Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #CrimeFiction STILL YOU SLEEP by @k8vane #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Still You Sleep by Kate Vane

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4 stars

I chose this book from the review team list because I’d read another book, Brand New Friend, by this author and was most impressed by her characterisation.  Although this is a crime novel – not my usual choice – it concentrates on those involved in the situation (families, friends), and the journalists looking into it, which is why I enjoyed it much more than I might have done had it been a police procedural.

Vikki Smith is a young woman with a learning disability who is found dead from a drug overdose. The police write it off as an accident but online journalist Tilda Green and redundant crime reporter Freddie Stone believe foul play to be afoot; Freddie knows the family and Tilda scours social media on a daily basis, discovering much that makes her suspicious.

The story is very ‘real life’, warts-and-all, and one aspect that I liked is how current it is, both sociologically and in the way in which Tilda delves into every intricacy of social media, though I did wonder if it would go over the heads of people who don’t know exactly how Twitter works, on quite a complicated level. I’m a Twitter addict, though, so I really appreciated how well the author understood its idiosyncrasies.

The characterisation, dialogue and the logistics of the plot deserve a round of applause, though I felt there were one or two many storylines and character points of view. Social media strategies, dysfunctional families, social prejudice, drug dealers and abuse, alcoholism, two-faced politicians, unrequited love, alt-right versus liberal politics; every scenario is written most convincingly, but I’d sometimes get to the beginning of a new chapter from yet another POV and think, ‘Hang on a minute, who’s Simon?’, and have to look back to remind myself. The addition of so many plot threads and characters actually dilutes the evidence of her strengths; Ms Vane is a highly competent and readable writer. Less could be so much more, but this is really the only complaint I have about this book.

Still You Sleep flows along so well, wrapping all storylines together at the end, is entertaining, real, so relevant to today’s world, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who appreciates well-drawn characters by a writer who has a sharp understanding of topical issues – or who simply enjoys working out mysteries. 

Book description

Why wasn’t she safe at home?

Vikki Smith was a young woman with a learning disability, living independently for the first time, when she died of a drug overdose.

The police think it could have been an accident, but messages on social media suggest someone was exploiting her death for their own ends – before it was even announced. Her mother is convinced it was murder.

Redundant crime reporter Freddie Stone is a family friend. He wants to help them – and his failing career – but he’s a people person. He asks online journalist Tilda Green to work with him.

Tilda is curious, passionate and runs her own campaigning news site. She’s open to everything except compromise. But she’s intrigued by what Freddie tells her and agrees to work with him – for now.

Tilda thinks the trolls are organised and have links to hate groups. A charismatic local politician is determined to take them on. Some question his motives but Tilda trusts him, maybe too much.

Freddie believes the answer to Vikki’s death lies on the estate where she lived, if he could only get someone to speak out. He wants to know who was bringing drugs into Vikki’s home. He chases old contacts while struggling with his new life.

Beyond the virtual hate and her neighbours’ silence, someone knows who killed Vikki. Tilda and Freddie are determined to find the truth and tell her story.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Horror #Novella NIGHT SERVICE by @john_f_leonard

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Night Service by John F Leonard

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4 stars
In this horror novella, Luke is on his third date with Jessica and, finally, is getting to spend the night with her – but first they have to get from their night out in the city centre to her home, in a village miles away.  Luke would get a taxi, but it would bankrupt him, so they settle on their only option: the night service.
Also on board are a drunk skinhead, a chatty old man, a woman and a baby, and three members of a rock band.  All seems, if not fine, then not too much of a worry, until the bus begins to speed up, and they begin to realise that the silent driver is missing out all the stops…

Born from the author’s many travels on the night service in his younger days (it says in the notes at the back), this is a fun horror story that kept me turning the pages in its unravelling of unexpected developments, and well-painted atmosphere.  Although horrific, it is not without humour, and it sits well in the novella length, without any padding or excess detail that would slow it down.

The only aspect I was not so keen on was the constant use of the subordinate clause – short, staccato, incomplete sentences – to emphasise urgency, shock, fear.  I’m not necessarily a traditionalist when it comes to literary styles, and thought that sometimes, although not ‘correct’, it worked well, but other times it was used to the extent that it marred my enjoyment of the story.

The ending features another nice little twist; I’d say that if you love this genre and prefer shorter books that will only take you a couple of hours or so to read, you should like this.
Book description
It’s been a great night, but it’s getting late. You need to make tracks and cash isn’t king.

No worries… all aboard the Night Service. It could be the last bus you ever catch.

Every journey is a journey into the unknown, but this trip is an eye-opener, unlike anything that Luke and Jessica have ever experienced. They’re going to learn a few important lessons. Being young and in love doesn’t grant immunity from the everyday awful… or the less ordinary evil that lurks in the shadows.

There’s no inoculation from the horror of the world – it’s real and it’s waiting to touch you.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Apocalypse #ShortStory DEAD MEAT by Nick Clausen

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Dead Meat by Nick Clausen

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3 stars.
This is a long short story, possibly a novelette, illustrating Day One of a zombie apocalypse; I read it on a long train journey.
What I liked:
  • The basic premise: a day-by-day account of the zombie apocalypse.
  • How the outbreak was supposed to have started; an unusual and clever idea, not one I’d read before.
  • The characterisation is good, with each of the three protagonists clearly defined, in their dialogue, actions and (most importantly) their inner  thoughts; the relationship between the three is explained early, and works well.
  • The pace is good, and the writing mostly flows well.
  • That the book is written in the present tense, which I always prefer for more suspense and immediacy.
What I was not so sure about:
  • One of the main three characters is supposed to have seen loads of zombie films and every episode of The Walking Dead, but, when his group are trapped in a room with a zombie the other side and discussing their options for escape, does not appear to have learned how to kill them, and devises complicated plans that involve throwing stuff over them; they seem to think it more important to cut their arms off rather than kill the brain—the emphasis is on not getting scratched (which may but may not kill you) as opposed to getting bitten (which means a painful death and reawakening as a zombie).
  • I was confused earlier on because Thomas, Dan and Jennie were talking about the police not existing any more, and their family and friends possibly having become the walking dead, yet I thought the zombie they encountered in this house was supposed to be Patient Zero.  This is resolved to a certain extent, but at first I kept flicking back because I wasn’t quite sure what was going on.
  • Flashbacks are written in the present tense, which I don’t think worked.
  • Too much use of the present continuous: ‘the heat wave is going on’ and ‘the windows are sitting high’, instead of ‘the heat wave continues’ and ‘the windows sit high’, for instance, which would have read so much better; some of the sentences were a little flat or clumsy.
Basically, it’s a great idea and reads fairly well, but I think it needs some more redrafting and fine-tuning to live up to its potential.
Book description

The end of the world one day at a time

In this new apocalyptic zombie series from the author of They Come at Night and Human Flesh, we follow events day for day as the world slowly but surely decends into mayhem as the zombies take over. Don’t miss the thrilling ride!

For fans of The Walking Dead, The Orphans Book and World War Z.

How it all began

Three teenagers find themselves trapped in a stuffy, warm basement. The old lady who used to own the house is now dead. She’s also standing right on the other side of the basement door, scraping and moaning, trying to get in. Patiently. Tirelessly.

How did they end up here? Just a few hours ago, all three of of them were sitting in Thomas’ car, sweating and listening to music, not a care in the world. They were almost done with the paper route when they came to the old lady’s house. And that’s when everything turned to chaos.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Time Travel Adventure NEANDER by @AuthorHarald #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Neander by Harald Johnson

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4.5*
Tom Cook is a science journalist working on an archaeological dig in Gibraltar, when disaster strikes in the form of a boat accident—his pregnant fiancée is missing.  When Tom goes searching for her, he slips through a time portal that takes him back…. way back, to 40,000 years ago. Neanderthal man has yet to become extinct, though the threat of Homo Sapiens is on the horizon.
Tom finds ways to communicate with them and become part of their world.  Quite early on, I saw that this was not just a time travel adventure, and that Tom’s actions would have repercussions, which added interest, as I looked forward to finding out how great these would be.  Tom has a wealth of knowledge to teach his new family, and draws on his own research about Neanderthal man to find the best methods to help them, especially when they come face to face with the more ruthless Sapiens.
In the notes at the back, the author mentions having read Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari; I’ve read three books by Harari and could feel the influence; I actually thought ‘ah, he’s been reading Sapiens’ a couple of times, before I read the notes, but this wasn’t a negative; I liked it.
Neander held my interest all the way through; of course time travel stories always depend on disbelief suspension on the part of the reader, but the fantasy must be believeable within the fiction, and for the most part this was; I’d give it about seven out of ten, because I needed to know more about how he communicated with these prehistoric people in order to be completely convinced by the fact that he did.  Also, I was so looking forward to finding out how Tom’s actions of 40K years ago impacted on the world we know now, but there was less detail than I’d hoped for.  On the whole, though, this book is fun and an easy read, an inventive, interesting and original story, as well as providing questions and ideas on which to ponder, which makes it a win-win as far as I’m concerned; yes, I recommend it!
Book description

“My God. These people really ARE Neanderthals!”

At an archeological dig in Gibraltar, a boat explosion shatters the hopes of science journalist Tom Cook. His pregnant fiancée was on the boat and is missing.
During the search, things go from bad to worse when Tom plunges through a time portal and into the strange and dangerous era of the Neanderthals. Can he get back, or is he stuck in the past forever?

On top of figuring out how to return to the present, Tom must use his modern-day wits to fight for survival in the world of 40,000 years ago. And contend with a group of archaic humans that are not at all like what he expects.
Finally, Tom faces a crucial decision that could alter the course of human history. A history he knows he has the power to change. Will he make the right choice?

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #PostApocalyptic UPON US by Blakely Chorpenning

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Upon Us by Blakely Chorpenning

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3 stars.

I requested this book from the review team list because it looked right up my street – a world in decline, in which governments have agreed to plunge the planet back into the Dark Ages in order to let it recover (I assume).  This book takes place twenty-five years in, when crops are dying and a zombie-esque plague is on the warpath.  It is placed in the ‘New Adult’ in category, ie, aimed at ages 18-30; I’d put it towards the younger end of this range, or possibly even YA.

I’ll start by saying that the author writes well; she uses some lovely descriptive terms, her characterisation and dialogue is mostly fine, the story flows well, and the book – not a long one – has obviously been professionally proofread.  Sadly, though, the world building left me with too many unanswered questions, though it’s an interesting and unusual premise.  Of course, all post-apocalyptic and futuristic, dystopian worlds are products of the author’s imagination, but I think more time needed to be spent on thinking through how this ‘New Beginning’ took place, its orchestration, the events leading up to it and the aftermath, to the extent that I wondered if a more simple plot, like just the virus, might have been easier to work with.

The book starts so well, with the protagonist lying in wait to ambush a man (one of the ‘Privileged’) to help her and these clans obtain food; there has obviously been careful research into survival methods and ancient ways of cooking and growing food, which I liked, and there is no doubt that Ms Chorpenning can write; I think that if she worked with a really good developmental editor to help her create her world in a more fully-rounded sense, this book could be terrific.

Book description

What if the apocalypse was manufactured to save mankind?

Threatened by an ailing planet and insatiable human advancement, world governments agreed to ban the modern way of life, cutting off electricity, technology, and medical services, dismantling the global economy for one hundred years.

Twenty-five years have passed in this self-imposed darkness known as the New Beginning. Crops are dying and the sickness -a zombie-like plague of rotting flesh and fractured minds- is ravishing the East Coast of the United States.

One woman has been entrusted by the clans to remedy their food shortage. Breaking the rules is nothing new, but She -a nameless nomad- must abduct a privileged villager named Ren, bringing her too close for comfort with his entitled world. Together, they discover the root of the plague as their desire for one another grows, even as the differences in their two worlds collide.

Through deception and the horrors of an expanding pandemic, love thrives where a world chose to die.

UPON US is a New Adult post-apocalyptic love story with adult content and gory imagery (because -zombies).

AmazonUk | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Psychological police drama HANDS UP by Stephen Clark

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Hands Up by Stephen Clark

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4 out of 5 stars

An interesting crime novel that’s more psychological drama than thriller.  It centres around Ryan Quinn, a police officer who shoots and kills Tyrell Wakefield, a young black man pulled over in a routine traffic enquiry—or is it?  As the story progresses, we become more aware of racial profiling within the police, and especially that of Quinn’s partner, Greg.  More sinisterly, this same bigotry is present within the ‘civilian’ white families we meet in this book.


Also centre stage are Jade, Tyrell’s sister, and Kelly, his estranged father.  The story is written from these three points of view; Quinn is written in the first person, which totally worked for me, with Jade and Kelly in the third.  This also worked, I think, better than if Kelly and Jade had been in the first person as well.  They were all three-dimensional; Kelly, in particular, alternated in my head between being a basically decent guy who wanted to make up for some wrong choices in life, and an opportunistic creep. 


I very much liked how the truth about what happened that night, from Quinn’s point of view, came out only gradually, and that we saw the emotional effects of the case from all three sides.


When I began to read the book the first thing that struck me was that the author can certainly write; I was drawn in, immediately, though the first ten per cent includes a fair bit of telling-not-showing (when the writer tells the reader how someone is feeling/what their personality is like, rather than showing it in dialogue and actions), and, throughout, there is too much mundane detail—we don’t always need, for instance, to know what people were wearing, unless relevant, what they ate in restaurants (ditto), or how someone got from A to B.  I read in the notes at the back that the author is a (most successful) journalist, and this is evident; now and again, I felt as though he needed to be reminded that a novel’s flow can be improved by the omission of detail, rather than the inclusion of every fact.

Mostly, the plot kept me interested throughout, though I didn’t think the romantic involvement between Quinn and another character towards the end of the book was necessary; a friendship/sympathetic connection would have been enough, and more realistic; that it happened made both characters less credible, to me.  I also felt that Quinn’s previous romantic entanglement was too quickly and neatly disposed of.

On the whole, though, I liked this novel, and it has a lot going for it.  The issues of racial prejudice and police corruption were dealt with well, and though none of the characters were likeable, they were all fairly compelling.  I think that if Mr Clark were to learn the art of ruthless pruning during redrafts and observe how other writers create tension, he could produce something most memorable.

Book description

Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now, with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.

Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student living in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods. She knows the chances of getting an indictment against the cop who killed her brother are slim. When she learns there’s more to the story than the official police account, Jade is determined, even desperate, to find out what really happened. She plans to get revenge by any means necessary.

Kelly Randolph, who returns to Philadelphia broke and broken after abandoning his family ten years earlier, seeks forgiveness while mourning the death of his son. But after he’s thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.

Ryan, Jade, and Kelly–three people from different worlds—are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR by @AilishSinclair #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Mermaid And The Bear by Ailish Sinclair

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5 out of 5 stars

I chose this book from the review team list because I’ve loved looking at the author’s marvellous photos of Scotland on her website for some years now; I hoped that anyone so artistic and with such a love for the area in which this story is set would be a fine writer too, though this doesn’t necessarily follow, of course—but I’m pleased to say that I was not disappointed.


The Mermaid and The Bear is listed as a historical romance, but it’s much more than that. At first, after protagonist Isobell escaped her London betrothal to ‘Wicked Richard’ and headed for a Scottish castle to work as a kitchen maid, I wondered if the book would be too ‘twee’ for me; beautifully written and a good example of its type, but I thought it would follow the well-trodden romance novel path of misunderstandings and awkward situations before the lovers come together, and that would be that. I was so wrong! Although the relationship is an important part of the story arc, it is not the sole focus.


Ailish Sinclair’s portrayal of 16th century, wild rural Scotland is quite magical. On one recent evening I was curled up in bed, head on cushions and lights dimmed, and I found that I was revelling in every description of the countryside, the day-to-day life at the castle (particularly the Christmas revellry; this made me long to be in the book myself!), the suggestion of ancient spirituality, and the hopes and dreams of the characters. Suddenly I realised that I’d gone from thinking ‘yes, this is a pleasant enough, easy-read’ to ‘I’m loving this’.  

From about half-way through, the book becomes very dark indeed, as the witch-hunts of the time rear their gruesome head; there is a strong sense of good versus evil. This is where, for me, it became even more interesting.


Much of the locals’ dialogue is written in the Scottish dialect, but this is not overdone, so it didn’t become irritating to read at all—it just added authenticity. I liked how Isobell’s inner thoughts and conversation took on the Scottish words and phraseology gradually, over time, as would be the case. Her development over the course of the story is so realistic, and the Laird of the castle is the sort of character you can’t help falling a little bit in love with. The notes at the back add interest to the whole novel, too.


If you adore historical fiction, especially set in the 16th century, I’d recommend this book without hesitation. If you’re a bit ‘hmm’ about historical romance, I would still recommend it, without a doubt—and this is coming from someone who usually runs a mile from any variation on the romance genre. Go buy it. Now.

Book description

Isobell needs to escape. She has to. Her life depends on it.

She has a plan and it’s a well thought-out, well observed plan, to flee her privileged life in London and the cruel man who would marry her, and ruin her, and make a fresh start in Scotland.

She dreams of faery castles, surrounded by ancient woodlands and misty lochs… and maybe even romance, in the dark and haunted eyes of a mysterious Laird.

Despite the superstitious nature of the time and place, her dreams seem to be coming true, as she finds friendship and warmth, love and safety. And the chance for a new beginning…

Until the past catches up with her.

Set in the late sixteenth century, at the height of the Scottish witchcraft accusations, The Mermaid and the Bear is a story of triumph over evil, hope through adversity, faith in humankind and – above all – love.

AmazonUK | AmzonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction THE CONFESSOR’S WIFE by Kelly Evans

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Confessor’s Wife by Kelly Evans

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As more and more historical novels hit the virtual shelves, authors of the genre are digging deeper to find the lesser known characters to write about.  Edith was, as the title suggests, the wife of Edward the Confessor, one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England.  Edward was succeeded by Harold Godwinson, who was famously defeated by William of Normandy in 1066.

I enjoyed this – it’s a light sort of historical fiction that flows well, an ‘easy read’.  I don’t know much about the factual details of this time, but I did have a brief look online and it appears to be well-researched.  Also, the domestic details are presented well, with just enough information—I liked that there was none of the endless descriptive passages straight from the research notes that is present in some histfic; I never felt that I was reading the author’s research at all, which is always a plus.

On the slight downside there were times when I felt the dialogue was too modern, with the odd mild Americanism such as ‘snuck’ instead of ‘sneaked’, though they weren’t bad enough to make me stop reading.  My only other negative was problems with punctuation; either the author or her proofreader, or preferably both, need to learn about run-on sentences/comma splices; there were quite a lot of these, and the odd missing comma.  But, again, this was only mildly irritating.

This isn’t a book for the historical fiction purist or buff, but for those who are only after an enjoyable, light novel with some well-drawn characters and an interesting look back in time, I’d say it’s just the thing.

Book description

In the 11th Century, when barren wives are customarily cast aside, how does Edith of Wessex not only manage to stay married to King Edward the Confessor, but also become his closest advisor, promote her family to the highest offices in the land, AND help raise her brother to the throne? And why is her story only told in the footnotes of Edward’s history?

Not everyone approves of Edward’s choice of bride. Even the king’s mother, Emma of Normandy, detests her daughter-in-law and Edith is soon on the receiving end of her displeasure. Balancing her sense of family obligation with her duty to her husband, Edith must also prove herself to her detractors.

Edward’s and Edith’s relationship is respectful and caring, but when Edith’s enemies engineer her family’s fall from grace, the king is forced to send her away. She vows to do anything to protect her family’s interests if she returns, at any cost. Can Edith navigate the dangerous path fate has set her, while still remaining loyal to both her husband and her family?

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Victorian #mystery INTRIGUE & INFAMY by @carolJhedges

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Intrigue & Infamy by Carol J Hedges

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In a Nutshell:  Mid-Victorian murder mystery, set in London.  Book 7 of a series of stand-alones.

Loved it, loved it.  When I got to 80% I found myself slowing down because I didn’t want to read it too quickly.  In this 7th book of the series, racism rears its ugly head, showing that it is far from being just a 20th and 21st century problem.  Stride and Cully must deal with a series of arson attacks on businesses, and the brutal murder of an old Italian man.

Elsewhere, socialite Juliana Silverton is thoroughly enjoying the attention received since her engagement to hedonistic rich boy Henry Haddon, her delight marred only by a secret from the past … and the appearance of Henry’s younger half-brother’s new tutor.

This book is as expertly structured as the rest of the series, and includes similarly colourful characters and the ever-present chasm between rich and poor, so much a theme in all the books – and in certain areas of life nothing has changed; young aristocrats with powerful connections are able to get away with the most heinous of crimes, just as they always have been and are now.

Although illustrating society’s problems in the most deft way, Ms Hedges does not fall into the cliché of making all the privileged characters the ‘bad guys’; I was pleased to see a happy outcome for one, in particular.  I guessed the perpetrators of the crimes quite early on, but this didn’t matter a jot; the joy of reading these books is the writing itself, the vivid pictures of 1860s London, and the slow unfolding of sub-plots.

I can’t help but think of what star rating I will give a book while I am reading it, and this was a solid 5* all the way through, but what earned it my extra ‘gold’ star was the end twist that I never saw coming.  It was beautifully executed, and made me smile as I realised how other aspects were explained by it.

If you haven’t read any of these books, I recommend you start now – and I hope this is not the end of the series….

Book description

It is 1866, the end of a long hot summer in Victorian London, and the inhabitants are seething with discontent. Much of it is aimed at the foreign population living in the city. So when a well-reputed Jewish tailoring business is set aflame, and the body of the owner is discovered inside, Detective Inspector Lachlan Grieg suspects a link to various other attacks being carried out across the city, and to a vicious letter campaign being conducted in the newspapers.

Can he discover who is behind the attacks before more people perish?

Elsewhere, Giovanni Bellini arrives in England to tutor the youngest son of Sir Nicholas Haddon, ex-MP and City financier. But what are Bellini’s links to a dangerous Italian radical living in secret exile in London, and to beautiful Juliana Silverton, engaged to Harry Haddon, the heir to the family fortune?

Romance and racism, murder and mishap share centre stage in this seventh exciting book in the Victorian Detectives series.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Intrigue

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #SciFi #Dystopia #Thriller THE ECHO CHAMBER by Rhett Evans

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Echo Chamber by Rhett Evans

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SciFi, dystopian techno-thriller involving AI and social media

What I liked:

  • The author has talent; this is a most original novel that makes some interesting points in an intelligent and well-informed fashion. Basically, he can write good sentences, has a fine handle on suspense, and uses words creatively.
  • It is clear that he really knows his subject: Silcon Valley, the dangers of AI and dependence on social media; how it is now so ingrained into our culture. The Echo Chamber shows a good understanding of the future that is just around the corner, some of it already happening; the manipulation of our thoughts and prejudices by the media, the lack of security concerning the data we give out so freely, and its use by AI to re-order the population. This is all stuff I love to read about, and some of which I have written about myself, so certain aspects had me engrossed.
  • It is inventive; I was impressed by the world put together within the pages, and the insight.
  • There are some great twists.
  • It’s well professionally put together, and decently proofread.
  • The author has something to say. This, I think, makes a novel more than just a story.


What I was not so sure about

  • It’s very technical in parts; as I’ve said, I have an interest in the subject matter, but some of it I found rather heavy-going. I think that if you don’t have a quite good understanding of new technology, much of it might go over your head.
  • The structure: it goes back and forth between ‘Before’ (the collapse of the US) and ‘After’, with other ‘Outside Time’ sections.  I’m usually a fan of going back and forth between different periods, but in this case I think a linear structure would have worked so much better. I kept enjoying the ‘Before’ parts, then being dragged out of it to read about different situations, ‘After’. This hampered the flow, and made it definitely not an ‘easy read’. I wondered, at times, if it was experimental for the sake of being experimental.
  • The dramatic event and its fallout, when it happens, is dealt with so quickly – instead of seeing it experienced from character point of view, we are just told about it, in a brief fashion, by a narrator.  
  • Most of all – there is little or no characterisation. I felt as though the author had thought up a brilliant plot, but added the characters as an afterthought. Mostly, they just seem like names on the page, as vehicles for what he wanted to write about.  Only one is three-dimensional (Orion). 

This is a debut novel, and, as I said, I can see that Mr Evans has talent and a great deal to say, but I think he needs to take some time to learn about writing as a reader, and understanding that characters are central to any story – because readers react to what happens in a fictional world because of how it affects the people they’re reading about, not because of the events themselves.  It does, however, have a few stunning reviews, so if you’re madly into tech rather than people, you might love this book.

Book description

A Silicon Valley scandal sets off a chain of dystopian events in this topical and twist-laden thriller about virtual heists, social media, and second chances.

Mike is a Silicon Valley wunderkind who stood idly by while his company launched an addicting social media platform that made the world take a turn for the worse. He did nothing when an outrageous tech scandal pushed a polarized country to the brink of collapse. Then, after becoming trapped in a loop of his own memories, he is doomed to watch society fall apart over and over. Only by crossing paths with Charlotte Boone—once Hollywood’s up-and-coming royalty—does a kink appear in the pattern. With a daring heist in both the virtual and real worlds, Charlotte may hold the key to burning it all to the ground: the company, the lying pundits, and the echo chamber itself.

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