Midnight Desire, Shari Nichols

Midnight Desire, Shari Nichols

Midnight Desire (Ravens Hollow Coven Book 1) by [Nichols, Shari]

Genre: Sci fi and Fantasy. romance
I enjoy books in the fantasy genre and where there’s romance too, that’s me happy. I enjoyed this book but didn’t love it as I’d thought. To be fair, as with other reviewers I’m writing this, reading this in the midst of the Covid19 crisis and my mind isn’t where it usually is so that could affect my enjoyment.

I loved the characters, the story flowed well and was a quick, steamy read. What I had a really hard time with is Alex being a – well, rabid witch hater wouldn’t be too strong, and yet within the first meeting he’s attracted to Willow and they’re quickly hot and heavy. I couldn’t see how he could put his years of hatred behind him, and how Willow could be with someone who’s held those views for so long. Lust only goes so far. Then there’s the way Willow was assimilated back into the coven with very few questions asked and apart form the initial snarky, hurtful comments its almost like a girls bonding party.
Get past those issues though and its an easy to read novel, a neat story, wrapped up properly, a little magic, a lot of mystery, and plenty of heat.

Stars: I’m hovering between three and four, I liked the story a lot, but the things I had issues with were for me pretty big. Three and a half.

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Family For Beginners, Sarah Morgan

Family For Beginners, Sarah Morgan

Family For Beginners: the brand new summer read from the Top 5 Sunday Times bestseller Sarah Morgan! by [Morgan, Sarah]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

I’ve read and enjoyed several of Sarah’s books, her writing style matches what I want to read. She doesn’t just do a romance, but a story that has lots of sub plots, plenty of other things going on, and characters that feel so real. That’s what I want to read, real lives but with good things in. A story that has more than just A meets B and they have a few drama and lived HEA.

I loved Flora, such a hard life she’d had and of course we are what life shapes us. Flora has become one of life’s Pleasers, hates conflict and always tries to help, subjugating her own needs to make others happy. I hate conflict too, and I recognise facts of Flora in my own character, and understood her actions.
Jack, ahhh Jack. What a wonderful guy, loved his family, tries so hard after the unexpected death of his wife, and yet he’s a bloke and of course they see events and things differently. I so felt for Flora when she felt “outside” the family, and yet I understood too why Jack couldn’t see what his actions were doing.
The kids too, poor confused Izzie, teen years are tough but add in a dead mum, a grieving little sister, and a dad who seems to be getting close to his new girlfriend, and no wonder she was obnoxious at times. Molly, her little sister, was a real gem and provided some fantastic light when it was needed.

Of course there’s more to the story than we first know, slowly secrets come out and have repercussions. A little ripple turned into some pretty big waves.
I enjoyed the story and the pacing, the way what seemed clear kept changing as more things were revealed. I enjoyed Clare and the family in the Lake district too, some fabulous summer days played out there.

Stars: Five, another wonderful read from Sarah, with real people and plots, to make a story that’s totally absorbing.

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Killing Beauties, Pete Langman

Killing Beauties, Pete Langman

Killing Beauties by [Langman, Pete]

Genre: Historical Fiction

I liked the sound of this, fiction but about real people, and in a period that intrigues me, but which I know little of. Sadly the story just wasn’t a great fit for me.

I’m not sure why, perhaps its because I failed to really connect with the characters, perhaps its just that events seemed muddled at times. I need to empathise with someone in a story, but though the setting felt real the characters just didn’t ,and I wasn’t really concerned with what happened to them.
Kudos to Pete for taking on bringing female spies into the public eye, sadly historically women were treated badly, as secondary to men, and even now the word Spy evokes a man, rarely do we think of female spies. They existed, though, did a hard and dangerous job, even more dangerous because women then were really regarded as unimportant, disposable.
I might come back to this another time, its a well written book, and I’m guessing well researched, certain historically it feels accurate. We’re in the throes of Covid19 when I’m reading this, and it may well be my issues, the unsettledness we’re all feeling that have affected how I felt about this story. Possibly in a different time I’ll get more from it?

Stars: Two, a good story for others but I failed to connect with it.

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Dear Enemy, Kristen Callihan

Dear Enemy, Kristen Callihan

Dear Enemy by [Callihan, Kristen]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

I love Kristen’s VIP series, have re read those several times and they still make me laugh – and cry….but her other books just don’t quite live up to those for me. This one was the same, it was good, great banter, Kristen excels at that, which had me giggling like a loon every now and then, but somehow it didn’t have the VIP magic.
I never like it when a guy dates a sister – or vice versa, and her its an integral part of the story but I just didn’t – even when everything came out – understand just why Macon ever dated the horrible Samantha.

Delilah coming to work for Macon was…a little contrived in terms of real life, but this is fiction so jut go with it. In reality would a chef/PA really be worth all that money? She might be the greatest chef- but is untried as a PA. Somehow though if you can suspend belief, and just accept it has happened it makes for a great story.
The characters are good, I love an evil, selfish character like Samantha, loved Macon in his early unpleasant days, that means when we learn his history it puts a different slant on what seemed like pure vicious nastiness.
I loved the way it finally came together, how Delilah was such an open, natural lady, always ready to help anyone, with a humorous quip at the ready for when its needed and yet also has a very serious side under that humour.
Its a great read, I’m just spoiled by VIP. Maybe its time for yet another re-read of those, Sunshine and Chatty-girl’s ( aka Gabriel and Sophie) story is the best IMO!

Stars: Four, a great read, just suspend belief in the reality of certain plots and go with it. Its worth it.

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Pivotal Decisions, (Moonlight and Murder 2), Reily Garrett

Pivotal Decisions, (Moonlight and Murder 2), Reily Garrett

Pivotal Decisions: A suspenseful mystery thriller (Moonlight and Murder Book 2) by [Garrett, Reily]

Genre: Romantic suspense

Murder and bodies, swamps and alligators, guns and bang sticks ( never heard of them – I want one !!), drones and tech, none of which I know much about but it didn’t matter for the story as it was kept loose enough for me to keep up and enjoy. Some suspense novels get very heavy on the detail and I end up skipping pages, this had just enough to interest me and let me follow how the story fit together.
I loved Sabine – and Heath. That dog was the real star of the book 😉 Coyote too was great, it was hard seeing little Sabine all grown up, and he was struggling to keep his hands to himself. Of course Sabine had always been attracted to him so she wasn’t worried when he didn’t…. The secondary characters too, Augie, Sabine’s bestie and Coyote’s work partner and GF and sister were fabulous. Poor Nolan, Keiki was one determined lady.
The girls together brought some much needed humour among the seriousness of the story. The guys were all macho protection, Augie warning Coyote not to hurt Sabine, Coyote determined to keep her back from the danger, Nolan all het up in defence of his little sister and his girlfriend, and the girls all running rings around them equally determined to not be kept out of the action. Lucky they did, it needed all of them.

I understood the potential financially of what poor Jinx had been working on, and could see so easily for many the murders to get their hands on it would be nothing. Sadly that’s the way of the world, dominated by money and the desire for more of it.
I wasn’t entirely convinced over the capture and rescue of Augie’s lady, it seemed a bit too simple and why leave the VR goggles? Maybe its just me missed some essential connection but I really struggled with the relevance of that bit.

Where the story fell down a bit for me was the last section, the end, and the reasons for all the murders seemed to just almost fizzle off. Somewhere I even missed what happened to one of the bad guys, one moment there was still one accounted for, and then it was the end and clearly I missed how he got caught. There were times when the actions stretched credulity but not too much and after all this is fictionland 😉

Stars: Four, a fun read, humour to offset the murders and a great bunch of characters.

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The Ninth Child, The new novel from the author of The Sealwoman’s Gift, Sally Magnusson

The Ninth Child, The new novel from the author of The Sealwoman’s Gift, Sally Magnusson

Genre: General Fiction ( Adult)

I was really intrigued by the description, bits of real history, interwoven with fantasy.

I loved Alistair, Isobel’s husband, he was such a caring man. And Isobel, all those miscarriages, how heartbreaking. In those times too it was just accepted, and I felt she didn’t really get a proper chance to grieve, and Alistair was expected to just be a man and not even acknowledge their losses. Kirsty too, was a great story teller, brought things alive.
I did find though that the story was very confusing at times. The narrative would change from one person to another, form one place to another without warning. That may be because I was reading an ARC though, but I found the story itself was so complex that things like that didn’t help my understanding.
Though the writing and descriptions were beautiful, and the explanations of the waterworks very in depth but understandable, I never really got into” the story. I didn’t feel more than an impassioned observer, and I was still confused by certain events even after the story ended. I cried at part of that, such a tragedy. 😦

Stars: Three, beautifully written but a story that mostly passed me by.

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Red Hatchet Falls, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 7), Susan Clayton-Goldner

Red Hatchet Falls, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 7), Susan Clayton-Goldner

Red Hatchet Falls: A Winston Radhauser Mystery: #7 by [Clayton-Goldner, Susan]

Genre: Mystery and thrillers

Each time I finish a Radhauser novel I’m in awe of how Susan manages to pull together a story, including so many side plots full of interest, taking me on a journey to find who’s responsible for the awful things in that book. She makes me think its one person, then doubt myself, as Radhauser does so often.
This book is the perfect example of when there seems like a straightforward murderer, all the clues and evidence point to that person, and yet Radhauser feels its too easy. As usual his gut feeling should have been listened to, although hopefully here that mistake will lead to future good.
I really didn’t suspect who the person was, Susan hides them with only the most subtle of clues that only make sense when we reach the conclusion.

It was good to catch up with not only Radhauser and his family, but also his work colleagues, characters from other books ( yay for Rodney!) and meet new ones.
In among the main crime there are plots about bullying, racism, domestic violence, and of course we see just how pervasive racism is, how easy it is to prejudge someone purely on looks. That happens here to an Islamic family, who have made America their home. Of course even now the fall out from 9-11 hits them, they are hated by some people, feared by others, simply because of their religion, which a few extremists used as an excuse for horrific actions. Y’know, Christians have done that too, in history and probably recent times too.
Poor Ahmeed, Daria, and their little son Kareem go through things no family should have to, and I have the feeling that this happens in real life too, from those supposed to protect them. Racism reaches all occupations, being in a “responsible” profession doesn’t stop bigots from using that position for their own ends and I could see the results of Ahmeed’s shooting ending just as Radhauser suspected it would. And that made me sad – no-one ever learns when actions get hidden.
I think In the same way as Radhauser is learning from Heron, the ME, I’m learning the way Radhauser’s mind works ( or Susan’s!). I start looking for evidence, mulling over actions, wondering what comes next. Of course its not all crime all the way, there’s Radhauser taking Lizzie to sports, talking to Gracie ( I love her), fussing his beloved horses.
I felt so sad for the kids in this book, some bullied by adults, some by kids following adults examples, but they were hurt by those actions, and of course that impacts on the adults they become. Its well known that abusers were often abused themselves. That doesn’t excuse it but does sometimes explain it, the anger comes out in odd ways, they don’t have that loving family role model. Its something I get so angry about, children missing out on the fun, secure, loving childhood they should all have. Sadly a percentage never get it and others only part of it. Horrible reflection on us as adults. I remember my own son at five being told by his then best friend he couldn’t play with him any more because he was “ a black’un”. Jay had dark skin, dark hair and big brown eyes, and clearly his friends parents had looked at him, looked at the name Zelos and decided we were foreign. We’re not, but it gave me an insight into how cruel adults can be, how easily they influence children. He was five, didn’t understand what his friend meant, and it was tough explaining bigotry in a way he’d understand.
And as usual I’ve rambled here, but the gist it, once more Susan has knocked out a five star read. Meticulously researched, everything makes sense, there are no lose ends, no stretching of credulity but a story that could so easily be real. Sometimes as series continue they get tired, feel stale but Radhauser has a long way to go yet. Each story feels fresh even though the characters feel like old friends. I was looking back after finishing this at the early books, I started with book two, maybe its time I read book one, see how it all started.

Stars: five, long may Radhauser continue his investigations. Each book feels like the best yet, and then along comes the next which is even better.

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The Album, A Cruise Control Novel, Sian Ceinwen

The Album, A Cruise Control Novel, Sian Ceinwen

The Album: A Cruise Control Novel by [Ceinwen, Sian]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

OK, start with my usual moan. Women’s Fiction – why? Men write romance, men read romance., ’nuff said…

So, this trope is a real favourite of mine and I really enjoyed Sian’s writing style. What didn’t work, and stopped this being a five was the past present format that lasted the majority of the book. We know right from the start they’ve been broken up for two years, and I was hoping all the way through that this chapter we’d finally leave the past and get to Now. That didn’t happen until the every end though and though that was absolutely perfect, angst and heartbreak just as I love it did mean it felt rushed.
I’d have liked to read more of how the band felt about them being together, what they said etc. we get a sneak preview of this for book two but I wanted more.
I did feel Arianna was a bit pigheaded, stubborn in the extreme although her fears were real. Gabriel showed no signs of being like her uncle and I think she could have recognised her issues and maybe sought therapy for them. She’d learned what she lost when they were apart but I felt unless she’d actually dealt with her fame/limelight issues they cold be headed for heartbreak again. Time helps, it doesn’t heal automatically though.
An excellent debut novel, good things to come from Sian I’m certain, it was just the story format that let this down for me. If we’d left the past about a third or even halfway through, it would have worked better for me.
BTW I Loved, Loved the mean girls, the bitchy groupies, I was hoping their manager would prove to be a bit difficult too- one of the reason I love this trope is the potential for jealousies, back stabbing and some real b itchy characters.

Stars: four, a great read, excellent story and I’m looking forward to book two.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Smoke Bitten, Mercy Thompson Book 12, Patricia Briggs.

Smoke Bitten, Mercy Thompson Book 12, Patricia Briggs.

Smoke Bitten: Mercy Thompson: Book 12 by [Briggs, Patricia]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, wow! This series continues to grow, each book building upon the whole story. With some ongoing series its clear at a certain point they’ve run out of steam, but this one has plenty of potential stories yet.
Patricia Briggs is my favourite author, this series my number one closely followed by her alpha and Omega novels. I could – and have- read them over and over, seeing this I missed each time. This twelfth book still feels as fresh as the first one.
There are so many fantasy reads out there in book-world, some excellent and some ( only imo of course) are just dire. I’d love if Patricia could write faster, I could devour everything she puts out, but what makes these books special is the realistic characters ( even though the are anything but real!), the solid story, the multiple plots, the carefully woven links that grow through each book, and that takes time. I’d rather wait and have quality to read, than for the series to have more books but devolve into some of that dire writing. Actually I don’t think Patricia could ever write like that, its just not in her. Thankfully.

Well, another puzzle for Adam and Mercy here, and as usual there’s not just one plot but multiple ones. A weird and incredibly dangerous creature no-one knows much about, that may have escaped through the door Tilly opened in Mercy’s back yard, some strange werewolves in town, and problems between Adam and Mercy, not with their relationship but which could affect it.
Its always a treat trying to work out just how Marcy and Co will resolve things. Because although Mercy is always the driving force, she’s aided each time by her pack, her friends and somehow she always ends up in the firing line.
I love that we see so many of the old characters here, along with the new ones. I can see how things from earlier books have led to relationships – not friendships but those kind of connections that prove very important when Mercy needs them. As well as the tension and danger, there’s the usual fun and games, the day to day issues that make the story feel grounded and balanced. Fae bargains have to have balance, and for me books need to have balance too…
With some authors I feel they write themselves into plots that only magical solutions will get them out of, and when they just pull those out of a hat, do things no-one has heard of, that have never been mentioned and don’t have any real connections and – bingo- everything’s fine, I feel cheated. With this series though the magic is part of it, and though Mercy has no magic per-se, she has those connections, the Fae, the vampires and of course Adam and the pack, with the Marrok always in the background, and of course her own special heritage from Coyote. When there’s magic involved it always follows set rules that have been brought up in earlier books, so I don’t feel its some new, unheard of superpower solution. Mercy and the pack bonds feature strongly here, and her being pack but not pack, being coyote and something different, means her pack bonds are different too. I found that part really interesting, had me visualising what Mercy was seeing.
I love that Adam has some problems here. I adore the man, the perfect mix of gorgeous, charming, Gentleman and sex, and sometimes guys like that need a few issues to make them real. There’s one point where I was really almost tearful at events, very much moved, and also very much angry that things had gone so far.
Once more its like meeting old friends, and knowing their individual strengths and weaknesses ( Aurielle and Christy!) I can see how they will work in the story. I guess my big fear is that the constant dangers to them mean each book maybe is the last for some of them. We’ve seen people die in previous books, it happens with the constant pressures, it can’t be just the bad guys that die, that would make it unbalanced. The fact so many have died or left the pack because of the dangers is brought up here. The Colombian Basin pack is noticeably smaller, and that brings in vulnerabilities. My heart was heavy that it might happen here to two longstanding characters, and that fear is what makes it real. And I’m not saying if they died or not 😉
So, I finished this yesterday and am already thinking – read again or go the whole hog through the series – I know that these books can stand that constant re reading. Maybe I’ll do both 😉

Stars: five, a cracking read, perfectly paced and balanced, and gave me a story to lose the real world for a time. I adore these books, fingers crossed there’s many, many more to come 🙂

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Kika & Me, How One Guide Dog Changed My Life, Amit Patel

Kika & Me, How One Guide Dog Changed My Life, Amit Patel

Kika & Me: How one extraordinary guide dog changed my world by [Patel, Amit]

Genre: Non Fiction, Biography and memoirs

Well, most of us know about assistance dogs now, but when I was a kid Guide dogs were quite new, and there was lots of fundraising to train them. They really are a life line for people and in this book we can see just how important they are for visually impaired people.
Kika really did give Amit a new life. I remember a lady mum worked for as a cleaner, her ex policeman husband was blind. This would be mid 60’s, he spent all day every day in his bed in their living room. The house was a typical mid terrace, and from what I recall there was no support for him. What an awful life he must have had, they didn’t have TV, he couldn’t read, there was no such thing as audio books. Once every couple of weeks a friend would take him out for a short walk. Horrendous life, and yet apart from his blindness he was well. Dogs like Kika allow folk to keep their independence.

I have very bad eyesight, rely on some pretty strong lenses, and possibly may lose my sight as I get older. I treasure being able to see, to be able to do what I want, be independent still. I loved reading about Kika, her training, her individualism, her fierce protectiveness for Amit. When he gives examples of times when she refused to move and help that came told him she was right, to move was dangerous, it showed me just how much trust he needed to put in her. To regain his Independence it was necessary, but its not easy.

It was an inspirational read, Amit could so easily have lapsed into depression, as he did in those first days, and that would have ruined not only his life, but his wife and parents too. It must have been so hard to pick life up again – he was so young, but his wife and parents were determined being blind would just become part of his life, not the defining characteristic. I really enjoyed his journey from emergency doctor, to blindness ( not that I enjoyed that bit of course) and how he managed to get out of the depression, how hard he worked, how first the long cane, and then Kika helped him become what he wanted, a functioning, useful part of society, a god husband and son, and ultimately a good father too. All that took so much work, its not an easy journey and I am so in awe of his strength and support from family. May he have a long and happy life ahead of him.

Stars: Five, a fantastic, inspirational read of a real life experience.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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