Book Review: Neander and Neander: Exploitation by Harald Johnson (@AuthorHarald)  #RBRT # Time travel #prehistory # Pleistocene # Neanderthal


I purchased these books for review on Rosie’s Book Reviews.

Harald Johnson has written three novels about Neanderthals about a science journalist’s time travel to 40,000 years ago. Here I review the first two.

One has to suspend belief when reading anything concerning time travel, but the science woven into these books by the author is compelling and based on real findings. Johnson has written fun and fact-based fantasies.

Neander: Tim Cook, a science writer couldn’t ask for a better life. He is participating in a once-in-a-lifetime dig in a cave occupied millennia ago by Neanderthals on Gibraltar, where in fact some of the last surviving of their kind live and which is home to one of the first Neanderthal fossil discoveries. Tom’s pregnant fiancée is with him and they are looking forward to becoming a family. Then the fiancée is lost to an unexplained boat explosion and his world crumbles. While searching for her body in the ocean, he drops into a time portal and emerges 40,000 earlier into the Gibraltar of that day, occupied by Neanderthals.

The first book concerns his adaptation to life with them, learning their language and customs and teaching them English and some aspects of life in the future, such as gardening. He discovers these archaic humans are not what he expected and he struggles with the decision to improve their lives and perhaps their duration as a people, beyond what is currently accepted.  Should he do this and change history? The Neanders, as he calls them, are a varied group, and the author creates them as very real and colorful characters. I enjoyed this first book enormously and immediately went on to read the second. The cover for the book is exceptional!

In Neander: Exploitation, five years have passed and Tom is living with his Neander family, having chosen a woman as his mate and having had a daughter. But now he faces another life-altering decision: his daughter has epilepsy and he must travel back to the future to get her the medical help she needs. What he finds is a modern world very different from the one he’d known, and he is caught up in a plan by the CEO of a big pharmaceutical company to exploit his daughter’s unique DNA for modern cures.

I found this second book was not quite as satisfying as the first. The characters are a little less relatable – although the author’s descriptions remain colorful and realistic – and the plot is tortuous. The interaction between modern man and their distant predecessors (we contain up to 8% Neanderthal DNA) is predictable – avarice balanced with caring.

I had a bit of a problem with the concept that Neanderthals were completely peaceful while the Sapiens they encountered were brutal and cannibalistic. Nevertheless, the author does describe their integration, as recent genetic studies have revealed.  But some of Tom’s decisions had me asking, “Why are you doing this?”

While the first book and the beginning of the second are written from Tom’s first-person perspective, thereafter third-person points of view become interspersed with Tom’s narrative. This challenged me initially but I can see where it was necessary for plot development. I appreciated that Johnson manages to incorporate the butterfly effect and also some of the latest genetic tools, such as CRISPR, with understandable explanations.

With more pluses than minuses, this second book kept me reading on and I am looking forward to reading the third book in the series, Neander: Evolution. I think this series will have great appeal to all fans of prehistory and time travel.

4.5 stars

About the author (Amazon):

Harald Johnson is an author of both fiction and nonfiction, a publisher, and a lifelong swimmer—who actually swam nonstop around New York’s Manhattan island. His debut novel (New York 1609, 2018) was the first-ever to explore the birth of New York City (and Manhattan) from its earliest beginnings. His most recent novel series plunges the reader back 40,000 years to the age of Neanderthals. And back!
Harald loves standing in—or imagining—important places and eras in history and drifting back through the timestream to re-experience them. In the present, he lives with his wife deep in the woods of central Virginia.

You can find the author:

On twitter: @AuthorHarald

On his website:


You can find Harald Johnson’s books on Amazon:


Coming up on this site


Many thanks to my now 1500 followers! You are the best. And as of today, this is my 856th post!

Alert as to what’s ahead: there are a number of book reviews that will pop up over the next two weeks!  I’m on a roll!



In the meantime, I have two questions for you:

1. What would you like to know about me?

2. Which of the types of blogs I post do you most like?

I’m looking forward to your answers!

A post from me, Garfield the Magnificent.


It’s been a long while since I’ve posted anything, but my two-legged has made a lot of changes in her life, which I’ve been trying to accommodate. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve done my best.

I think the last time I managed to get some time at the keyboard was when she was chasing me around, trying to get me into that dratted plastic box. I managed to resist all her attempts, right up until the time when things in the house started disappearing into cardboard cartons (which I thought were for me to play in). One morning, she swooped me off the bed and carried me down the hall to the bathroom and before you knew it, I was in that plastic contraption. She’d been carrying me down the hall several times a week for a while, and she lulled me into contentment. It was just a ploy. I won’t fall for it again.

Then we went somewhere where another two-legged took me and put me in a large cage in a room with lots of other dogs and cats. Well, I would show her! I refused to come out when they came to take me to trim my claws, a humiliating experience, and to jab me with some needles. I decided to go on a hunger strike, too, but that didn’t last long. I, Garfield the Magnificent, need to keep my figure.

I spent a long time in that cage, over a week I was told by the other cats there, but finally one day I was rudely pulled out of the cage and put back in the box. I heard her voice, telling me we were going home, not to our old home but a new home. She opened the box in a square white room with my litter pan and some food and she closed the door and left me alone for a while. What was she thinking? I was just glad to be back with her, which I showed her for the next three days. I can be very charming, you know.

This new place isn’t too bad. My cat tree appeared in the place where she works, right in front of a large glass window so I can watch the birds at their feeder and try to get at the squirrels that wander up on the patio. I scratch that glass pretty good when I see them but so far haven’t been able to get through. It also has a rug that I’ve done my best to destroy by picking, but so far it’s held up annoyingly.

There are no stairs in this place! I used to love running up and down the stairs. Now I have to be satisfied with running the length of the house, making a sudden U-turn, and running back. The sound of my claws on the wood is very satisfying though.

I am getting more used to strange people. I will casually stroll out to the living room area and sniff their pant legs. There are usually some remarkable odors for me to enjoy. I also have two different two-leggeds who come and visit or stay with me when my own two-legged is away. I get lots of pets, sometimes more food than I’m usually allowed (if I am extra needy and sweet), and brushing. Brushing sends me right to purr heaven.

I have a hiding place in the closet where I can sleep if it’s particularly noisy, but I usually sleep on my cat tree or the bed, if that two-legged forgets to make it up in the morning. It’s also where I sleep at night, in between rounds of fighting with a stuffed rat or a squirrel or a bone that I’ve ripped apart. She complains when the battles on the bed wake her up, but I’m only protecting her.

Well, that’s my life for now, but I am extra wary that she might bring out that plastic box again. She recently told me I need to have my teeth cleaned.


I’m way down under the weather


Wherever did that term come from? So I looked it up: The phrase “under the weather” came from British sailing ships. When a sailor became ill he was confined below deck out of the weather, so it was said that he was under the weather.

Me, I’ve been down in the ship’s hold – #7.


I contracted a Norovirus. And believe me, this nasty little piece of work is no fun. It’s mainly a GI symptom virus with chills, fever, and aches everywhere which kept me confined to bed and the bathroom for three days. I slept a lot, ate nothing, and had wild dreams. 

                                                Mine were not this cute!

My lovely cat Garfield kept me company every step of the way. More from him later this week. He’s cranky.

I am up and about again, but we are in the midst of washing/disinfecting everything in sight – clothes, bedding blankets, and all surfaces. HUBS kept me out of the kitchen and disinfected that constantly. So far he’s healthy. I stayed in the back of the house and only ventured out to sit in a chair in the living room (also now disinfected).

I’ve learned a lot about this virus. It’s super-contagious by air and touch, symptoms appear within 48 hours, and you can shed the virus for two weeks after you are better. No wonder the virus runs rampant in cruise ships! An infected passenger feels better and decides to get out and about and enjoy his or her trip, shedding virus particles like rose petals. So I’m quarantining myself for two weeks, especially because I live in an over 55 community.

Still, some symptoms persist – virus brain fog, achy muscles, and exhaustion that sends me for a nap morning and afternoon.

My advice: If you are over 60, as I am and waaaay beyond, be careful when visiting friends who have small children in school or daycare, cesspools of germs and viruses. I caught everything my kids brought home with them over the years – but never Norovirus!

An electron micrograph of the Norovirus, with 27-32nm-sized viral particles. (from CDC)

Be careful and well!

Mulling Over a Few Things


Something different for my blog post today!

Lately, events of the last two pandemic years have been shuffling around my little gray cells. I do believe my brain is wired strangely because what’s emerged is not the usual pandemic ponderings.

The first thought is of gratitude that no one I know died of Covid. I know that’s not true for many.

Second, I now have two grandchildren, whose presence blesses me with smiles and laughter every day. Eli is almost two and a happy kid with interests in all sorts of things: birds, cars and trucks, drawing, music. I love playing with him – something I recall having little time to do with his mother and uncle when they were growing up. Too busy attending to their needs – so that’s what grandparents are for! Alexandra is too young, not yet two months, but her little round baby face makes me want to protect her from all the bumps in life.  I do wonder what will come of them, especially since I am an older grandmother and won’t be around for most of their lifetime.

I feel like singing Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely?

Third, I have a husband who puts up with my craziness after more than 50 years of marriage. My latest finagling has to do with getting another cat and also an e (electric)-bike.* I’ll let you know how that works out.

Fourth, although I cried every day for a month after moving from our home of 35 years, I am coming to realize that living on one floor and having good neighbors is a real compensation, not to mention a new house that doesn’t require us to drain our savings on a regular basis.

Fifth, I have an idiot cat who sleeps with me at night so I can fall asleep petting him. That makes up for the fact that I vacuum up enough hair to make another cat each week.

Sixth, we are lucky to have longtime friends who seem to be there when we need anything – watching the house, driving us to the airport – and willingly sample any of my more dubious off-the-cuff cooking/baking creations.

Sixth, I wonder why it is so hard to take off the weight that was so easy to put on. Gets harder every year, despite long walks with creaky joints.

Seven, how wonderful it is to get into a pool and just swim. Laps and laps that clear the mind and help focus on life’s tangles. And how to untangle them.





Eight, although my body is now made up of a lot of artificial parts, it’s still functioning well. Aging isn’t for the weak of heart, but it can still be enjoyable.

I have two of each of these and a plate in my neck, but being bionic, I’m still going.


All in all, I do believe I am pretty lucky person, content with my life.

What have you been pondering lately? Are you content? Would love some add-ons to my list!


* FYI, a bill that would offer Americans a refundable tax credit on the purchase of a new electric bicycle was just introduced in the Senate by Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI), as a way to cut down on car emissions. The bill is called the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment, or E-BIKE Act. E-bikes are pretty expensive, ranging from $1000 t0 $5000 or more. Schatz and Markey’s legislation would offer Americans a refundable tax credit worth 30 percent of a new e-bike’s purchase price, capped at $1,500.

I think HUBS just might go for this. Look for some pictures of mine pretty soon!


Some doggerel about to-be-read lists


In response to the challenge by D. Wallace Peach to write a poem or story about your e-book TBR list, or in my case pile, (see: Here is my contribution, over which I labored for at least five minutes.

My TBR pile, it seems,

Is taking over my dreams.

Last night I dreamed of a hat.

You know the one that sat

Looking sage on a table at Hogwart’s

And divided the kids into all sorts

Of magical schools.

This one, all floppy and chatty,

Sat atop my pile, looking tatty.

It dithered and vexed

About the book to choose next.

It was no help at all

As pile did fall

Smothering me.

Needless to say, I woke up screaming! Thanks, Diana, for this vision!

Favorite Books I Reviewed in 2021


I have reviewed a total of twenty-eight books on my blog this year, most of them for Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I hereby reveal my five favorites. These you won’t find on the New York Times or Wall Street Journal bestseller lists, but given my general dissatisfaction with what I did read off those lists this year, we clearly need a way to get the news out there about options. Rosie’s Reviews is the way to do it!


At the top of the list is Fae or Foe by CA Deegan, a delightful surprise for someone who ordinarily doesn’t like books about fantastical/magical things (the exception being the Harry Potter series.) This book and its sequel was an eye-opener, a YA book of adventure at its highest in a world previously unimagined. You can find my review here:

Second on the list is Megacity by Terry Tyler. Terry is the queen of dystopian fiction, in my eyes, and a consummate world builder. This is a story of future and frightening governmental control that we might yet see. You can find my review here:


Third is The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by  D. Wallace Peach. She is another master of world creation. In The Ferryman and the Sea Witch, she blends a romping nautical adventure with a population of beautiful and deadly Merrows (think mer-people on steroids) and various greedy, powerful rulers and just plain nasty characters. You can find my review here:


Fourth is The Drowning Land by David M. Danachie, prehistorical fiction, set in northern Europe a little over eight thousand years ago. It combines adventure, a romance, and disaster against the setting of a land that literally is sinking beneath the sea and is based on a huge underwater slide that created a sudden and catastrophic tsunami that engulfed Doggerland, which connected Great Britain to the European continent and was a rich habitat for the Mesolithic populations. You can find my review here:


And fifth is Foxe and the Moon-Shadowed Murders by William Savage. In the eighth book in this series, Ashmole Foxe, a bookseller in Norwich, England, during the Georgian era who has acquired a solid reputation for solving murders, must solve the murder of the Honourable Henry Pryce-Perkins, the youngest son of a peer of the realm and a brilliant scholar at Oxford. A layered puzzle for the reader in a detailed historical setting. You can find my review here:

These are by far not the only books I read this past year. I only wish I had had time to review all of them!

Book Review: Foxe and the Moon-Shadowed Murders: An Ashmole Foxe Georgian Mystery by William Savage (@penandpension) #Georgian Mystery


I have read and reviewed all the books in this series, and it was so enjoyable to sit down and meet up with all the characters I’ve come to love and see the developments in their lives. That being said, anyone can pick up this book and enjoy the tale without having read the previous books. I will say for me this is the best in the series. The author seems to up his game with each new mystery.

Ashmole Foxe is a bookseller in Norwich, England, during the Georgian era. He is well-to-do from the sales of his bookstore and also his ability to find and sell rare books for significant profit. All of this he finds mundane, and over the years he has acquired a solid reputation for solving murders, which has become his raison d’etre.

This time he is called to visit the Bishop of St. Stephen’s Church, where the body of a young clergyman was discovered outside his home. The victim, the Honourable Henry Pryce-Perkins, was the warden of St. Stephen’s Hospital, a sort of retirement home for male servants and other people who worked for members of the cathedral clergy. He was also both the youngest son of a peer of the realm and a brilliant scholar at Oxford. How did he end up with a dead-end (pardon the pun) position as warden of the hospital, when he should have been moving on to a large and prestigious parish?

Street children are favorites of Foxe, and he treats them with respect and gives them money to survive. So it is not surprising that soon after the Bishop’s call, street children lead him to the richly dressed body of a young woman in a house that its neighbors swear is haunted.  The house also sits strangely empty at the entrance to one of the notorious ‘yards’ of Norwich, wretched tenements housing the poorest of the poor in the city. The children also play a central role in helping Foxe solve this murder.

For the first time, and complicating Foxe’s investigative work, the women in his life are creating problems. He has enjoyed the occasional company of various women, usually actresses or denizens of high-priced brothels, but he has now tied himself to a socially acceptable lady. How can he manage her increasing demands, especially when two former ‘close friends’ are returning to Norwich?

In the process of Foxe’s investigation, we are introduced to more of the colorful characters that abound in this series: the occupants of St. Stephen’s hospital, the Bishop himself, and Oliver Lakenhurst, secretary to the Bishop and quite enamored with his perceived importance. In addition, we learn a great deal about the church, specifically its considerable library and the odd beliefs of the murdered warden.  The means and the opportunity for the murder were clear but Ashmole has difficulty figuring out the why.

As usual, the author creates the world of Georgian Norwich with wonderful detail and an eye to the political and social lives of its inhabitants. I was particularly charmed by the street children, whose lives are a bleak reflection of the time. The atmosphere of this mystery is inspired, the city itself a character.

The twists and turns in Foxe’s investigation of the two murders kept me guessing, and since I tend to figure things out before the denouement of a mystery, Foxe and the Moon-Shadowed Murders was frustratingly good.

The author is a superb writer, and I mean it as a compliment that his mysteries develop at a leisurely pace, as life was in those times. If the reader is wanting something speedy, they wouldn’t have enjoyed living then.

I highly recommend Foxe and the Moon-Shadowed Murders and all the other mysteries by this writer.

About the author:

William Savage grew up in Hereford, on the border with Wales and took his degree at Cambridge. After a working life largely spent teaching and coaching managers and leaders in Britain, Europe and the USA, he retired to Norfolk, where he volunteers at a National Trust property and started to write fiction as a way of keeping his mind active in retirement. He had read and enjoyed hundreds of detective stories and mystery novels and another of his loves was history, so it seemed natural to put the two together and try his hand at producing a historical mystery. To date, he has focused on two series of murder-mystery books, both set in Norfolk between 1760 and around 1800; a period of turmoil in Britain, with constant wars, the revolutions in America and France and finally the titanic, 22-year struggle with France and Napoleon.

Norfolk is not only an inherently interesting county, it happens to be where the author lives, which makes the necessary research far easier. The Georgian period seemed natural choice for him as well, since he lives in a small Georgian town, close by several other towns that still bear the imprint of the eighteenth century on many of their streets and grander buildings. It also had the attraction of being a period he had never studied intensively, and so far he has not regretted his choice. The period has far exceeded his expectations in richness of incidents, rapidity of change and plentiful opportunities for anyone with a macabre interest in writing about crimes of every kind. He cannot see himself running out of plot material any time soon!

You can also find William Savage

On Twitter: @penandpension

And on Facebook:

Foxe and the Moon-Shadowed Murders can be found on Amazon:








Holiday Greeting from Snowy Utah


I will be off my blog for the next two weeks – Christmas vacation! We are in Utah, where it’s been snowing off and on, something we hardly ever see in North Carolina.

We came to Utah to visit my son, his wife, and the newest addition to our family, a granddaughter. Welcome to the world, Alexandra Rhea!















There are outrageous Christmas light displays and we’ve enjoyed touring the neighborhoods at night.










From our family to yours, Happy Christmas. May all your wishes for the season come true!

What Did the Pilgrims Wear?


Although the Pilgrims didn’t celebrate Christmas, since they eschewed all holidays except for those decreed by God (Sunday), I thought I would continue with some of my research on how they lived.

The Pilgrims’ (Separatists’) clothing was made of two types of cloth – wool and linen, which they wore year-round. They did not wear black or gray clothing, but clothes of many colors, according to probate records where the color of various clothing items was mentioned. These colors included violet, blue, and green. The color red was also listed; however, the reds that were used in the early 17th century were more of a brick red or a madder red. What was considered black in the early 17th century was very dark greys, greens, and blues and natural black sheep’s wool was also available.

A deep, rich black was considered the opposite of demonstrating piety in the early 17th century. Thus, a true black would not have been worn by Separatists.


If you were a male colonist or a boy old enough to be ‘breeched’, what would you wear? Male children old enough to be ‘breeched’ would wear the same clothing as their fathers:

Felt hat

Linen shirt under

A wool jacket or doublet

Woolen breeches

Wool stockings

Latchet shoes

If you were a Separatist woman or a girl older than five, what would you wear? The same as an adult woman:

Coif on the head

Smock or shift under everything – you would wear this to bed at night so no need to change

Stays – called bodies, designed to give the woman a svelte figure but very uncomfortable


Pockets stitched to a band and knotted around the waist under the skirt

Skirt, also called a petticoat




Knitted woolen stockings

Felt or straw hat

Latchet shoes

I have an authentic costume made by the wardrobe mistress of the Raleigh Little Theater. Even without the stays and petticoats, I sweat profusely in the wool and linen.


The latchet shoe is made of sturdy leather.  Closed latchet shoes were more practical in bad weather. It is thought the open latchet shoes were made to show off rich stockings. These shoes were worn by both men and women. There were holes in the latchet (fastening strap) and in the tongue for laces of leather, cord or ribbon.

Latchet shoes were not fitted for left or right feet but were made ‘straights’ or lasts. Wearers would rotate their shoes from left foot to right to even out the wear.

Work shoes tended to have the “flesh” side of the leather turned out since they didn’t need to be waxed or polished.

I have a pair of latchet shoes. They are very sturdy but hard on the feet, at least until I break them in!