Sunday 31 December 2023


4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Ghostly mystery and secrets in 19th Century California

The Price of Atonement is Book #1 of the Harbor Pointe series of 8 books, each one written by a different author.  Isn't that a great idea?

'The Harbor Pointe Inn has loomed on California's cliffs for generations of Hawthornes. For some, it's been a blessing. For others, a curse. Travel through two centuries of stories to discover the old inn's secrets.'

This is a delightfully atmospheric story about the mysterious Leviticus and his employee Wyatt, who turn up at Harbour Pointe one dark October night in 1887.  Leviticus is haunted by his own personal tragedy, and now spends his time searching out tormented spirits unwilling or unable to move from this world to the next.

The lighthouse and inn hold tragic history within their walls; once a thriving establishment of hope and the prospect of good fortune, the inn now receives few visitors, and Leviticus and Wyatt are soon to discover why.  The Hawthorne family has many skeletons in the cupboard, and every one of them is increasingly disturbed by the presence that wanders alone on the 'Widow's Walk', up at the top of the lighthouse.

I liked Leviticus, and found that his own story was just as interesting as the one he investigated.  This is such a well-written novella, fitting perfectly into the shorter format, and I enjoyed it very much.  Good unpredictable plot.  Now I must decide which one I would like to read next!

My Top Ten Books of 2023


Never an easy task and I'm short on time ... here are those I have selected as my top 10 ten of the 40-ish books I read in 2023.  In no particular order but an extra special mention for the last four, to which I gave my rare 5 Gold Stars rating :)

~ 🕮🕮🕮 ~

To read my review of any of these ten, please click the title.  All come highly recommended!

Buried in the Past by Anna Legat

WWII Historical, Poland

You can take the Girl from the Prairie by Darlene Foster

Memoir, rural Canada, 1950s and 60s.  Short essays.

I, Richard Plantagenet: Tante le Desiree by J P Reedman

Historical, England 15th Century

A Moonlit Path of Madness by Catherine McCarthy

Welsh folklore, early 20th Century, supernatural

The Fortune Keeper by Deborah Swift

Historical, 17th Century Venice

A Matter of Faith by Judith Arnopp

Historical, early16th Century England

Servant of Death by Gemma Lawrence

Historical, early 16th Century England

We The Living by Ayn Rand

Historical, early 20th Century Russia

My Lady Spy by Gemma Lawrence

Historical, early 16th Century England

Planet of the Head-Breakers by Zeb Haradon

Post Apocalyptic, Sci-fi, Dystopian, set in a future US.

A few other good ones from this year - review can be found by putting the title into the 'search' facility.

Now, back to the TBR list....

Happy New Year's Reading!

Monday 18 December 2023

BURIED IN THE PAST by Anna Legat @LegatWriter

 5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: I've enjoyed others by this author so thought I'd try this one!

In a Nutshell: A novel about the Polish partisans of WWII, and a mystery surrounding an unmarked grave, waiting to be solved fifty years later. 

This is a terrific book that taught me much I didn't know about Poland eighty years ago - I didn't realise that, during World War II, Russia was considered as much an enemy as Nazi Germany, or why.  I read the second half of the book in one afternoon; I was utterly gripped.  

The main timeline of the story concerns Edek and Szymon, two young lads wanting to join the partisans (or Home Army).  Now and again, we move forward a few decades and meet Dorota, who is fascinated by and determined to solve the mysteries surrounding her family ... and the identity of a body in an unmarked grave.

The mystery side of the story was well thought out and provided a completely unexpected outcome, but I found the chapters set during the war the most compelling.  It is so hard for us to comprehend the hardship people endured in their daily lives less than a century ago, and what they were prepared to suffer for the sake of their country, what they would risk to help their friends; this novel really brought home the terror of Nazi occupation, and the bravery of the persecuted people of that time and place.  The Warsaw uprising, the stealing of munitions from the local German garrison, a thrilling escape from one of the cattle trucks heading to Auschwitz, the annihilation of whole villages, the murder of so many innocents.

Highly recommended!

Saturday 9 December 2023

LONDON TALES by Tim Walker @timwalker1666 #RBRT

 3 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Short stories set in London, from the Romans to the future.

The mood of these stories varies a lot, from the early historical ones that are centred around actual historical events, to the more imaginative of the modern pieces.  At least half of the stories are set from the 20th Century onwards.

My favourite was the second story, about Wat Tyler and the Peasants' Revolt of the 14th Century, and I also liked the one set in 1666 to a ferocious backdrop of the Great Fire of London, about a gentleman being sought for his part in the murder of King Charles I, now that the Royalists were back in power.  These were both atmospheric and well researched, as was the first one about the Roman soldier; taught me a few interesting facts!

I was less keen on the stories from 1966 onwards; they didn't evoke the spirit of the times for me so much as I'd hoped.  Also, some of the dialogue seemed a tad unlikely, particularly in the story about two forty-somethings on a bender around 2015 (I think), where the dialogue's main purpose appeared to be as a vehicle to convey the author's research.  I would describe some of them as vignettes rather than stories.

I did like the future story, set in 2050.  It's always fun to read other people's ideas about how the years will pan out!

Sunday 3 December 2023

THE DISPOSABLE SOMA by Zeb Haradon @ZebHaradon

 4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: One of my favourite authors, so I always get his books as they come out.

In a Nutshell: Bonkers but clever look at US politics in the 22nd century.

I haven't got a clue how to review this book, which is unlike anything else I have ever read, aside from other books by this author, but this is the most off-the-wall yet.  I highlighted a lot of passages that made me laugh or that I thought were a particularly clever observation of human nature, or send-up of the current political climate/culture of the 21st century and where it could eventually head, but when I came to look at them they didn't feel like anything that might help me with a review.  This made me think that I highlighted them for want of anyone to say 'ha ha, this is funny (or pertinent, or whatever)' to.

It's around 2163, and it seems that society has deteriorated and become way more bizarre by today's standards, at the same time as being perfectly believable.  It centres around election time - here is an extract from the blurb: 

' upstart party called the Empathy Party blames all the world's ills on sociopaths. An assassination leaves the Empathy Party's candidacy wide open and a clown car of candidates vies for the nomination. One, hotel heir and failed comedian Jim Liu, stands out from the others when he chooses a genetically modified, super-intelligent, opium-addicted parrot as his running mate.'

I'll admit that the idea of a genetically modified parrot as a running mate didn't quite work for me at first, even when considering its origin, i.e., Zeb Haradon's head, but it started to gel as the story continued, especially when coming from the viewpoint of the parrots, who see themselves as a marginalised sector of society, and are looking to Jim to help them fight for their rights.  Betty is a hilarious character.  

'It's quite a gamble.  But come to think of it, Dan Quayle was vice president, so I guess Betty Parrot isn't such a stretch.'

'You really trust her with a wing on the button?'

One of my favourite elements of this book is the concept of the last uncontacted people on earth, the primitive Centolese from Centos Island, who are unaware that their world has been turned into a reality show.

'Initially, it was an entertainment event financed by The Centolese Network, but as more and more Americans emulate the Centolese way of life and have come to identify as Centolese-Americans...'  Row of laughing face emojis here!  The historic timeline of Centos Island is extremely funny and clever.

I also like the idea of bubble technology - think of Dr Who's Tardis, much bigger on the inside than the outside.  Those financing Jim Liu's campaign are the innovators of the bubbles, which will revolutionise farming, housing, land tax and much more.  And I liked the faux 'spirituality' of those getting off their faces at ayahuasca ceremonies; in this hedonistic tomorrow where religious doctrine and morality as we know them have ceased to exist, anything goes.  Though I daresay the inner workings of political campaigns are no different now, give or take the odd parrot and 172-year-old candidate.

The ending was perfect.  I'll just hand this back to Kindle Unlimited, and download the next, in its place, to read before too long :)

Saturday 11 November 2023

MONSTERS IN THE MIST by Tom Williams @TomCW99

 4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: murder mystery with humorous undertones and a vampire detective, set in rural Wales.  As a further indication of writing style, if you like Carol Hedges' Victorian Detectives series, there's a good chance you'll like this too.

First of all, although this is Book 3 of a series, it is a stand-alone.  I can confirm this, as I haven't read the other two.

Right.  Okay.  Urban fantasy, police procedural and vampires.  All three are book genres I wouldn't normally go near, but I enjoy the historical novels of this author, so when I saw this on the review team list I thought I'd do that stepping-out-of-my-comfort-zone thing, which has brought about a pleasant surprise or two in the past.  This was no exception.

I can see why Tom Williams has mentioned that he writes these books as a kind of light relief from his historical works; Monsters in the Mist is fun, filled with the sort of subtly humorous observation I love.  

'"You settle yourselves in and let me know later," the landlady suggested ... leaving Galbraith staring around him like Crusoe taking the measure of his desert island.'

Galbraith is a fairly (intentionally, I imagine) stereotypical worn-down, jaded, middle-aged detective who eats unhealthy food and doesn't do hiking, the sort whose methods are unorthodox but produce results.  However, this is where the stereotypes end, because he also has Columbo fantasies and his colleague Pole, from the mysterious, secret Department S is (wait for it) a vampire.

I loved the sections from Pole's point of view.  I wanted to know more about his centuries long life! 

'Pole gritted his teeth.  He wondered what the man would say if he told him that he was a vampire and standing in front of a plate glass window, even late on a September afternoon, was causing him considerable discomfort.  It was, he thought, probably best not to find out.'

'Back in the 17th century, alchemy was considered a science.  Pole had lived (for a particular definition of 'lived') through the foundation of the Royal Society ... and now he felt himself moving back to a time when 'science' meant trying something to see what happened and then writing about it.  Sometimes he felt that Mortal progress was entirely illusionary.'

A body has been found, and Galbraith, Pole and Department S officer Ellis suspect something sinister afoot; Galbraith and Ellis go undercover, posing as a keen hill-walkers with an interest in local goings-on.  The plot is entertaining, suspenseful, the writing tight and amusing.  And the ending is kind of nice.

At some point I must read the first book which (it says in the author notes), explains how Pole came to be working for the Met.  That, I do want to know about.

Sunday 5 November 2023

HISTORICAL STORIES OF EXILE by Helen Hollick, Annie Whitehead and 11 others @HelenHollick @AnnieW History @abelfrageauthor

 5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: Twitter.  I expressed my interest in reading it when available, and one of the authors offered me an ARC :)

In a Nutshell: 13 historical stories of exile.

Deborah Swift, one of my favourite authors, has written a perfect introduction to this excellent collection, with a brief overview of the content as well as thoughts on the subject of exile itself.

I loved reading these stories, the standard of which is high throughout, though they are all so different, in subject matter and writing style.  It is these two aspects that determine one's favourites in an anthology such as this, and can only ever be subjective; bearing this in mind, the story that stood out most for me (and stayed with me afterwards) was the heartbreaking The Unwanted Prince by Anna Belfrage, about a 16th century heir to the Swedish throne forced into exile for his own safety - especially sad because the story is true, as I read at the end, with great fascination.  I would have happily read a whole novel about the rest of his life, as outlined.

My other favourites:

Wadan Wræclastas (Tread the Path of Exile) by the Lady of Saxon History, Annie Whitehead is set a few years before the Norman Conquest.  The title comes from 10th century poem The Wanderer, and in this case refers to the much travelled Ealdgyth.  Again, most of the events really took place, but what I loved most about this one was the glimpse into the Saxon world.

On Shining Wings by Marian L Thorpe, a beautiful story about a 13th century Norwegian falconer, telling his tale to his grandson.

Betrayal by Cathie Dunn: set in AD 900, it tells the story of the urgent flight of Rollo the Viking and his wife Poppa place from the part of modern day France then known as Neustria, to England.

I also liked The Past, My Future by Loretta Livingstone, which is a bit different as it involves time travel from a dark, dystopian future England, to an abbey in the 13th Century.

The book is beautifully presented, with notes about each story and a biography and links for each author.  Congratulations to Helen Hollick for the original idea, and a big thank you to Annie for sending me an ARC when I said how much I looked forward to reading this!  Historical Stories of Exile is available for pre-order now, and for sale on November 12th. Highly recommended, and a great way to dip into the work of authors yet to be discovered.

Sunday 29 October 2023

THE LUCK OF THE DRAW by Marie Keates @marie_keates

 4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: I've read Book #1 in this series.

In a Nutshell: A missing girl, domestic troubles, the lure of gambling and the rumblings of war

I read the first in this series, Plagued, earlier this year, and thought it was time I tried another!  The series is a continuing saga of the people who live in one area of Southampton between the two World Wars; it is their story, with the events of those tumultuous 21 years forming the ever present and always relevant backdrop.  This is Book #5, taking place during the second half of 1937.  I have a terrible memory so couldn't remember any of the characters; I can, thus, confirm that the book is a stand-alone as well as being part of a series.

The story centres around a few plot threads: the missing Sophie Morales, the mysterious activities of unsavoury Norm McCartney, and a discovery that tests tram driver Walter's greatest friendship.  I had in my mind an idea to write about how convincingly this was dealt with, but I've just re-read the blurb and realised that to do so would be a massive spoiler, so I'll just say that I thought Walter's private thoughts were so well written.  Odd sentences absolutely nailed it.

The other main storyline was that of Clara, a 20 year old young woman with an unhappy homelife, already with a broken heart.  She unsure of herself, hoping for happy-ever-afters, and so different from her more confident, outspoken best friend Gladys.

Although World War I finished almost twenty years before this story took place, it is still very much a part of all their lives.  Older character Percy made a couple of memorable statements:

'All the generals keeping nice and safe behind the lines, sending us infantrymen off to die.  They saw it as a game of chess and us as expendable pawns.'

'Anyone who saw the things we did can understand why someone would desert.  Those poor sods, just boys, some of them, were shell-shocked and terrified, but they shot them anyway ... How is that right?  Those generals issued orders without ever setting foot on the bloody battlefield.  If anyone needed shooting at dawn, they did.'

If you like wartime domestic dramas, this will totally hit the spot for you.  A very 'easy read', and it's clear how well the author knows her subject!

Saturday 21 October 2023

THE BOY FROM BLOCK 66 by Limor Regev

 4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: Amazon browse

In a Nutshell: account of Moshe Kessler, a Hungarian Jew, in the Nazi death camps and afterwards ; it is written in the first person, as told to the author.

While reading this I wondered why so many of us choose to read survivor accounts of the Holocaust.  I think I do so because the 'how' fascinates me so much - how ordinary people would turn a blind eye to, or even join in with, the ill treatment of another group.  How a few psychopaths could persuade thousands of soldiers to commit such atrocities.  I've recently read most of a book on this subject, Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning, if you're interested in this aspect.  Do all people have this potential evil within, a fire waiting to be lit?  I don't believe so, but...

Moshe Kessler had an idyllic childhood within his large, extended family.  Many, many have asked, over the years, why the Jews allowed their persecution to take place, seemingly without protest.  Moshe answers this question in detail; here is an excerpt I marked:

'You must understand that our future in those days was completely uncertain, for better or worse.  Our daily routine had gradually changed in the past two years, with each new directive or restriction by the Hungarian regime.  We thought this was just another period of temporary worsening of conditions, and we would soon return to our homes.  Information about what to expect next was concealed in a way that dispelled our suspicions.'

Moshe was only 13 when he and his family were taken to Auschwitz.  He escaped the gas chamber on the advice of a veteran prisoner, who told him to join the 'other queue' and say he was 16.  This nameless prisoner was one of many who saved his life over the terrible fifteen months he survived there; another was Antonin Kalina, a true angel who was active in Buchenwald camp underground (Moshe was driven on a 'death march' from one camp to another), who established Block 66 for the children, and initiated many procedures to keep them alive.

The author (a friend of the family in later years), writing as Moshe, describes much about the emotional repercussions, and the slow easing back into 'normal' life after the Americans liberated Buchenwald; many years passed before he found any sort of contentment.  

My only complaint about the book is the bad editing; there are occasional grammar errors, and duplication of facts, as though the process was a bit on the sketchy side.  This was only mildly irritating; it's definitely worth reading.

Monday 16 October 2023

I, RICHARD PLANTAGENET : Tante le Desiree by J P Reedman @stonehenge2500

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: I read and loved earlier books about Richard, Duke of Gloucester by J P Reedman, and finally decided this had been on my TBR list for long enough!

In a Nutshell: Richard's life up until the age of 30.

I loved this book, totally engrossed all the way through.  There is so much detail about customs and the way people lived back then, that I found fascinating to read about.

Throughout the years this novel covers, J P Reedman has cleverly developed the main characters as they age.  Richard becomes harsher, more determined, and with an increasing sense of right and wrong, while the negative aspects of George's personality are magnified; his stubbornness, inconstancy and drinking.  Edward the King becomes almost a parody of himself, and I was struck once more by how his grandson Henry VIII was all him, with few traits inherited from his father, Henry VII.

The book is written in Richard's first person, but I was aware of how deftly the author has made clear to the reader the thoughts of other characters, too, even though they may not have expressed them verbally.  How they thought of Richard, too, as he becomes more and more like the historical figure many perceive him as.  Smart writing!

This part of the story ends when Richard is 30, just after the complicated skirmishes with the Scots, and as Edward's health is failing.  I look forward to reading the next episode very much.

Monday 9 October 2023

DAUGHTER OF THE SUN by Gemma Lawrence @TudorTweep

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)

How I discovered this book: a favourite author whose new releases I usually buy immediately.

In a Nutshell: the early life of Eleanor of Aquitaine

This reminded me of the beginning of Gemma Lawrence's series about Anne Boleyn, in that it gives so much detail about the less well known, early life of an exceptional historical figure, showing how she became a woman centuries ahead of her time.

Ms Lawrence's Eleanor is not always particularly likeable (she seems most pleased with herself, particularly for the first two thirds of the book, though some might say with good reason) but the fascinating beginning of this full and eventful life was a joy to read.  I also enjoyed reading about how different the geographical borders of the world were then; countries, duchies, principalities and kingdoms that no longer exist, which does remind one that countries and borders are man-made constructs.

The part of the book I liked most was the second half, covering the period of the Second Crusade - this was absolutely riveting, throughout.  Couldn't put it down, I was excited to turn each page, and the book is worthy of 5* for this part alone.

As is usual for this author's novels, it is written in the first person.  Lawrence's Eleanor has much to say about the subjugation of women and the folly of men, though given her experiences this is hardly surprising.  The book ends as she becomes close to her third cousin Henry, later to become Henry II, and whom she marries.

I am SO looking forward to reading the next book!

'I would not have let him keep you prisoner,' growled the young idealist.  'By the eyes of God!  I would not!'

Sunday 17 September 2023

BROKEN by Anna Legat @LegatWriter

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: I've read another book by this author, The End of the Road, and loved it, so I wanted to read more.   

In a Nutshell: psychological thriller, murder mystery and ... paranormal

This is the strangest book, but in a really good way!  You know when people write 'kept me guessing until the very end' in reviews?  This one absolutely did - even at past 90% I had no clue how it was likely to pan out, or how the points of view would come together.

There's a serial killer, yes, and we don't know the identity, but this turned out to be almost secondary to the stories of Camilla, a middle-aged, middle class housewife, and Joseph, a motorbike and narrow boat loving priest.  The way their stories mesh together is so clever ... and unexpected.  Everything about this book is unexpected, all the way through.  The paranormal element came as the biggest surprise, though to say any more would be to give spoilers.  It creeps up, gradually; I'm not usually into that genre but this seemed curiously believable.  Suddenly I found I was reading a different book from the one I started.

The line 'the real monsters are disguised as humans' becomes increasingly relevant, as the true psychopath is revealed...

Anna Legat's writing is a treat to read.  Never jarring, intelligent, highly readable, the characters jumping off the page.  Definitely recommend.

Wednesday 6 September 2023

YOU CAN TAKE THE GIRL FROM THE PRAIRIE by Darlene Foster @supermegawoman

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: Read about it on Sally Cronin's blog

In a Nutshell: See cover!

This book is an absolute delight, and made me want to go back to the 50s and 60s to live Darlene Foster's childhood!  It's unusual for me to give 5 stars to a short book of short stories, but I was completely absorbed by this, an insight into a world so different from my own.  I could have easily carried on reading more, and was sad when it ended.

Darlene grew up on a farm in the prairies of Alberta, and some of the stories tell of her family and how they got to be there in the first place (A Tale of Two Katharinas - fascinating).  My favourite story was A Hero in a Pickup Truck, about her late father, which reminded me of my own.  I also loved Warm Hugs, about her 10th birthday and her love for her grandmother.

Darlene's deep attachment to her family shines through in all the stories, which are so beautifully written.  By the end of the book, when I read that they'd all, at different times, moved to the city, I felt nostalgic for a life I'd never known.

Loved it.  It's a real gem - and you can make the family photos larger on the Kindle version, in order to study them!

Sunday 3 September 2023

THE SHADOWS WE BREATHE Vol 2 - an anthology by Sarah Brentyn @SBrentyn and others

 4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: an anthology of short prose, on the subject of health.

Sarah Brentyn has edited as well as contributed to this collection; other contributors are D Wallace Peach, Georgia Bell, Ruth Daly, Ali Isaac, R A Kerr, S Mitchell-Jackson and Allie Potts.

The first part is 'flash' fiction - short stories of 500 words each.  All were emotive and beautifully written, my favourites being Sanity by D Wallace Peach, Bar Made by Sarah Brentyn, Barbed Wire in the Palm of my Hand by Ruth Daly and Extended Performance by Allie Potts.  They cover subjects of both physical and psychological health, as do the shorter pieces.

The second part is a section of 'micro' fiction: snappy 50 word stories. My favourites were The Fall by Sarah Brentyn and Reflection by Ali Isaac.  After this is a collection of very clever 'microbursts' - stories of just 10 words.  The group wrote with these prompts: Never, Insignificant, Discover, Lose, Reach, each of the microbursts including the relevant word.  In a way I felt that these showed off the talent of the authors most of all; to be able to tell a story in such a controlled fashion is quite a feat, and so strongly illustrates the power of words. 

This is a lovely book to read all at once or dip into.  There is not one weak contribution and it is beautifully presented, with a photo and bio of each author at the end.  Well done, ladies!

Sunday 27 August 2023

THE MIND'S EVIL TOY (The Life and Death of Amy Dudley) by Gemma Lawrence @TudorTweep

out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: A favourite author, was looking forward to it.

In a Nutshell: Historical fiction with a fantastical element.

Amy Dudley, neglected wife of Lord Robert Dudley, walks through the story of her life with him ... after she has departed this world.  She is led from place to place, from situation to situation, by her companion: Death.  The purpose of this journey is to uncover the truth, and thus allow her to rest in peace, behind not only her mysterious passing, but the crumbling of her once happy marriage, as the love between Dudley and Queen Elizabeth I deepens.

I'm not into the genre of fantasy at all, but this book worked for me so well.  I loved it.  It didn't feel like fantasy as such, I think because the events portrayed really did happen. 

Amy and Death discuss the machinations of her husband and his ill-fated relationship with the queen, shown to them via their invisible presence in scenes from the past.  I found this a perfect way to tell such a story; a straight fiction from the points of view of Elizabeth, Robert and Amy would not have been half so compelling.

The twist on the likely truth behind Amy's demise is clever and interesting, written in the mode of any good murder mystery, though the notes at the back of the book reveal the author's actual thoughts on the matter (I too am in agreement with the general opinion).  However, this is not all the book is about.  It's the story of a love that couldn't be, of ambition and deceit, of the Queen's triumph of sense over passion; it makes one ponder an abandoned woman's lot in such times, and also the value of life itself, with some wise observations from the not-at-all-demonic Death.

'The wisdom of others should never be ignored, but it should also never be followed with such slavish abandon that we forget to use the matter of our own minds'

'All things must end, that is the way of things. But other beings than me, grief, bitterness, resentment, these are the true enemies, for they steal life still there to live.  They make people think life, this precious and unlikely gift, is not worth living, and the worst of it is, it is a lie and people are tricked into believing it.  I am not the enemy, just the end.  Those who steal away life from those still living, they are the enemy'

It is observations such as these that reiterate to me why Gemma Lawrence is so successful at her chosen profession.  Well done.

Sunday 13 August 2023

FAST CASH by J Gregory Smith #RBRT

 3.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon (universal link)
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Vigilante justice to avenge scammers.

This is book 4 in a series; a look back at my reviews tells me that I read and liked Book 1 back in 2018.  I can't remember anything about it, as I read a lot and we're talking five years ago, so this was like being introduced to a completely new scenario. 

Did it work as a stand alone?  Yes and no.  I felt there were far too many characters mentioned in the first few chapters, to the extent that I couldn't keep straight in my head who they all were, and many of them were introduced with a quick backstory, but it was all too much information.  It was like starting to watch a film half way through and having to keep nudging the person next to me and saying, 'So who's he again?'

Main character Kyle is at the centre of a raggle-taggle group who operate outside the law, targeting scammers and other crooks.  This time, they're up against some Indian call centre cheats and the extremely suspect Sweat Equity, a crooked pyramid scheme disguised as a great opportunity for those down on their luck.  I loved reading about this, and the ghastly pair who run the outfit; I actually thought the story could easily have centred just around this.  As it was, I felt there was almost too much plot, which necessitated much of the book being in dialogue, as one character explained stuff to another, and thus to the reader.

Having said that, I did find all the scam info fascinating; how they operate, how Kyle's mate VP worked out systems to foil them.  Also, I very much liked the writing style, which is conversational, intelligent and often amusing; it just needed a bit of paring down and sorting out, I think.