Away, Book 1 of the Folk Trilogy, Meg Benjamin

Away, Book 1 of the Folk Trilogy,  Meg Benjamin

Away (The Folk Trilogy Book 1) by [Benjamin, Meg]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy.

I’ve never read any of Meg’s books before so I didn’t know what to expect. I really enjoyed this story, and look forward to reading more in the series.
I did get a little confused in the beginning by who was who and how they fitted into the story, there are a lot of different supernatural groups, and they integrate differently. It took me a while to work out just how they all fit together. Maybe a glossary of characters would be helpful? Explaining things like the difference between the Ward and the Guard when at first they both seemed to me to be doing the same thing. I certainly didn’t guess who was behind things, and I love a story that catches me out like that.
I found the characters pretty realistic, even fantasy folk have to feel real to me. I liked Grim, liked his determination to do what was right, when it was needed, to find out the truth, not just do a supernatural cover-up from the humans thing. Annie was great too, and her story very plausible.
First books in a series have a difficult task, introducing a new world and characters while delivering an interesting story. This book does that pretty well I feel, could have had a little more depth and drama but that’s me…I love drama. Its not heart stopping romance, nor edge of seat scariness, but a fun read, and a world I want to read more from.

Stars: Four, an excellent start and I’ll look out for book two.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, (Six Tudor Queens 3), Alison Weir

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen, (Six Tudor Queens 3),  Alison Weir

Six Tudor Queens: Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen: Six Tudor Queens 3 by [Weir, Alison]

Genre: Historical Fiction

About fifteen years ago I was into reading a lot of historical fiction, and devoured books by Phillipa Gregory, Elizabeth Chadwick, Ariana Franklin and others, and found several of Alison’s books that appealed to me.
I hated history at school, and yet through reading historical fiction I’ve learned the appeal of past times. What I really love is the personal touch, not the dry reams of dates and facts History lessons at school consisted of. Fiction lets authors play with those facts, put a personal spin on them and brings the characters to life, and Alison does that perfectly.

I’ve read many books about Katherine, Henry’s first wife, and of course Anne Boleyn. She’s someone that existed for a short few years yet changed the course of history, changed England’s future and religion. I knew, as all schoolkids were taught, that Henry had six wives, and I have read a couple of books about Kitty Howard and Ann Parr, but the middle two, especially Jane, seem to get forgotten when it comes to fiction.

I’ve always thought of Henry as a spoiled child who became a spoiled adult, demanding everything goes his way…or else. In reality it was difficult for Royals of the day, they never knew who was planning to take their place, treason might have carried an awful death but it didn’t stop plotting. Then of course he was never really given his advisers true thoughts, afraid of his reactions they told him what they thought he wanted to hear, so when for example he wanted to divorce Katherine, or get rid of Anne they needed to make it happen, or they paid the price.
He did a difficult job, and he was very clear how he felt about his position as King, that he had a responsibility to the country. He may have played with that a bit in his reasoning at times, when he wanted, for example, to marry Anne, but on the whole he comes over as someone who held his position as one of duty as much as privilege.
When it cam to Jane I found myself almost sympathetic to Henry at times here, he really did seem to have feelings for her, which marries with the little I’ve read about her in other books, when she has come in as a secondary character. The end section was very emotional.

This is a lovely, long book, and it started with Jane’s early years where we learned much about her family. All that lays the foundation for the person she became as she matured, and was interesting reading.
I felt the way Jane was very moral about Katherine and Henry’s position with Anne, was good and true to her beliefs. After much praying and thought, she decided she wasn’t doing the same as she felt Katherine was the True Queen. In her reasoning she thought therefore as Henry wasn’t married to Anne, and Katherine had now died he was free to make advances to her. I needed to feel that she had given much thought to her position, as in the early part of the book she was so devout in her religious beliefs.

Families were in a constant struggle for power, and we see how Jane’s ambitious brothers encouraged her, despite knowing how she felt, they wanted the rewards that came with being a favoured family of the king. To have their sister be the King’s mistress was a heady thought, but when she refused and it became likely she would be Queen their pleasure was unconstrained. That goes through all the historical fiction I’ve read, families always seem to be in the struggle for pole position, ready to use their females however it benefits the family, disregarding how they themselves may feel. The Seymours were a typical family in their actions, all of the “important” families would have done the same thing. The Boleyns pushed Mary forward, then her sister Anne, and later the Howards pushed Kitty, despite her young age, all for Family glory and favours.

I enjoyed the author’s notes, where Alison explains how she has used certain known facts, or drawn conclusions from available data and modern advice, to fit this book, but made clear that it may not be what actually happened. I want to read fiction, but feel its grounded in reality, and I am happy at the way this was done. I haven’t read the earlier books, will look out for them.

Stars: Five, a lovely long read ( almost 7000 kindle locations) that engrossed me, made me feel part of the story, took me back in time mentally for a few hours. Did what I though was impossible and made me feel sympathetic at times for Henry!

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

One Summer in Italy, Sue Moorcroft

One Summer in Italy,  Sue Moorcroft

One Summer in Italy: The most uplifting summer romance you need to read in 2018 by [Moorcroft, Sue]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

A book set mainly in Italy and so well described I felt I was there, out in the sun, enjoying the countryside, having coffee in the gardens of the hotel.

Sofia has come there after her father dies. She’s been his carer for many years, he left Italy when he married her mum and never returned though he talked of home with such love, and she promised him she’d live her own life after he died, and delivering a family message gave her Italy as a start to that.

She’s spending time there, so takes a live in position as waitress and befriends Amy. She’s another young waitress, left home after a family fallout and Sofia feels protective of her. She’s concerned at the attention one of the guests, who is much older than Amy, is paying to her.
Its one of those stories that starts simply, Sophia going to Italy as her father wanted, but quickly involves others and their lives and actions become entwined in the story. There are lots of surprises, some deliciously heated romance, and some hard decisions for Sophia to make. It looks like a simple read, but like Sue’s other stories its far more complex than it appears, having multi-layered plots that spread and encompass many characters. I loved Sophia and Levi, though like her I wondered why he was so interested in Amy. Amy was a typical older teen, dramatic and thinks everything revolves around her, but she’s a naive girl, good hearted and hard working even if she has run away from home in a hissy fit. She did have some particularly shocking revelations thrown at her.
I enjoyed this story, its not heart stopping drama, a can’t-put-down read, but one that’s fun for a summer’s day in the hammock, or to take on holiday, to the beach, and get lost in Italy along with the characters. I don’t think its one I’d re-read, but it is one I really enjoyed.

Stars: Five, a great fun read, perfect to take on holiday or to lose yourself for a few hours.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Her Secret, Kelly Florentia

Her Secret, Kelly Florentia

Her Secret: The page-turning sequel to No Way Back by [Florentia, Kelly]

Genre: Romance, women’s fiction.

Well, usual pet hate- Women’s fiction – why? Why not general fiction – men read romance too!

Anyway, book one left me with mixed feelings, many because I hadn’t realised it was a two part read until the end. I wasn’t keen on any of the characters either, they had odd reactions to events IMO.
I still find that in book two, that they react strangely. For instance – and this isn’t from the book but more as an example – if one of your family was involved in an accident, wouldn’t you want to speak to them, find out exactly what happened, see they’re OK for yourself? Here though the characters would probably have a quick phone convo with someone else in family and trot off for coffee with a friend, telling themselves “they’ll be OK, I need to find out what A think of XX”. I did grow to like them better though in this book, or at least understand them.

I still feel Daniel is a bit too-good-to-be-true, and he seems to be treating Audrey as someone lesser, a “little lady” who can be bought off with new shoes each time he wants something he thinks she won’t like.
Connie still lives up to Miss Spoilt, and Daniel treats her as a kid, not a 29 yr old. There are times when she’s friendly to Audrey, when they almost seem to get along and then Connie will pull one of her stunts. I did feel for Audrey over the Jake issue, she really was in a hard place there.
Nick, he’s back and wow – that was a shock, I didn’t see that coming! That’s true of so much in this read, it really kept me on my toes.
All the major characters have things going on, secrets for some, life changes for others, and then there’s the couple I really like, Audrey’s brother George and his wife Vicky and the kids. They’re like so many families, struggling with sub standard living circumstances, with financial issues etc. A really true to life couple who I liked very much.
Audrey’s friends Tina and Louise. They’ve been through so much, the last book had some bombshells but somehow the trio have found a way through and they really are a strong support. And with the revelations coming out in the last quarter of this book, she really needs that.
The ending – perfect, I’ll say no more except I loved it!

Stars:five, a book that kept me glued to the end. Loved it.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Give Love a Chance, Darla Jones

Give Love a Chance,  Darla Jones

Give Love a Chance by [Jones, Darla]

Genre: Romance, Woman’s Fiction.

Gah, Woman’s Fiction – I hate when we dismiss a whole sector of readers. Why do that? Why shouldn’t men read this? Ah well, rant over.

Well, I saw this book had lots of five star reviews, but having finished it clearly I’m not on the same wavelength as those people as its a good read for me, could have been a really great one, but there were some irritating, hard to ignore niggles that for me really brought it down.

Evan, the man is gorgeous one moment, a true gent and then a real jerk. He reacted badly to the pregnancy news, but that could be passed off as shock, and sadly, family/friends experience. There are unfortunately women who will try those kind of tricks and he didn’t know Kim.
Once the background checks came in though, added to his experience of her at close quarters once she was living with him there was no reason for him to be so up and down, keep referring to the baby as “her baby” – the man admitted he’d had unprotected sex with her, the checks showed she hadn’t been dating others, c’mon on, own it your jerk! He was all over her one moment and then cold the next.
Kim, she let him get away with so much. Why didn’t she question about Amy, why did she just accept his cold times, why was she so grateful for the attention he gave her that she let the other times slide. I was kind of puzzled by money too, she’s skint and yet when not working, home and possessions gone, car wrecked, she still seems to have enough cash, “just pick me up a new phone Evan” – or words to that effect, and takes treats to a favourite patient and his family?
The way she and her daughter integrated so quickly with Evan and his son was weird, kids just aren’t like that, and though there was a little jealousy to begin they were soon just one unit. Real life is a bit more problematical .

I didn’t really relate to any of the characters, felt they were a little one dimensional. They were potentially great but just felt kind of stilted, unreal to me. There were things that had a lot of plot time that were not (IMO) worthy of it while others could have been expanded, gave flesh to the characters.
Evan’s pregnancy symptoms, amusing at first and second mention, by the Nth time I was rolling my eyes and irritated.
Likewise the suspense, it was such a great line, played out so well, and I really was shocked at who was behind events but somehow they way the story went it was very underdone in parts and overdone in others. It had the potential to be really breath catching the danger that was there but it got an almost lighthearted treatment until the climax.

I have to say this to finish -Evan and his undies….I cannot mentally envision the male lead wearing “fire engine red bikini briefs” and his underwear gets more mention when we read several times about his “scanty underwear”. Nope, that’s just wrong!! Back when I was reading Charlene Harris Sookie series I had a hard time getting past Alpha Hunk Eric wearing red bikini briefs…is it some US thing? Is it that UK readers simply don’t understand the attraction of skimpy red underwear on men?
I’d happily try another read by Darla, this one wasn’t great for me but it was a good read, and she clearly has great plot ideas, and maybe its just this book where the characters were a bit flat for me.

Stars: Three, a good read, but not up to that slew of five stars for me. But clearly its perfect for others. You choose 😉

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Melt for You, Slow Burn: Book 2,  J. T. Geissinger

Melt for You, Slow Burn: Book 2,  J. T. Geissinger

Melt for You (Slow Burn Book 2) by [Geissinger, J.T.]

Genre: General Fiction ( adult) , Romance

I loved the first book in this series, and looked forward to this one. I really liked it, just not quite as much as I loved book one.

Great characters once more, though to begin with I thought Cam was an obnoxious, arrogant ar se. Soon saw his softer side peek through and got a glimpse of that steely determination and fierce intelligence that has taken him to the top of his game despite his poor start.

I love characters like Joellen too, she’s a sweet girl, tries to please everyone and somehow her own personality and wants take a back seat. She’s got that loving family who just aren’t really supportive, she doesn’t fit the family beauty mould and feels inferior, too tubby, too dark, too unsocial, and that constant criticism from her childhood ( for her own good of course!) spills over into the rest of her life. She always feels the unwanted one, the one on the outside of a group. I know that feeling, I guess many of us do.

She’s had an unrequited love for her married boss for ten years now, and then he tells her he’s getting divorced and – wow – he really seems to see her, to be attracted to her. Somehow Cam catches on to her self improvements and along with fitting him into her life by way of meal bribes for keeping the music down, he’s now training her to make the best of herself. He’s not keen on her “air diet” so helps her to take up fitness training, and they end up spending more and more time together.

Its a read full of humour, some of it very subtle and some – Denny’s jokes – more overt and in your face.

There are some great secondary characters too, Joellen’s cat, Mrs Dinwiddy her neighbour, Portia and others from work. They all add to the “real” feel of the story.

There were some minor irritations though, small things but they niggled at me. Lassie – we know her well in UK, and Cam being a Scot he’d be well aware of the story. After all it takes place in Yorkshire and Scotland so Joellen wouldn’t have needed to explain that to him. You can’t just sweep up your cat, board a plane in an ordinary carrier with it, and the UK has pretty strict rabies Laws, and there’s a plethora of paperwork.
Set against those though was the fabulous humour, and this bit really made me snigger. Joellen is talking about a former date’s comment on her rather aggressive kissing “That was my lung you just licked” – loved it!

Great read, cleverly written and after the story ends the author has written a bit about negative body image and the harm it can do to some people. Very thought provoking and something I fully agree with, having always had that issue myself.

Stars: Four, a perfectly written transformation story, sensual and heated, but not Sex all the Way as so many stories are, and with some terrific characters.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

The Irresistible Royal,  Alyssa J. Montgomery

The Irresistible Royal,  Alyssa J. Montgomery

The Irresistible Royal (Royal Affairs) by [Montgomery, Alyssa J.]

Genre: Romance

I’m an eclectic reader and this sort of romance isn’t one I pick up often, but after a heavy fantasy read, erotic romance, intense suspense I love to get lost in a straightforward easy to read piece of fiction and this is perfect for those times. Often what looks like a great read for those occasions turns out to be a cut’n’paste dumbed down story and though I want an easy read I need need t to be a solid, realistic– ish story.

Marco is lovely, he’s got sound reasoning behind him for not believing Chloe, but of course I could understand her hurt. She’s a great character too, brought up by her father who she loves she’s strong, independent, and has worked hard at her career. She deserves her success. Her mother is a classic, selfish lady, and I do love finding characters like her in a read, deliciously amoral, always out for the angle that best suits themselves. Alyssa really made her a fabulous character, one we can all love to hate!
So Marco sees Chloe at a party, and they sizzle, right from that first glance. He doesn’t want romance, relationships etc. the love of his life died and he’s not looking to replace her. Chloe is the classic “good girl” doesn’t do one night stands, only has sex within relationships and she’s had precious few of them. The party though, meeting her mother and being so disappointed in her all lead her into an uncharacteristic decision that has serious consequences. Funny how fate works, how it doesn’t take any notice of what we want, what we plan…

It made for a fun read, an easy story but still with some solid emotion and drama packed in. Its not a books I’d reread I think, but was perfect for what I wanted at that time, an easy but genuine tale.

Stars: Four, fun and light but with some depth to it in parts, and very real feeling characters.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

The Things We Need to Say, Rachel Burton

The Things We Need to Say, An emotional, uplifting story of grief and hope , Rachel Burton

The Things We Need to Say: An emotional, uplifting story of grief and hope from bestselling author Rachel Burton by [Burton, Rachel]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Gah, there’s just one thing I didn’t like about this story – the category Women’s Fiction! Why do that? Why exclude men who could love this story? I Really Hate seeing books categorised in that genre. Rant over.

I wasn’t sure about this book, but reviews looked good and it is, its a perfect read for those who want a novel that will make them think “what would I do?” Make them wonder about the characters, the morality of events, how people react in different situations.

I loved both Will and Fran, and was desperately hoping they could find a way through the sticky morass they found themselves in. They’ve been through so much, look perfect from the outside but inside they are both a seething mass of grief, hurt, not knowing what to do, whether they could recover.
Just when Fran feels she does want to try again she gets another awful shock. Can they get past it?

Well, everyone reacts differently and for some that last hurt would be the one that breaks, but while away in Spain Fran gets a chance to think, to work out what went wrong, to wonder of they’ve just been papering over the cracks these last few years, desperate to do what others find effortless.
I so felt for them both, and the title is perfect -they do need to talk, to clear the air, discuss how they feel, what went wrong before they can decide if they want to go forward together or if things have gone too far.

Fran’s yoga group and the people she met in Spain helped her gain perspective, while for Will its his brother, and unexpectedly his father who help, along with a couple of Fran’s friends who know him.

I loved their story, was moved to tears at parts and heart-broken for each of them. I thought I’d be angry at Will and yet…he was so lost, and so in love still with Fran and she with him that I just couldn’t find it in me.
Its a perfect five star read for me, but not one I think I’d re-read.

Stars: five, a real solid story for readers who want more then the widely available fluff stories.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Desperately Seeking Summer, Mandy Baggot

Desperately Seeking Summer, The perfect feel-good Greek romantic comedy to read on the beach this summer,  Mandy Baggot

Genre: Romance, women’s Fiction

* sigh * one day we’ll stop trying to alienate male readers with this horrible, discriminating category. Why do publishers think men don’t read romance – they do!

I love Mandy Baggot’s stories…usually. This one though was a hard slog to get through instead of the usual humorous fun romance. I wasn’t convinced by Desperately Seeking’s turnaround, from a total Barbie Pink disaster when Abby gets there to successful and flourishing agency a few weeks later. There’s no way I’d buy property from that agency – if I had the money of course. I liked the general Greek, sunny feeling to the book and enjoyed reading about the characters but again I didn’t feel “there” in the story, didn’t feel as if I was involved in events as I usually do with Mandy’s books.
I liked Abby, and could see how her hotel skills came in useful in seeing what was wrong with her mum and sister agency, but the way everything went wrong became old very fast. It was funny at first, then – much like her sisters overuse of “wanging” it began to irritate.
I loved Theo, loved his aunt, loved the guy who’s name I’ve forgotten – the man who did the olive wood carvings. They sounded just beautiful. Diana, what an awful person she was – but I like a few of those in a story, give a balance to the good guys 😉 there were lots of side characters, each with their own idiosyncrasies, and they added to the holiday feel of the read.
I guess it was just the overall story that fell a bit flat for me, didn’t feel real, as there were some fabulous characters here. Still, as usual that’s just my opinion and others will love this. As ever its very well written, flows well, just that I couldn’t wholly get along with the actual premise of the book.

Stars: Three, I was disappointed, usually Mandy’s reads are fives, or at least a four for me but this one didn’t really fit my taste.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Day Reaper, Melody Johnson

Day Reaper,  Melody Johnson

Day Reaper (The Night Blood Series) by [Johnson, Melody]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

I loved the first three in this series, but this final novel was a real disappointment for me.

Its a complex cast of characters, not just the usual Humans and Vampires, but Night Bloods, Day Walkers and The Damned too. At times they overlap a lot, and I had to keep reminding myself of the differences between the groups. Its not always a s clear as it seems with Walker being a Night Blood who is out to kill Vampires ( and The Damned and Day Walkers), Ronnie who’s a Vampire but can’t seem to thrive on blood, and Cassidy’s brother Nathan transformed to one of The Damned back to Something Else….he still has the same characteristics of The damned, but not the murderous impulses and rages.

The friendships that were such an integral part of the early stories take a battering, with Cassidy fighting her friends to convince them she, Dominic and co can work with them, that they are on the side of good despite being vampires. At times its hard seeing which way either side will go. Harsh too that bonds of friendship were stretched, that Cassidy’s friends were so ready to just dismiss her, write her off a Vampire=Bad. It’s difficult too, to know who is going to help and who is just going to take advantage of the situation and change sides, or revert back to their history of preservation at all costs, or killing non humans, believing they are all evil.

The thing that really got me from this book was the credibility. Dominic has been so strong throughout, loyal to his coven, a great leader ( though I’m not sure why when the Levelling is a regular event he wasn’t more prepared…) but in this book I felt he became emasculated and that Cassidy became what I hate in fantasy reads, one of those recently transformed characters who have endless new powers popping up to save the day. It just doesn’t feel real that someone who only weeks earlier learned about vampires, gets transformed and becomes The Great Savior, so to speak, not struggling with her days only transformation but able to think clearly, adapt and do what Dominic and the others with their combined thousands of years experience can’t. I know part of it is the friendship she has with the humans but its just a step too far for me. A per hate, one that I guess won’t bother many readers, but for me which always spoils novels when it happens. 😦
I felt much of this story was dragged out just to fill pages, and perhaps the books would have been better condensed into three. Dominic could have been left as the strong, intelligent character he’s been for hundreds of years, with his quick, strategic thinking, The focus could have stayed on the Levelling, which as a huge part of the early books seemed to fizzle out into a non event really, and less attention put on Cassidy as the Saviour of Everyone! No New Girl saves the Day, keep my pet peeve out.

Stars: Three, a really disappointing ending for me, still a good read but this final book lacks the special qualities that the earlier ones had, the thing that made it such a perfect read.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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