Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Psychological Suspense SICK by @christawojo #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Sick by Christa Wojciechowski

SICK Part I (The Sick Series Book 1) by [Wojciechowski, Christa]

4 out of 5 stars

This is a short novella that I read in just two hours, and possibly the most peculiar book I’ve ever read.  John Branch is an impoverished aristocrat who lives in squalor with his wife, a podiatric nurse called Susan; the book is written from Susan’s first person point of view.  Throughout their marriage he has suffered one illness after another, and terrible accidents; many of his maladies baffle the doctors.  Suzie lives on frazzled nerves and chocolate bars, but they love each other, and exist in their own little world of their house and his illnesses.  Their relationship is odd in the extreme, with their baby talk, and the way she refers to him, and he acts, as if he is a child.  She is a plain woman who had little in her life before they met; he is everything to her.

At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish it; I wondered if English was the author’s first language as Susan talks about singing John his favourite ‘lullaby’ when he is ill, and describes him as having ‘pretty lips’; there are several other odd word choices, and I couldn’t work out if they were part of the peculiarity of the couple, or if they were just ill-chosen.  Also, a hyphen is used instead of an em dash throughout, which is confusing when the hyphen is used for two different purposes in the same sentence.  Thirdly, the book is graphic in its descriptions of blood, puss and worse; I can do gory violence, but not bodily functions/secretions.  But at the same time it’s very well-written; it’s dark, vivid and horribly depressing.  As it went on, I thought, yes, I do want to read it, but perhaps it’ll be one of those ‘3*, good but not my cup of tea’ books.

Then I got to appreciating it more and more, and I understood how clever it is.

It becomes clear that all is not what it seems in the dingy servants’ house where they live, on the estate that once belonged to John’s family, but Suzie is too tired, undernourished and concerned for John to investigate the irregularities.  When the truth about John’s illnesses comes out, the whole story is turned on its head.

So I ended up giving it 4* because I liked it ~ I would recommend it to anyone who is not squeamish and likes something a bit out of the ordinary.  And I think I might pick up the sequel at some point, too; I am most intrigued to see what happens next!

Book description

John Branch is a brilliant-minded aristocrat, bereft of his family’s wealth, ravaged by a terrible and as yet unidentified disease. Susan is a hard-working nurse at the end of her tether. Years of caring for her charming yet debilitated husband have begun to take their toll. Living in squalor, in the very shadow of a mansion that John and his family used to own, she is plagued by the intrusive groundskeeper Pete, ever-increasing bills, and the constant threat of John’s physical collapse.

John’s illness has always baffled doctors, and there are times when she wishes that he would just slip away. But John’s mind is very much alive, and she can’t help but cling onto the dream he will recover.

As pressures mount, Susan resorts to one desperate act after another to keep John alive and manage his pain, all the while haunted by a creeping sense that something isn’t right with her world…

SICK is a Gothic novel in the true sense: brimming with atmosphere and suspense, rich with style and psychological insight. This seemingly simple tale of two psyches will take you to the heart of the human condition, and show you just how twisted the relationships with those closest to us can be.

About the author

Christa (Wojo) Wojciechowski is the author of The Wrong David, The Sick Series, and is working on a series called The Sculptor of New Hope. Her characters explore existential turmoil, mental illness, and the complexity of romantic love. She uses her stories to compare the dark, carnal nature of humanity with its higher qualities of creative expression and intellectualism.

Christa currently resides in the mountains of Panama with her husband and a house full of pets. She works as a freelance digital marketer and helps thought leaders, podcasters, and fellow writers develop their marketing platforms. Christa enjoys foreign movies, yoga, wine, and rambling around in the cloud forests near her home. Most of all, she’s passionate about books and writers, and loves discussing them on social media.

Christa Wojciechowski

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #crimefiction Brand New Friend by Kate Vane @k8vane

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading BRAND NEW FRIEND by Kate Vane


4 out of 5 stars

The basic plot: Paolo is a BBC journalist, who gets a call from Mark, an old friend from university days, when they were fellow animal rights activists. Then a newspaper report exposes Mark as an undercover police officer, and his former ‘handler’ is murdered.  Paolo is wrenched away from his affluent life, with the house in Suffolk, successful wife and two children, back to his days at Leeds University, and the friends he knew at the time.  Who exposed Mark?  Who was really responsible for an on-campus fire back in the 1980s, in which a security officer died?  Paolo soon discovers that there is more going on than originally met his journalistic eye…

This book was a slow starter for me, but by about 20% I started to get more into it, and by half way through I was enjoying it a lot, and looking forward to getting back to it.  The story dots back and forth in equal measure between the murder case and Paolo’s life back in what I assume to be around 1984; gradually, the two stories merge.  I found the murder/conspiracy plot and present day half of the book only moderately interesting, but loved the sections set in the old days ~ the desperate-to-be-hip-and-relevant characters and the atmosphere of the time were so real.  The wannabe cool guy Paolo, terminally bored Isabel, spiky, chip-on-her-shoulder Claire and determinedly zany ‘Ratman’ are so well drawn, as was their dismissal of football-and-a-pint boy Graham, the odd man out.  I loved how aspirational they all were, though over the years their aspirations changed ~ from the ‘making a difference’ cliché and being seen as authentic and academically inspired despite having been drunk/stoned/speeding/in bed with a stranger until 4 am the night before, to succeeding in the capitalist society they once claimed to despise.

What kept me reading was the astute observations, and the slow unfolding of the changing dynamic between the friends – I actually would have been happy with just this as a novel, with maybe just the security officer murder aspect; Ms Vane’s understanding of her characters is good enough to carry a less sensational plot.  Only two aspects grated a tiny bit ~ in the 1980s Claire is meant to be a working class girl from Durham, but she talks like a middle class girl from the south; there is no trace of the North East in any of her dialogue.  Also, they all refer to ‘uni’ instead of ‘university’ ~ aside from the fact that it’s ghastly, I am not sure people had started doing so in the early-mid 1980s.  I believe it originated from Aussie soap operas; the first time I heard it was around 1989.

To sum up, I’d give 3* to the ‘main’ story which, for me, had too many long conversations with people explaining to each other why things happened and how they found them out, but 4.5* with some 5* moments to the whole 1980s element ~ thus, I shall round up at 4*.   I didn’t love it all but I liked it (some parts very much), and it’s definitely worth a read.  Especially if you were a student in the 1980s, I should think.

Book description

Friend. Liar. Killer?

BBC foreign correspondent Paolo Bennett is exiled to a London desk – and the Breakfast sofa – when he gets a call from Mark, a friend from university in eighties Leeds. Paolo knew Mark as a dedicated animal rights activist but now a news blog has exposed him as an undercover police officer. Then Mark’s former police handler is murdered.

Paolo was never a committed campaigner. He was more interested in women, bands and dreaming of a life abroad. Now he wonders if Mark’s exposure and his handler’s murder might be linked to an unexplained death on campus back when they were friends. What did he miss?

Paolo wants the truth – and the story. He chases up new leads and old friends. From benefit gigs and peace protests, to Whatsapp groups and mocktail bars, the world has changed, but Mark still seems the same.

Is Mark the spy who never went back – who liked his undercover life better than his own? Or is he lying now? Is Paolo’s friend a murderer?

About the author

I’m an author of (mostly) crime and suspense, living in Devon.

My crime novel, Brand New Friend, will be published on 5 June 2018.

I have written for BBC drama Doctors and have had short stories and articles published in various publications and anthologies, including Mslexia and Scotland on Sunday.

I mainly read crime and literary fiction with some non-fiction and am a recent convert to audiobooks.

Kate Vane

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #PostApocalyptic Assaulted Souls by William Blackwell

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Assaulted Souls by William Blackwell


3 out of 5 stars

This first instalment of the Assaulted Souls series is a short novel (possibly a novella) of just 183 pages.  The setting is an alternative reality ~ the year 2016, three months after a nuclear blast.  The story opens with Nathan King – who has lost his memory due to a fall from a balcony – waking up in a cave with a man he doesn’t recognise and no recollection about how he got there.  Great opening.  We soon find out that the cave is on Prince Edward Island, which I assume to be off the coast of Canada, and Nathan begins to piece facts together via information from the stranger (Edward) and his own still hazy memory.

Elsewhere, Nathan’s girlfriend, Cadence, is held captive by the cannibalistic Thorvald.  In another cave we meet escaped convicts Karl and Russ.  Everyone is scared of the Neanderthals, a group of other escaped convicts from the same facility as Karl and Russ.

This opening to the series has a lot going for it; there is some excellent, amusing dialogue (both spoken and inner), and the setting descriptions totally worked; I could imagine every scene.  It rips along, and I found each character to be clearly defined from the outset.  Mr Blackwell can certainly write, and this is one of my favourite genres. 

However, much though I enjoyed the author’s writing style and humour, I feel that the book needs more work ~ careful redrafting, the fine-tuning of ungrammatical sentences, and more attention to structure.  The backstory of some important issues, such as Nathan’s amnesia and the nuclear blast itself, are brushed off in the odd short paragraph (some of which read like notes that were written with the intention of expanding them in a later draft), whereas a story about some trouble with a difficult tenant in Nathan’s past life was more detailed than necessary for such short book, and not particularly relevant; the tenant does appear later on, but is in and out within a couple of pages.  Mr Blackwell is clearly imaginative, articulate and can write some captivating sentences (which is much of what writing a good book is all about), but there were too many that made me go ‘ouch’. At first I was highlighting passages and making the note ‘ill-thought out sentence’.  As I found myself highlighting more and more, I shortened it to ‘ITOS’.  Then I gave up.   A few examples:

‘..his stomach was still knotted with hunger and when he had woke up this morning he had even…’ ~ either ‘when he woke up’, or ‘when he had awakened’ or ‘when he had woken’.

‘The radiation had already infected his mind, producing a stark raving lunatic’.  Better: ‘turning him into a stark etc’, or something like ‘producing worrying psychotic tendencies’; I think the phrase ‘stark raving lunatic’ is a more like something you’d read in a comic book, anyway.

There are run-on sentences (two independent clauses without an appropriate punctuation mark or conjunction to separate them) and non-sentences such as this: Suddenly banging and growling at the door.

To sum up, the basics are all there, but in my opinion it needs fleshing out, more re-drafting and the help of a good copy editor for it to stand up as the good example of this genre that it could be.

Book description

Nathan King wakes up one day freezing cold and starving with hunger on a tattered mattress in a dark cave and has no idea where or who he is.

He meets Edward Sole, apparently his protector for the last few months, who tells him a nuclear bomb has been dropped and most, if not all of the world, has been destroyed.

Slowly the realization sinks in that in this horrific post-apocalyptic landscape, there are no rules, no laws. Cannibalism is rampant, mutant animals and humans are on the attack.

With all communication cut off, and meagre supplies, every day becomes a fight for survival and sanity!

To make matters worse, a band of savages called The Neanderthals have emerged who rape, pillage and murder for more than just survival. They enjoy it.

Fighting for their survival and hoping to find a more hospitable island off the coast of Prince Edward Island, Ed and Nathan team up with Cadence Whitaker, Nathan’s girlfriend whom he has no recollection of, and fierce warrior Velvet Jones to try and hatch a plan to escape the island before they’re all killed.

In the meantime, Ed has begun a slow descent into madness, leaving the group wondering who the enemy really is.

A lightning-paced, action-packed exploration of a terrifying existence in a wasteland produced by mankind’s stupidity.

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

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Bad Blood Will Out by William Savage


4 out of 5 stars

This is the fourth in the Ashmole Foxe series of 18th century murder mysteries.  Foxe is a dapper entrepreneur living in the centre of Norwich.  Officially, he is a bookseller and purveyor of rare volumes, but in reality he has little interest in his shop, leaving it to be run by the reliable Mrs Crombie.  Aside from this, Foxe dabbles his fingers in many pies, not least of all the solving of murders to which he is often referred by the Alderman and other leading lights in the city.

In Bad Blood Will Out, Foxe is presented with two murders: one is that of a wealthy chandler, the other an actor in the White Swan theatre.  At first Foxe dismisses the latter, but finds his thoughts returning to it over and over.  His days are busy; he is also obliged to play host to his nephew Nicholas, who has come to the city to learn how to become a businessman.  As the early chapters progress, Foxe soon finds that, despite the presence of the odious Postgate, the theatre stage manager he and most others detest, he cannot resist delving into the White Swan murder – which soon becomes murders in the plural.

Like all of William Savage’s books, Bad Blood Will Out is a highly readable mix of intricate plot construction and wonderful characters; Ashmole Foxe remains a delight, and the other characters are all fully rounded, with plenty of subtle humour in the dialogue.  The time and place is beautifully illustrated, with a backdrop of the world of 18th century theatre.

A stunning first chapter about a fire at the theatre some years before had my interest well and truly piqued, and the unfolding plot lived up to expectations (and the murder weapon had me stumped!).  I did wish, on occasion, that more events were shown in the same way as that first chapter, rather than being described/reported to Foxe, but this is just the personal preference of one who likes stories told from several points of view; I certainly enjoyed this novel and am sure Mr Savage’s many readers will find it every bit as charming as all the others.

Book description

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

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

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

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

About the author

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

William Savage

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT art #thriller Restitution by @RoseEdmunds

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Restitution by Rose Edmunds


4 out of 5 stars

In this third book in the Crazy Amy series, Amy travels to Prague to help 84 year old George Smithies recover a Picasso painting last seen in 1939, and help him find his way through the maze of Czech art restitution law.  The situation is a complex one, as there is mystery surrounding family ties, and right of ownership is not straightforward.  Amy and George meet up with Beresford, an art historian to whom Amy takes an immediate dislike, and her old ‘frenemy’, Mel.  It soon transpires that Amy and George are not the only ones interested in the painting, which puts Amy in great danger.

The amount of research that has gone into this book is evident, with much about the history and culture of the Czech Republic that I found most interesting; I like novels that teach me about other countries.

Amy is oddly likable, even though she shouldn’t be; she’s snobbish and judgemental with a hell of a chip on her shoulder (and I couldn’t forgive her for dragging poor, reluctant George out for a walk on their first night in freezing cold Prague!), but there’s something about the way she’s so honest about herself that makes her endearing.  Her emotional dilemmas, even just the seemingly trivial ones like whether or not she ought to sleep with a man who attracts her and how to get rid of the excess five pounds around her middle, make her seem very real.  

Though maybe not always so self-aware: ‘ “..Amy, did anyone ever suggest you might have a problem with alcohol?”  “Yes”, I snapped, “the idiots at the Priory”.’    I love that!  Her bitchy-aside-a-minute relationship with chavvy gold digger Mel is beautifully illustrated in its oneupmanship; I think observation about people’s motivations and insecurities is a real strength of this author, and I’d love to see more of it in future books. 

Still battling through the difficulties caused by her psychological problems, Amy makes some candid statements: ‘Everyone pretends there’s no stigma against mental health issues, like everyone pretends there’s no sexism or racism.  But it’s still bubbling away beneath the surface and … people will find a cogent, lawful reason for denying me a job … That’s the way it is’

I liked that this novel was less overtly fast-paced than the previous one, with more ‘downtime’.  It’s cleverly structured, and I’m sure it will be appreciated by readers who like to immerse themselves in thrillers with complicated plots, and anyone with an interest in said plot’s subject matter, ie, the restitution of valuable works of art.

Book description

Reeling from a catalogue of disasters, flaky sleuth Amy travels to Prague to help an old man recover a Picasso painting last seen in 1939. It seems like a mundane assignment, but the stakes are far higher than Amy imagines. Competing forces have vested interests, and are prepared to kill to meet their goals. Caught amid a tangle of lies, with her credibility in question and her life on the line, could Amy’s craziness be her salvation…?

About the author

For more than 20 years, Rose Edmunds almost passed as normal, working undercover in in several well-known financial firms in London while quietly gathering material for her novels.

Since jumping off the corporate hamster wheel Rose now writes thrillers with a strong ethical theme. Her writing draws heavily on her considerable insight into business world and in particular the uncomfortable conflict between capitalism and humanity.

Rose’s debut thriller, Never Say Sorry, was about a Big Pharma conspiracy to suppress a cancer cure. Since then, she has been working on the Crazy Amy thriller series—an ambitious project which will follow the brilliant but unstable Amy Robinson on her journey from senior finance executive to who knows where…

Rose Edmunds

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Alt #History The Usurper King by Zeb Haradon #TuesdayBookBlog

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Usurper’s King by Zeb Haradon


4.5 out of 5 stars

I chose this book from the review team submissions list because I liked the idea: an alternative present, in which the crimes of Ted Bundy have not been discovered, and he is now running for president, as a Republican.  Senator Bundy is facist, sexist, you-name-it-ist, and pro-guns; in this alternative reality, active shooters (who number amongst his supporters) are a force to be reckoned with on a day-to-day basis, rather than an occasional horror. 

I did not know what to expect when I opened the book; it has an unremarkable cover (an Amazon standard?), few reviews and low rankings, but I’m happy to report that, as far as my review blog goes, never has the phrase ‘don’t judge a book etc’ been more apt.  Zeb Haradon is a terrific writer with a real story-telling spark that’s superbly dry, witty and world-weary, and his humour is absolutely up my street.  The book is clever, unusual, touching, funny and in parts made me laugh out loud, a rare occurrence; I was heard to mutter ‘Brilliant!’ in a couple of places.  I read it in 48 hours.

The Usurper King is told from the first person point of view of Jim Galesh, a 40 year old guy who has always struggled to find his place in the world.  He has a broken marriage, a drink problem, and suffers from a disease called TAP: Technologically Acquired Progeria.  This was acquired via ‘some sociopathic prankster who decided to write the first hybrid biological/computer virus’.  Basically, he is ageing much more quickly than he should be (and the stuff about his time working in computer journalism, where he got this disease, is hilarious).

Jim is on the way to winning big money when he stars on the game show Guts!, on which contestants practice extispicy ~ predicting the future by studying animal entrails.  Via the show he meets super-intelligent hillbilly Nick, who introduces him to the idea that Bundy is a serial killer, and that many of the murders attributed to the Green River Killer were actually committed by Bundy.

One of the high spots was discovering, half way through, the identity of ‘JW’, Bundy’s Democratic rival, which explained some things like Chicago’s high murder rate ~ it was dropped in so smoothly.  Elsewhere, some of the parts I loved best were those about Jim’s family: his son Reg, who he adores, and neurotic ex-wife Agatha and her control freak family.  There are a wonderful few pages about his in-laws:

“Do you remember Clippy?  That’s the cartoon paper clip in Microsoft from the late 1990s.  You would open a new document and start writing and it would just up and force itself into your writing and say “it looks like you’re writing a letter” and try to offer these unhelpful writing tips while you look for the X button to shut it down.. I think they call it Office Assistant…. anyway, Agatha’s mother was like a cross between Clippy and Nurse Ratched… then there was her father.  As you might imagine, the years with Clippy Ratched have left him a shell of a human.”

Often, it was just the day-to-day observations that I loved the most, or odd sentences; I highlighted so many.

“They had the kind of faces you see in an illustrated dictionary next to the definition of the word ‘loser’.” 

“Some other dork trying to look like a thug came in carrying a baseball bat.  ‘I understand you don’t want to co-operate.  I’m the guy they bring in to help people co-operate.  They call me Mr Co-operation’.”

Nick“You got a phone?  I mean one of them fancy ones with the internet on.”

When Jim goes to a doctor to try and get more of the medicine that helps him cut down drinking, the doctor is reluctant to give it, and tries to steer him, instead, towards the Twelve Steps: “The only criticism of it I read came from these AA lunkheads and websites for rehabs who stood to lose a bundle if people found something that actually worked.”

I’m giving this 4.5* because there are a fair few proofreading errors (missing vocative commas, argh!), particularly in one section around the middle that wasn’t as well put together as the rest of the book (it’s when Jim is trying to get Bundy looked into), to the extent that I wondered if it had been written in a hurry, an afterthought, but I’ll still round that 4.5* up to 5* on Amazon, because it really is a great book.  Another proofread, a bit of a tidying up in places, and it would be outstanding.  I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who likes clever observational humour of the dry American kind.  The end is totally, totally unexpected, by the way.

Whether or not some of it is a comment on the current political situation in the US, I really couldn’t say.

“…like the old British class system, where mediocre people get special privileges because they were born into wealth.  But it does seem there is a natural aristocracy – one which comes from intelligence, acquired ability, self-education, a natural curiosity about the world, an independence of thought, or maybe just a vigor for life – and which cleaves society into the winners and the losers.  The losers, finding themselves impotent in mastering the art of life, are naturally going to be envious and bitter, and voting for Bundy was their revenge against the world.”

The Usurper King takes place in an alternate universe where the serial killer Ted Bundy was never apprehended and is now running for president in 2016.

Jim, a sufferer of a hybrid computer-biological virus that causes premature aging, tries to pay for his treatments by winning money on the game show ‘Guts!’, which has contestants competitively predict the future by reading animal entrails.

As Jim begins to find omens in the entrails of Bundy’s victory, and details of Bundy’s murderous past are uncovered, Jim and another contestant take it upon themselves to stop his ascent to power before it’s too late.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #Dystopia Broken Branches by Ben Ellis @b3n3llis

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Broken Branches by Ben Ellis


3 out of 5 stars

The basic plot:

In the future, all men in Britain are sterile. Fertility drugs for procreation are given only to couples whose genetic matches are approved by the state. Those without a family history to prove their genetic heritage are known as broken branches, treated as inferior citizens and not allowed to breed, so that the genetic purity of the National Family Tree will be preserved.  On presenting an application to have a child, each case is decided upon by a jury of over forty people, randomly chosen from the genetically approved public.

The novel contains some feasible ideas about the not too distant future: compulsory DNA sampling at birth, genetic enhancement of a foetus being the norm, and, of course, the necessity for health insurance, usually provided by an employer, which some say we are heading towards sooner rather than later.  Mr Ellis shows some nice turns of phrase and imaginative metaphors, and I liked some of the philosophy (often inner dialogue) about the human race as a whole.

On the whole, though, I felt the finished article needed a bit more thinking through. I needed to know straight away why all the men were sterile, but it is not revealed until half way through.  Several generations before, a male contraceptive pill had been introduced in order to control population, that ended up causing sterility.  Hmm.  I’m not convinced that many men would take it in the first place, given that virility is an important element of the masculine identity.  A character called Maiya doesn’t know she is infertile until told by a doctor that she was the victim of a government sterilisation programme, but neither we nor Maiya are told what this programme was, and for some reason she doesn’t ask.  I had too many unanswered questions, generally.

Other stuff I liked: early on, the ‘pub culture’ scenes are well done and authentic.  When protagonists Grace and Tom submit their application to become parents, we are shown snapshots of the conversations between couples chosen as the ‘jury’, to show how they arrived at the decision, an inspired touch which made for an entertaining and revealing sideshow about human nature; I would have loved more like this.  Alas, there was a lack of individuality in the dialogue, generally; practically all couples call each other ‘love’. Almost all the characters have short tempers and say ‘f**k’ a lot.  Sometimes the technology appeared not to have moved on as it might; it’s meant to be several generations into the future but people still talk about their ‘mobile’ phones, a phrase that’s started to sound a little outdated even now.

Interspersed between the main chapters are some curious short ones written from the point of view of someone who turned out to be a computer programmer (I think).  Some of it is a bit ‘fourth wall’, about the writing and publication of the book itself.  He talks about a new programme called 4cast which can programme futures according to DNA and data collected all over the world ~ another of the great ideas present in the novel. Again, though, it all seemed a bit haphazard.

To sum up: an original story containing imaginative, unusual concepts.  I read all the after-book acknowledgements, etc., and must thank the author for the Wikipedia entry about the Tasmanian aboriginals ~ fascinating stuff, it led me to look up more.  Ellis thanks his beta readers for ‘getting through the third draft’ ~ speaking as a writer who still finds dodgy bits as late as the fifth draft, I felt it could have done with another one or two.  The grammar and punctuation (copy editing) is mostly fine, but I think some professional content editing would make this book as good as it could be.

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 Terry reviews #Tudor #HistFic Mary: Tudor Princess by @tonyriches

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading MARY: Tudor Princess by Tony Riches


4 out of 5 stars

Like many people, I have an unquenchable thirst for good fiction about the Plantagenet and Tudor period.  I wondered if Mary Tudor’s story in itself would be enough to sustain a novel, but was pleased to see that it added to my knowledge of the Tudor period and I liked the way the author used her story to produce another, interesting perspective on that of Henry VIII, as Mary fretted over the troubles with France and watched the fortunes of her friend Queen Catherine plummet.

There are some clever ideas in this tale of Henry’s sister, such as placing the thirteen-year-old Anne Boleyn as her maid, on the night of her wedding to King Louis of France.  Whether she really was or not I don’t know, and neither does it matter, though we are given the information that Anne became one of the ladies of Mary’s bedchamber.  That the reader knows more about what was happening at court than the protagonist is a smart move, as we turn the pages in anticipation of her finding out; as an aristocratic woman of her time, Mary’s life was, of course, subject to the machinations of the men who controlled her.  Later, when kept away from court at Brandon’s seat in Suffolk, she knew only what she heard from others, which included very little of her own husband’s infidelities.

As is usual with Tony Riches’ books, it is clear that much research has been undertaken without it ever seeming research-heavy, a skill I always admire.

Given that the story is of a whole life, and a not uneventful one, this is not a very long book and at times I felt that more detail might have made it more absorbing, for instance in the development of Mary’s first, brief marriage to King Louis of France, of Charles Brandon’s feeling towards her, of the discovery of her husband’s infidelity, and the loss of her first son.  I didn’t feel I knew Mary until half way through, and at times it seemed the story was being somewhat raced through as new characters emerged, older ones died off until, had I not known a great deal about this time, I might have forgotten who was who; on the other hand, it is written as Mary would have seen it—and novels of Tudor history are always hampered by the fact that everyone is called Anne, Mary, Catherine, Charles, Henry and Thomas!

I did enjoy it and read it in two sittings; I just felt that, on occasion, the story required extra depth to make me feel really involved with the main character and less as though I was reading a catalogue of factual happenings.  It’s as well-written as all Mr Riches’ books, though, and that I read it so quickly shows that I found it a page-turner.

Mary’s death at the end was beautifully executed.  I do love a good ending.  I’d definitely recommend this book as an addition to the library of fellow Tudor addicts.

Book description

From the author of the international best-selling Tudor Trilogy, the true story of the Tudor dynasty continues with the daughter of King Henry VII, sister to King Henry VIII. Mary Tudor watches her elder brother become King of England and wonders what the future holds for her.

Born into great privilege, Mary has beauty and intelligence beyond her years and is the most marriageable princess in Europe. Henry plans to use her marriage to build a powerful alliance against his enemies. Will she dare risk his anger by marrying for love?

Meticulously researched and based on actual events, this ‘sequel’ follows Mary’s story from book three of the Tudor Trilogy and is set during the reign of King Henry VIII.

About the author

Tony Riches is a full-time author from Pembrokeshire, West Wales, an area full of inspiration for his writing. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present day Kenya.

His real interest is in the history of the Tudors and now his focus is on writing historical fiction about the lives of key figures of the period.

Best known for his Tudor Trilogy, Tony’s other international best sellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’. In his spare time Tony enjoys sailing and sea kayaking.

Tony Riches

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

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading The Happy Chip by Dennis Meredith


THE HAPPY CHIP by Dennis Meredith

3.5 stars

Freelance writer Brad Davis has been employed at no small cost by scientific genius Marty Fallon to write his autobiography.  Fallon is the inventor of ‘the Happy Chip’, a device injected into the body that works alongside an app to determine which products, sensations, sights and just about everything else give the individual the most pleasure; it’s the ultimate in the pursuit of happiness.  In order to qualify for his big pay day, Brad must have the chip inserted himself.  However, Brad is unaware that he has been given a new prototype that contains a GPS tracker, with more control afforded to NeoHappy, the company that produces the chip.

The idea of this story is most original, and also feasible; I imagine that if the Happy Chip hasn’t already been invented, it soon will be – and yes, I should think that if/when it is, millions will flock to use it, never suspecting that such a development can be used to control the mindset of the population.  It is so very sinister because it is plausible.

Brad is 50% a-bit-naïve-ordinary-guy and 50% sceptical investigative journalist.  After only a couple of days, he suspects he is not being given the full story, which bothers him not least of all because he is anxious to produce a credible biography.  He discovers that (surprise, surprise), the pleasure ratings of some products are tampered with to favour large corporations.

I was up and down about this book all the way through.  It’s a great premise, the plot is fairly well thought out, the pace is good, and the science/techno side is interesting and clearly well-researched, though I did feel it could do with a tighter edit.  There were a bit too many happy coincidences (like Brad just happening to have interviewed a magician who showed him how to escape when one’s adversary has bound one’s wrists with plastic zip ties).  Most characters talk in much the same way (for instance, every character prefaces sentences with ‘Jesus’ to denote emphasis or shock), aside from Lundgren, who is such a text book villian he practically twirls his moustache and laughs in a sinister fashion before delivering his body blows, and the cartoon-like Russian, Gregor Kalinsky.  But… Brad is likable and much of it is highly readable.  And I kept coming back to one thing ~ the basic story is right up my street, so I wanted to carry on reading to see what happened.

I think this would work well as a 24-type thriller series or a film, for which the viewer knows there will need to be a certain amount of belief-suspension; it didn’t quite tick my personal reading boxes, but I am sure it will be enjoyed by those who love plot-centred thrillers of this type.

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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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Notes Of A Naive Traveler by @JSAauthor #Travel #Nepal

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

#RBRT Review Team

Terry has been reading Notes From A Naive Traveler by Jennifer S Alderson


4 out of 5 stars

This is quite a short book, written in semi-diary format, partly in emails, about the author’s travels in 1999.  The then 26-year-old Jennifer plunges in at the deep end, living first with a Nepali family, trekking around the country, then teaching Nepali children, after which she hits the tourist trail in Thailand.

This book would be most useful as a guidebook for those hoping to travel to Nepal, as it certainly paints a realistic picture; any traveller with whimsical dreams of entering a spiritual heaven as soon as they get off the plane should read the account of Thamel, of the families who assume Westerners are fair game, and of the bloody temple sacrifices ~ the lunch of goat’s blood will stay with me, I think…

I grew to like Jennifer more and more as the book went on (important when reading a memoir!), especially when she described the father of one of her Nepali families as ‘kind of a schmuck’ and the son as a ‘little shit’ – I have a fondness for those who dare to tell it like it is!  Her youthful enthusiasm is charming – everything is ‘amazing’, ‘gorgeous’, ‘incredible’, etc, though now and again I felt I would have liked to read about the place as seen through more mature eyes.  The most interesting parts of the book, for me, were her observations about the day to day habits and culture of the Nepalis and just little incidents that happened.  Her ‘characters’ really jumped off the page.  

On to Thailand, and Jennifer experiences the westernised tourist route of the famous Khao San Road and rejects it for more of the ‘real’ Thailand, though she was disappointed that the hill tribes lived not in mud huts but in shacks with corrugated tin rooves, with motorbikes and trucks parked outside, and that the caves where the Buddhist monks worked were strewn with electric cables.  Generally, though, her time in Thailand sounded so wonderful it almost made me whimper with longing.

I’d say that anyone who is thinking of visiting these countries, Nepal in particular, should take time to read this warts-and-all account, especially if they’re signing up for the volunteer work that entails being placed with a family.  Jen comes across as a very open-minded and non-egotistical sort of person; maybe why she felt like a fish out of water in the working world of Seattle, and wanted to experience different lifestyles.  I’d definitely read more about her travels; I liked the conversational tone of this book very much.

There are pictures, too ~ always a plus, with a travel guide!

Book description

“I never thought I would have reason to say to someone, ‘Sorry I’m late, it took longer to dismember the goat than originally planned.'”

I was twenty-six years old, worked at a well-paid job, rented a fantastic apartment, and enjoyed a large circle of friends. I had everything, except I didn’t. I couldn’t shake the feeling I was missing out on the experience of living.

Part guidebook on culture and travel, part journey of self-discovery, this travelogue takes you on a backpacking adventure through Nepal and Thailand and provides a firsthand account of one volunteer’s experience teaching in a Nepali school and living with a devout Brahmin family.

Trek with me through the bamboo forests and terraced mountaintops of eastern Nepal, take a wild river-rafting ride in class IV waters, go on an elephant ride and encounter a charging rhinoceros on jungle walks in Chitwan National Park, sea-kayak the surreal waters of Krabi, and snorkel in the Gulf of Thailand. Join me on some of the scariest bus rides you could imagine, explore beautiful and intriguing temples, experience religious rituals unknown to most Westerners, and visit mind-blowing places not mentioned in your typical travel guides.

Notes of a Naive Traveler is a must-read for those interested in learning more about – or wishing to travel to – Nepal and Thailand. I hope it inspires you to see these amazing countries for yourself.

Related subjects include: travel, adventure, memoirs, non-fiction, backpacking, volunteering, travelogue, travel writing, solo travel, culture, journals, cultural heritage, cultural travel, Asia, Nepal, Thailand.

About the author

Hi! I worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading my financial security for a backpack. After traveling extensively around Asia and Central America, I moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. There I earned degrees in art history and museum studies. Home is now Amsterdam, where I live with my Dutch husband and young son.

My travels and experiences color and inform my internationally-oriented fiction. Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery is a travel fiction adventure through Nepal and Thailand. The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery is a suspenseful ‘whodunit?’ which transports readers to wartime and present day Amsterdam.

Both novels are part of an on-going yet stand-alone series following the adventures of traveler and culture lover, Zelda Richardson. The third installment, another art-related travel thriller (working title: Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery) will be released in the January 2018.

My travelogue, Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand, is now available as paperback and eBook. A must-read for those interested in learning more about – or wishing to travel to – Nepal and Thailand.

Jennifer S. Alderson

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