Mini-Review Monday: The Monster of Florence: A True Story by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi

Once again, I only read one book in the last week. And once again, it was a non-fiction book. The difference is that, while last week was a book about everyday sexism in current times, this week was a true crime book about murders in the vein of Jack the Ripper a few decades ago.

I quite like reading true crime novels, especially when they are about murder. There is nothing quite as chilling or scary as reading a book about a gruesome killing, or series of killings, which happened in real life, and yet they’re also often fascinating examinations of the killer’s psychology, motives, the crimes and the investigations, all taken from actual events.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved


The Monster of Florence: A True Story by Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi

The Monster of Florence take a look at a series of murders from Italy’s very own ‘Jack the Ripper’, splitting the events into two parts: ‘The Story of Mario Spezi’, an investigative journalist who became heavily involved the case from the beginning and gave the killer their pseudonym; the second part is ‘The Story of Douglas Preston’, an American Journalist who moved to Florence long after the murders and befriends Spezi. The former part explores the investigation at the time of the murders; the latter part looks at the continuing investigation long after the final death and recounts how Preston and Spezi ended up caught in the middle of it.

It took a few chapters to get used to the writing style and the manner in which Preston was telling the story but, once I did, I was hooked. The story of The Monster of Florence is interesting but also incredibly frustrating, the latter of which only increases the further you get through the book. Preston goes over each aspect of the case in great detail and, while there is clear bias, he does go into the opposing theories and lines of investigation. This includes the descent of the investigation into conspiracy theories. A number of times, the book did feel like it had strayed into fiction but a quick google into the facts of the case only demonstrate how surreal it got at times. It was certainly a fascinating read and I would recommend it to anyone interested in true crime.

Rating: 4.5/5


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Rosie Reviews: The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Beautiful Ones_cover image

Title: The Beautiful Ones

Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Thomas Dunne Books

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Source: NetGalley


Take the Belle Époque and then mix in some romance, a fair amount of scheming and a touch of telekinesis. The result is The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This book is a tale of a girl who dreams of romance, a man who longs to find his love of years gone by and a woman who sacrificed her own happiness for her family’s fortune. This novel is told mostly over the period of two grand seasons, where everyone is in the city, going to balls and courting. Only this time, there is the added bonus of ‘talents’: people with telekinetic gifts who are looked down upon by those without.

I will admit, this book was not entirely what I was expecting based on the blurb I read. I was expecting the telekinesis to be a much larger part of the book than it was and indeed, in some parts I forgot it was actually a feature of the novel. Instead, The Beautiful Ones focused primarily on the relationships between the three main characters, and their own personal development as the story went on. Even though this was not quite what I was expecting, I think the novel was probably better for it.

When I first started reading this book, I made the mistake of reading it on the bus to work. The introduction of the characters and their actions during the first part of the novel had me smiling and chuckling to myself as I read (cue the weird looks from fellow commuters). Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s treatment of the characters is beautiful, particularly in the first half. Each one is fully layered, with their own plans and designs, that you never know quite who to you want to come out on top. Personally, Nina was my favourite – her naïve vulnerability, rebellious nature and hidden strength were rather endearing, particularly as she found herself caught up in the schemes of Hector and Valerie. Unfortunately, the second half did lose a little of the character complexity as it started to focus more on the romance and plot, but it was still entertaining and heart-warming (if a little frustrating in places) to read.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you’re in the mood for a more modern Jane Austen with a little bit of telekinesis added in for good measure. While I don’t tend to enjoy romances, the book is a delight to read. The characters are a clear strength, especially when they are at their most deceptive, but the story and prose were equally as enrapturing.

Rating: 4/5


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Rosie Reviews: Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson by Richard Patterson

Jack the Ripper

Title: Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson

Author: Richard Patterson

Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Goodreads First Reads


Most of us have heard of Jack the Ripper – the almost demonic presence which haunted London in 1888. Jack the Ripper was someone who was never caught, but speculation over their identity remains to this day, capturing the attention of countless, some even devoting their lives to the mystery. In this book, Richard Patterson introduces a new suspect into the fold, building on an article published by Dr. Rupp who first suggested this person in an article on the centenary of the murders in 1988.

Francis Thompson was born into a Catholic family, the son of a doctor, who failed to get into priesthood and went through Medical school 3 times, but failed to be become a doctor himself. Before long, he was addicted to laudanum and living on the streets of London. He was destitute, living with a prostitute. That is, until he came to the attention of the Meynells, publishers to whom he had submitted some essays and poetry. Mid-1888, on discovering Francis’ work published by them, the prostitute ended their relationship and disappeared. In the period of the Jack the Ripper murders, Francis is living in Whitechapel, searching for this prostitute. A few days after the final murder, he is admitted to hospital before being sent to an all-male hospice.

In Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson, the author examines each piece of evidence, from aspects of Francis Thompson’s life to the words in his poetry. The case he presents is commendable and compelling, although relies heavily on circumstantial evidence. While the who and the opportunity is heavily explored and fairly convincing, where the book falls flat is the motive. Patterson does try to explore why Thompson might have become the Ripper, but none of the possible motives felt particularly convincing to me.

That being said, the book is thorough in what it contains, examining different facets of the theory and backing up hypotheses with evidence, albeit that evidence mostly coming in the form of poetry. Regular summaries are provided, so you gradually get a build-up of the various layers in the tale that Patterson is trying to get across. It is an interesting read and, while I was note entirely convinced, it is certainly a book for anyone interested in the mystery that is Jack the Ripper.

Rating: 3.5/5


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Rosie Reviews: Dunstan by Conn Iggulden


Title: Dunstan

Author: Conn Iggulden

Publisher: Michael Joseph

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: NetGalley



Dunstan is a historical novel which demonstrates Conn Iggulden’s mastery of words. It takes a saint and makes him human and weaves an intriguing tale from the threads of history.


This novel follows Dunstan from childhood all the way to being an old man who had seen seven kings on the throne in his lifetime. As records from the time period are sparse, the novel does take some artistic license in what it describes; each addition or change really helps build the character of Dunstan that Iggulden wants to portray as well as moving the story along.

While it does take a while for the story to get going at the start, as we’re still being introduced to the characters, getting used to the world through the pages and watching Dunstan grow into adulthood, it is once Dunstan gets his first taste of power that this novel really takes off. The second half is so full of political intrigue, scheming and changes in kings that it made for quite gripping reading.


The strangest part of this book for me was that I both enjoyed reading about the main character, Dunstan, while also disliking him as a person. He is extremely misogynistic, manipulative and arrogant, caring mostly for his own personal advancement. Yet, there are glimpses of kindness in him, of guilt and sorrow that take the edge off of that hatred; it also helps that those he surrounds himself with are really likable. How Conn Iggulden has written Dunstan here is a lesson in writing complex characters and it helped make me see this figurehead as simply human.

Dunstan is the only character which remains throughout the novel; even his brother Wulfric dips in and out, so we only see glimpses of him from time to time. The other characters are there for such fleeting moments, yet each one stands solid and present in my mind’s eye. Despite their short presence in the novel, you really get the sense of how each one impacted Dunstan and of their own characters as well.


The world-building also added an extra layer of depth to the novel. By the end of the novel I was convinced that I could simply step back through history and understand what awaited me there. The only times where I struggled were at the abbey when Dunstan was a child and whenever the novel moved around the country. I really could have done with a map during those latter sections as I found it really difficult to picture how far or how close these places were. That being said, I was reading on my kindle so I’m not entirely sure a map would have been much help at all.

Final Thoughts

The more I think about it, the more I enjoyed Dunstan. I will admit, I was worried in the first half – I found Dunstan dislikable and there was little else for me to grab onto then; everything else was still setting up and I had not got to know the other characters yet. But, after having read the rest, that first section is really important for making sure future events make sense and it all takes on a lot more meaning. Conn Iggulden’s writing is beautiful; it’s a novel which I think would be a delight to listen to as an audiobook, if simply just from the writing. In all fairness, I would probably buy this book just for the writing ability, but the story within the pages really helps make it shine.

Dunstan is out now.

Rating: 3.5/5


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Rosie Reviews: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken


Title: Wayfarer

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Publisher: Quercus

Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Source: NetGalley



As the second book in a duology, Wayfarer continues to explore the world of time travel initially established in Passenger. It expands on what we discovered in the first book, escalating the conflict and putting the characters through all sorts of difficulties, and then wraps up the duology perfectly.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and thought the series as a whole was brilliant as a whole, especially given how difficult time travel is to get right. As this is a sequel, there will be spoilers for the first book, however I shall try to keep them to a minimum.


The majority of this book follows two threads. On one side, Nicholas searches for Etta, who has been forced through the timelines. On the other, Etta finds herself mixed up with the mysterious Thorns on their quest for the astrolabe. Ironwood is hot on the heels of both, but another enemy emerges from the shadows and things get a lot more dangerous.

If I’m honest, I really wasn’t sure how Alexandra Bracken was going to build on the previous book, but the introduction of a new party really gave Wayfarer an added depth and threat. It also allowed for further exploration of the world’s lore, something which I particularly loved. The addition of a few extra side-plots on top of the original story-line from the first book kept the story enjoyable and the plot was fascinating in itself.

I did find the story did feel a bit slow-paced in times and the book was, perhaps, a little too long. I found myself enjoying Etta’s story a lot more than Nicholas’ and a lot of that was due to the fact that Nicholas’ did come across as repetitive in places and was often where the slow parts occurred. That being said, the book is regularly punctuated by conflict and confrontation, character development and the odd twist to really keep your interest throughout.


For me, it was the secondary characters that really made this book. Thinking back on it, it felt a lot like Nicholas and Etta were there to keep the story moving, but it was the other characters that really got the most development and focus. This made the book come alive for me. Having strong side characters allowed the world to feel rooted and allowed me to get fully invested in the story.

That’s not to say that Nicholas and Etta felt flat or unrealistic in any way; Etta, in particular, found her feet in this book. My only problem was that I found Nicholas boring. I really enjoyed his character in Passenger but very little of that substance seemed to have made its way into Wayfarer. On a plus side though, Wayfarer does include two LGBT characters whose relationship received the most focus and development throughout the novel.


As I’ve said, Wayfarer goes deeper into expanding the world we see in Passenger. Not only do we get more time travel, but we also meet more of the families and central players in their feud and discover more about how the whole time travel works. This was probably one of my more favourite parts of this book as it really made the more fantastical elements feel tangible and an integral feature to the story. Exploring the effects of timeline changes was particularly interesting, especially if you enjoy history as I do, and once it crossed into questions of ethics and morality, it really got me thinking.

Final thoughts

I thought Wayfarer was a brilliant conclusion to the Passenger duology. It did a good job of rounding up the story to a conclusion that felt right while also building on the story in the previous book and making it an entertaining read. My main gripe with the novel was that it probably could have done with being a tad shorter, not to mention that Nicholas did not really work as a character for me in this book. Really, though, I would recommend this duology to anyone who likes a good bit of time travel and feuding families.

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken is out now.

Rating: 4/5


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Rosie Reviews: The Ill-Kept Oath by C.C. Aune


Title: The Ill-Kept Oath

Author: C.C. Aune

Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Source: NetGalley Ebook



Historical fiction at its finest, The Ill-Kept Oath blends an Austen-esque story with magic and mystery in a beautiful story about love and family.

Set in 1819, it follows two girls, cousins and best friends as one moves away from the country to start her Season in London. Even though they are miles apart, the girls remain in close contact through letters and it is these letters which connect their two stories as romance, adventure and a touch of magic befalls the both of them.


There is no one plot to this book. While the description given on Goodreads implies that the girls’ magical legacy is going to be the central focus of the book, it is actually their romantic endeavours which gets centre-stage. Each of the girls’ confusion over their feelings and the feelings of the men they’re interested in is explored in interesting ways and this meshes perfectly with the more supernatural elements of the story, with the magical side of things playing a driving force in those relationships. While the novel itself does feel slow-moving in places, particularly towards the middle, the beginning and ending are perfect, with the final quarter of the book being a pay-off of all the different threads in the novel.


Aune has created incredibly well-structured characters in this novel, each one fitting perfectly into the setting and the role given them. Josephine was an instant favourite of mine – her personality was lively, entertaining and translated well into her story line. Prudence, on the other hand, was very different and it was difficult to relate to her at times. Her irrational behaviour in certain parts of the books is explained later on. She strikes a perfect balance with Josephine and, if she had been any different, I don’t think it would have worked quite as well.


This is probably the area I was least convinced by in the novel. I loved the era The Ill-Kept Oath was set in and I thought both the story and characters fit in beautifully with the setting. However, I had a lot of trouble, especially towards the beginning of the novel, trying to understand the Inheritance – what is was, what the history of it was and why it could not be revealed to the heirs. While it was explained a little better towards the end of the novel, it was a long wait to get that explanation and I found that wait a bit frustrating and confusing.

Final thoughts

While there were a couple of minor things which did not quite work for me in The Ill-Kept Oath, I can’t deny that it is a fabulous book. The amount of work that must have gone into it is evident and the writing is reminiscent of Austen’s novels, but brought up-to-date for modern readers. I thoroughly loved the letters between Josephine and Prudence – they brought the story together and really solidified the relationship between the two girls, which quickly became one of my favourites in the novel, despite them rarely being in the same scene together. Aune had created a brilliant novel and I cannot wait for the sequel.

Rating: 4.5/5


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Inspirational Places: Hay-on-Wye and Raglan Castle

Last weekend, I had a rather lovely mini-break in Wales. It was the first time I had been to the country and it is unlikely to be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and, while it was mostly a walking and relaxing break, there were two places which really got the inspiration going.


The first is, of course, Hay-On-Wye – the bookshop town. There was no way I was going to go to Wales and not go to the bookshop town. Yet, amazingly enough, I managed to survive the entire visit with only buying one book, and that book was a first edition of Intervention by Julian May (which I got for £5!), so I couldn’t really say no.

There weren’t actually as many bookshops as I thought there were in the town, but the ones which I did find where pretty incredible. The most impressive was probably Richard Booths’ bookshop which had an incredible selection of second-hand and new books. The shop dedicated to crime novels was another favourite.

Really though, Hay-on-Wye is a book-lovers’ heaven. Being surrounded by books and never more than a short walk away from a book shop really gets you in both the reading, and writing, kind of mood. There is nothing quite like the seeing so many books on a shelf that can bring up the excitement at the thought of seeing your own book there and so inspiring you to write. That is, of course, if you can resist buying all the books in the shop and reading those instead.


Raglan Castle

You can’t really go to Wales and not visit a castle – there are so many of them! There were a number we could have visited from where we were staying, but in the end we decided to visit Raglan Castle which was on the way back and, more importantly, was also the filming location of the Isle of the Bless for Le Morte D’Arthur episode of Merlin. Whatever our reasoning was, though, the castle was incredible.

About twice as large as I had thought it to be, there was so much to see. It was in ruins, but the ruins were complete enough and stable enough for us to have a good old explore. We climbed to the top of a tower, looked into every nook and cranny and took a vast number of photographs. It was very easy to imagine what life could have been like living there, something which was made easier by the Living History even going on at the same time. With people wandering around in historic clothing, it felt like we had stepped back in time.

All in all, while it was only a short holiday, it was a really enjoyable one and I would certainly love to return to both bookshop town and castle. I would also quite like to explore a bit more of Wales itself and see what else there is to discover.