of exploration and the invention of printing through to the industrial revolution and the digital age, Nicholson brings us voices from all corners of the world. Combining this extraordinary breadth with telling myths, epics, fables, fairy tales and legends, she reveals their story-power in the comedy and tragedy of human affairs. And what of Story’s future..?

A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity is our own human epic, thoroughly researched and referenced, and told with the imaginative flair of an accomplished storyteller. This is a book-lover’s book, illustrated and handsomely presented in hardback and paperback volumes designed ‘to have and to hold’.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #scifi #thriller Broken Branches by Ben Ellis @b3n3llis

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading Broken Branches by Ben Ellis



This is a quirky future dystopia, where the controlling powers seem to be muddling through in a very British way. They are not boots-to-the-throat controlling, but want stuff done with a minimum of fuss. It is eugenics for the future, with all of the selective breeding, incarceration and enforced sterilisation of “unfit” people. Broken Branches are not allowed to procreate, but there is a “work-around” application process. However, the prevailing sentiment seems to be “You mix champagne with dishwater, you still have sh***y dishwater”. All sorts of National Front, Aryan, etc. overtones going on.

For me personally, not an inviting future! Most men are sterile, for reasons which are outlined much later in the book. It is a class-driven society, between thoroughbreds on the one hand, and mutts/half-breeds/broken branches/whatever you want to call them on the other. Broken branches are those who have no genetic family history, so cannot take their place on the Family Tree.

The State is fixated on the genetic purity of the National Family Tree, so Thoroughbreds are allowed procreate once they receive approval, the others not. However, there seems to be some level of “inter-breeding” allowed. The genetic status of each potential parent is set out on the application form, and a majority of a randomly-selected jury of 40 “peers” [thoroughbreds] must approve each application.

This story is about two couples who slip through the net, having genetically advanced babies, and their journey.

Main Characters:

Tom Webb: Husband of Grace, he’s a thoroughbred. Nice guy, grown-up attitude to life, very supportive and defensive of is wife, and always looking to reassure her.

Grace Webb: Wife to Tom, a broken branch. No self-confidence, thinks Tom is with her due to an “undiscovered genetic defect”. Extremely paranoid about being exposed as a broken branch.

Charlie Falkland: Grace’s twin brother. Lad-about-town, a player with a relatively short fuse, and completely self-absorbed for about two-thirds of the book.

Anna Rock: Charlie’s thoroughbred one-night stand, who gets pregnant.

Head of Genetic Integrity: Sinister governmental figure looking to enhance his own reputation through using the babies as lab rats.

Minor Characters

Shears: Leader of the Gardeners, a domestic terrorist organisation dedicated to “rooting out the broken branches” who would dare try to propagate. The Gardeners are the “pruners for the pure”.

William Lanne: Grace and Charlie’s dad. Appears late on the scene, bit of a Deus Ex Machina character.

Gregory Rock: Anna’s dad. Appalled she is pregnant by a broken branch. A bit naïve.

Maiya Lanka: Charlie’s sometime ex, who gets cheated on. Later, she becomes some type of earth-mother figure (rhymes with Gaia??) figure.


We initially follow Tom and Grace, as they apply to become parents. They run a Gardener mob gauntlet to get to the relevant Ministry, seeing a broken branch being horrifically mutilated on the way, which causes severe trepidation in Grace.

In this case, the drugs DO work, and Grace becomes pregnant. The news is inadvertently broken at a family dinner, attended by Charlie and Maiya. Maiya is secretly upset, as she wanted to become a mother also, but her status as a broken branch kills that hope, She robs a couple of fertility tablets (hilariously named Go!Nads!}, and slips them into Charlie’s drink.

Charlie ends up finding and sleeping with Anna, a thoroughbred out on a hen night, and not knowing he’s on the ‘Nads he gets her pregnant. Dad is suitably not impressed.

The couples and unborn babies then become the subject of a search, from the deranged Gardeners who want to kill them, to Head who wants to analyse them, to William Lanne who wants to protect them, the background being a society’s descent into chaos as broken branches agitate to become part of the Tree (with accompanying benefits), and government scrambles to contain the movement.

What I Liked

  • There are original twists and plotlines, for example how men became sterile.
  • It is a fast-faced thriller, dressed up in dystopian clothes.
  • The plausibility of the eugenics story – it’s not so long since eugenics was considered serious science in pre-WWII USA, and it still has a large following today. I liked the author pointing out that medicine and science are NOT objective or neutral, and are used to forward particular social agendas.

What I Didn’t Like

  • The alternate chapter character device – just seemed unnecessary and was slightly off-putting. It lifted me out of the suspension of disbelief, and diminished the story for me.
  • The lack of reasoning behind men becoming sterile (voluntarily!) – again it felt like a forced plot issue. There could have been more done to get it better cemented into the story.


I’d give it a three star.

I think the author is not quite sure of his audience, or how he wants to book to be read.

Audience-wise, it’s hardly YA with the level of language the “alternative character” uses, yet it’s a bit too light on the thriller/world building for a fully-engaged adult reader.

Angle-wise, it has a light and easy tone, with some almost comedic moments in it (e.g. Charlie taking on the super-enhanced security guard in the helicopter). It has great potential and, with the amount of real history and human experience to draw on, I think the author could get to a deeper level with this story.


Thanks to the author for giving me a free copy in return for an honest review.

Book description

All men are sterile. Fertility drugs are given only to couples whose genetic matches are approved. Those without a family history to prove their genetic heritage are outcast from society.

Grace is a broken branch. As an orphan, she has no link to The National Family Tree, so she and her husband, Tom, are ecstatic when they’re approved to have a baby. But that was the easy part. Grace’s twin brother inadvertently gets a girl pregnant after a one-night stand, and his girlfriend isn’t happy because it should’ve been her. Both sets of parents soon become the target of a violent terrorist group that advocates genetic purity. To make matters worse, there’s something strange about the unborn children that’s attracting government attention.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #AmericanCivilWar #Histfic Cairnaerie by M.K.B. Graham

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading Cairnaerie by M.K.B. Gaham



A family drama history, from the period 1840’s through the Civil War to 1930, showing the far-reaching generational impact of the choices made, and the culture they are made in.

Main Characters:

Geneva Snow: The main protagonist, whose life we follow through her 72 years. The daughter of a wealthy lawyer, headstrong, sometimes petulant, and impulsive.

Zeph Elias: Husband and guardian of Geneva

John Klare: Disgraced history professor, hired by Geneva.

Minor Characters

Tobias Jebson: Low-life criminal, abusing his usurped position of post-master.

Joly Jennings – the grand-daughter.

Helen Van Soren – Librarian

Bertram & Caroline Snow – Geneva’s parents


In 1827, a 10-years-old boy [Bertram Snow] was turned out onto the Baltimore streets, by a family too poor to feed him. A kindly stranger found him wet and starving a  few months later, and brought him up as his own. 100 years later, his daughter has summoned a historian to tell the family story, which she has recorded in her diaries.

The story is revealed by switching viewpoints and narrative between the 1860’s and ‘70’s, and the late 1920’s.

The story sets out to show the dynamism of the 1840’s Virginia, with Geneva’s father setting up his farmstead “Cairnaerie”, then having his family, three boys and a feisty, headstrong daughter.

Over time, as the children grow, the farm prospers, and Bertram expands his law practice in the local town and becomes a pillar of local society, the future looks very bright for the family. We get an insight into pre-War social mores, with the slavery etc. being taken for granted. Bertram however is more enlightened, and aims to “pay forward” the chance he received when a child, and to help/educate less-fortunate others, including his slave Zeph.

The War comes, and emancipation along with it. Zeph, now free, decides to stay with the Snow family. The Snows have lost two sons in the war, the mother begins her descent into the grave, and the family slowly withdraws from the life of the town, becoming forgotten.

Isolated, passionate, young, Geneva commits what then was an unforgiveable crime in Southern society, an inter-racial marriage and child with Zeph. She had hidden the marriage from her parents, but could not hide the pregnancy. Furious, they forbid her any contact with Zeph or the child, and confine her to the house until she recants and gives them up. Powerful personalities clash, with Geneva showing her naivety about real-world dangers, and her parents at odds with both her and each other.

Neither side moves, and her parents die without there being a rapprochement. Many, many years later, Geneva, now the last of her family, wants to set things right by her grandchild (daughter of her own daughter), but her secret is revealed before she can reveal it herself.

The historian, himself fighting to regain his good name after an incident at his previous college, walks a very thin line in bringing this story together, dealing as he needs to with the “science” behind eugenics, institutional racism, social expectations, and this line becomes even thinner when the full truth of the story is revealed.

Ably assisted by the local (and pretty, and single) college librarian, they build a relationship with the fragile Geneva, who slowly begins to trust them with her secret. Her one wish is to attend the wedding of her grand-daughter, but without having her secret reveal itself.

The story does not have a traditional happy-ever-after ending, and the human regret of leaving things unsaid becomes all too real.

What I Liked

I loved the historical accuracy, and feel the author brought both periods alive, for example the differing transport types in the periods, the dress codes, the social proprieties.

The main characters were well-written, and their actions and dialogue is believable and realistic.

The storylines mesh well.

What I Didn’t Like

It became predictable about halfway through, if not a little before, as the isolation of Geneva would naturally lead her to find comfort where she could.

The father was more modern than I would have credited, but that could just be my own bias.

Some pieces just didn’t ring true, but seemed a device just to get the plot moving (e.g. finding a preacher willing to marry the only daughter of a well-known local in an isolated church with no family present).


Cairnaerie is a well-written book, with engaging characters, and would be great as a holiday read. The changing world of the South is lightly but convincingly drawn. The questions raised are about loyalty, sacrifice, the power of family versus the power of society, and the reader is left to wonder how they would rise to each question.


Thanks to the author for giving me a free copy in return for an honest and objective review.

About the author

M.K.B. Graham writes literary fiction, historical fiction, and feature stories under the label McKeadlit LLC, a freelance company. Partial to the Appalachian Mountains, the author is a lifelong Virginian and part of a family whose roots to the Commonwealth run deep, stretching back to the 1700s. Graham, a graduate of Virginia Tech, has worked as a writer for two Virginia universities and as a former associate editor of Virginia Tech’s signature magazine. The author lives and writes in the beautiful and historic Shenandoah Valley. She is fascinated by old houses, earlier eras, particularly the 1930s and 1940s, and the influence of families on history, much of which informs her writing.

M.K.B. Graham

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #SciFi #Fantasy X0 by Sherrie Cronin @cinnabar01

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading X0 by Sherrie Cronin


X0 – Sherrie Cronin

X, to the power of zero, means to the power of One.

This is the first is a series of tales about the Zeitman family, each of whom has special powers, and about their coming to terms with them However, the only one of the series I’ve actually read is this one.


The story is essentially about two powerful telepathic women, living on either side of the planet and who have never met in person. They mentally combine in order to help a younger sister.


American Lola Zeitman is a 40-something married woman, returning to work as a geophysicist, now that her children are practically grown. She is slowly made aware of her power throughout the book.

Nigerian Somadina is early 20’s, also a married woman, but who is more aware of her gift, has always known and been known for her mind-reading abilities (but this is not considered a big thing in her Igbo culture).


Lola has always been good at finding oil, and winning the bids to get her company to get drilling rights. So far, so normal. She occasionally, however, has niggles about her sister’s marriage, and uneasy feelings about certain people & situations, but nothing concrete she can pinpoint.

Somadina’s younger sister Nwanyi has been given in marriage to a complete stranger, from outside their tribe and village. Her father is delighted with the unexpectedly high bride price, and he had never really acknowledged Nwanyi’s existence until then. Somadina becomes extremely uneasy when Nwanyi’s telephone calls stop coming, and realises her sister is in deep trouble, if not mortal danger.

Somadina’s power is such that it connects with Lola, and through time and the intervention of the X0 “organisation”, Lola becomes convinced she is not going crazy, the two mentally link and begin forming bonds.

Minor characters include that of Nwanyi’s husband Djimon, who is a vile animal, degrading and debasing Nwanyi in order to break her spirit, and make her amenable to what his ultimate intention is for her. Lola’s husband is a quiet, self-effacing guy, as is Somadina’s, but there was no real development of them, or their children (subject of future books!).

Finally meeting, and working together, the two embark on a series of journeys and meetings that get really exciting, especially as it peaks near the end.

What I Liked:

Aspects of Nigerian culture also gets well explained, along with interesting information around the socio-political history of this young nation. The author has clearly put a lot of effort into her research.

The concept of and moral questions around telepathy was interesting, and how it is described as a power than can only suggest rather than influence.

What I didn’t like:

Very slow build-up, with one of the characters being undecided for longer than was necessary, I thought.

The FAQ’s around telepathy and the science etc. didn’t really interest me, as much as the discussions about it between the characters.

There would absolutely have to be mind-reading, in order for some of the plot twists and character-assists to happen, and some of it was a little too James Bond-ish.


I liked this book. It was an entertaining read, and I would recommend it as a good holiday read. It is definitely not for kids (anyone under 16, in my opinion) due to the graphic nature and implications of some of the scenes. I think the scenes had to be there, to get a sense of the trouble Nwanyi was in, however.


Thanks to the author from whom I received a free copy of this book, in return for an objective review.

Book description

The ancient group x0 hides in the shadows until a young Nigerian beauty forces them to emerge. Thinking that her telepathic abilities are perfectly normal, this Igbo woman draws upon her powers to seek an ally to rescue her captive sister. Unfortunately, the telepath she finds is cranky Texan lady who doesn’t believe in nonsense and who insists that the disturbing phenomenon in her own mind isn’t there.

Realizing that her sister has become a strategic pawn in a dangerous game of international politics, she vows to do anything to get the attention of this uncooperative fellow psychic. As the women struggle with each other, common links begin to forge these two radically different women together in ways that even x0 does not understand. They could intervene, but should they?

About the author

Sherrie Roth grew up in Western Kansas thinking that there was no place in the universe more fascinating than outer space. After her mother vetoed astronaut as a career ambition, she went on to study journalism and physics in hopes of becoming a science writer.
She published her first science fiction short story in 1979 and then waited a lot of tables while she looked for inspiration for the next story. When it finally came, it declared to her that it had to be a whole book, nothing less. One night, while digesting this disturbing piece of news, she drank way too many shots of ouzo with her boyfriend. She woke up thirty-one years later demanding to know what was going on.
The boyfriend, who she had apparently long since married, asked her to calm down and explained that in a fit of practicality she had gone back to school and gotten a degree in geophysics and had spent the last 28 years interpreting seismic data in the oil industry. The good news, according to Mr. Cronin, was that she had found it at least mildly entertaining and ridiculously well-paying The bad news was that the two of them had still managed to spend almost all of the money.
Apparently she was now Mrs. Cronin, and the further good news was that they had produced three wonderful children whom they loved dearly, even though to be honest that is where a lot of the money had gone. Even better news was that Mr. Cronin turned out to be a warm-hearted, encouraging sort who was happy to see her awake and ready to write. “It’s about time,” were his exact words.
Sherrie Cronin discovered that over the ensuing decades Sally Ride had already managed to become the first woman in space and apparently had done a fine job of it. No one, however, had written the book that had been in Sherrie’s head for decades. The only problem was, the book informed her sternly that it had now grown into a six book series. Sherrie decided that she better start writing it before it got any longer. She’s been wide awake ever since, and writing away.

Sherrie Cronin

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #SciFi Intraterrestrial by @NicholasConley1

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading Intraterrestrial by Nicholas Conley


This book takes the reader on an interesting journey, based as it is on an intriguing premise.

It centres around 13-year-old Adam Helios , an adopted kid of Indian parentage, growing up in the US. The backstory leading up to the book is that he is the new kid in school, he is a tech geek, low on self-esteem and with confidence issues, his Indian heritage and lack of knowledge around his biological parents is problematic for him, and is being bullied physically and verbally by Joe Sanderson. He’s actually a nice kid, whose main interest is Space and his telescope, and fixing up bikes, and when he was younger “Jupiter Man”.

Oh – and he hears Voices, which he thinks come from the stars.

Adam eventually bites back, and batters holy hell out of said Joe, when Joe begins to harass Chandra, a girl Adam is beginning to like. Cue being brought to the office, where we encounter Adam’s adoptive parents. His mother is a termagant, and his dad the polar opposite.

They leave the office, and on the way home get involved in a car-crash that sets us on our way. His mother escapes without physical injury, but gains a new perspective on life as the book progresses, and she is faced with choices. His dad gets injured. Adam, however, ends up with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Adam “follows the light” while in a coma, and meets up with the owner of the Voice. He is entrusted with a high-risk, winner-takes-all mission to save the “spark’ of six aliens, while battling a powerful negative energy. At the same time, the aliens are actually saving him.

There are two main voyages of discovery, of Adam and separately but in parallel, his mother. Adam has an out-of-body experience journey, although he is trapped inside his skull. Camille, the mother, goes through a real metamorphosis of character. You find yourself rooting for these two, though at times the mother is a little too much, to the extent of being somewhat unbelievable/unacceptable in her approach to anyone outside her immediate family.

There is some Descartes-ian philosophy thrown in here too, and the medical scenarios seem to be plausible enough. The language may cause some parents to pause before giving it to kids, but for me it was perfectly acceptable for early teen 13 and on.

Overall, a four-star, because in spite of these limitations it IS a good read. Definitely one for the holiday bag, as it will entertain and amuse, as well as provoke a little thought about where do people with TBI go?

Book description

Adam Helios is a bully magnet without many friends. When he starts hearing a voice that claims to come from the stars, he fears he’s losing his mind, so he withdraws even further. On the way home from a meeting at the school, he and his parents are involved in a horrible car crash. With his skull cracked open, Adam’s consciousness is abducted by the alien who has been speaking to him for months.

After surviving the wreck with only minor scratches, Camille Helios must deal with her guilt over the accident that left her husband badly injured and her son in a coma. When the doctor suggests letting Adam go, Camille refuses to stop fighting for her son’s life.

Lost among galaxies, Adam must use his imagination to forge a path home before his body dies on the operating table. But even if he does return to Earth, he may end up locked inside a damaged brain forever.

About the author

Nicholas Conley is a novelist, world traveler, playwright, and coffee vigilante. His passion for storytelling began at an early age, prompted by a love of science fiction novels, comic books, and horror movies. His award-winning novel Pale Highway was influenced by his real life experience working with Alzheimer’s patients in a nursing home, and his work in healthcare also inspired his essays for Vox and The Huffington Post, as well as his radio play Something in the Nothing, which was performed live on WSCA 106.1 FM in 2016.

Nicholas Conley

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #SciFi The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith @explainresearch

Today’s team review is from Sean, he blogs here

#RBRT Review Team

Sean has been reading The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith


This book started with a bang, and the pace didn’t let up all the way through. This is a real sci-fi thriller book, emphasis on the sci. There is no Magic, no hi-tech cars becoming submarines or jet fighters, the only way time travels is either forward, or in parallel with the rest of the story. The sci is all about nanotechnology, something that most people (and definitely the readers of this genre) have heard about, and its application (happ-lication??) to enhancing the human life experience. It’s a believable base for a storyline, then you add in  the “if something seems too good to be true, then it usually is” plotline.

There is quite a cast of characters on show here, from the bad Corporate multi-millionaire who just wants more, to the giant Russian and his crony army who plays both ends against the middle (at least initially), the CIA and local police show up, China and its underground criminal scene, and a potentially damaging international crisis. The main character, freelance writer Brad Davis, is the quintessential good guy, dedicated family man struggling to pay the bills, but supported by a loving wife. They both have ex-Afghanistan military experience, which comes in useful later on!

Essentially, Brad gets a big break to write the memoir of the guy who brought nanotechnology to the masses, the technology being the eponymous Happy Chip. Through various meetings and encounters, he gets his journalistic 6th sense telling him something is “off”, he does some initial sleuthing, and the game in on!

The pace of the book is fast, the read enjoyable, even though I found the characterisation a bit too predictable, and some things just seemed to happen/turn up at just the right time. However, it is fiction of course so its allowed.

It is an entertaining read about something that could happen in the near-future, it is completely escapist, definitely movie-material, and you can easily see Meredith aiming to become the Dan Brown of the genre.

Overall, a three-star, for while the premise is good, the writing fluid, for me it is not a riveting, stay-up-all-night-to-finish read, which draws me to this genre. Its an enjoyable piece of holiday escapism.

Book description

You feel ecstatic! Until you kill yourself.

The Happy Chip is the latest nanoengineering wonder from the high-flying tech company, NeoHappy, Inc.

Hundreds of millions of people have had the revolutionary chip injected into their bodies to monitor their hormonal happiness and guide them to life choices, from foods to sex partners.

Given the nanochip’s stunning success, struggling science writer Brad Davis is thrilled when he is hired to co-author the biography of its inventor, billionaire tech genius Marty Fallon.

That is, until Davis learns that rogue company scientists are secretly testing horrifying new control chips with “side effects”—suicidal depression, uncontrollable lust, murderous rage, remote-controlled death, and ultimately, global subjugation.

His discovery threatens not only his life, but that of his wife Annie and their children. Only with the help of Russian master hacker Gregor Kalinsky and his gang can they hope to survive the perilous adventure that takes them from Boston to Beijing.

The Happy Chip, an edge-of-your-seat thriller, spins a cautionary tale of unchecked nanotechnology spawning insidious devices that could enslave us. It dramatically portrays how we must control our “nanofuture” before it’s too late.

About the author

Dennis Meredith brings to his novels an expertise in science from his career as a science communicator at some of the country’s leading research universities, including MIT, Caltech, Cornell, Duke and the University of Wisconsin. He has worked with science journalists at all the nation’s major newspapers, magazines, and radio and TV networks and has written well over a thousand news releases and magazine articles on science and engineering over his career.

Dennis Meredith

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