Girl Having a Ball, Rhoda Baxter

Girl Having a Ball,  Rhoda Baxter

Girl Having a Ball (Choc Lit) (Smart Girls Book 2) by [Baxter, Rhoda]

Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction

Life’s been a bit hard lately and sometimes I find I just want something light and easy to read, but with a story that feels real, not a fluff piece that leaves me unsatisfied – and there’s a whole lot of those out😉 I’ve found when I’m in this mood Choc Lit novels tend to deliver and this one once more fitted my mood perfectly and took me out of myself for a while.

I hadn’t realised there were earlier book/s featuring these characters, and hadn’t read them but Marsh and Jane, that sounds a fun read.
Still, we’re with Stevie and Tom now, Stevie being Marsh’s little sister and Tom an ex housemate of his.

Marsh brought up Stevie after their parents died when she was 13 and he around 21-22. She lived in the student house for a while and had a crush on Tom, and it didn’t go well, she did something that caused friction between Tom and Marsh, but that’s all in the past she thinks.
She adores Marsh, has been finding it difficult letting go when he married and now he and Jane are going to become parents she feels she’s losing her family, the old nightmares about her parents are back and to add to that she’s currently out of a job…

She picks up one sort of in her field but its not without problems, low pay, difficult person to work with in Lady Beryl, but she’s offset by the lovely Evelyn and her niece Alice, and another lady, the wonderful Priya, the main connection to the charity the ‘ball is supporting.
All looks good but there’s a huge boulder in the way and its…Tom, who’s Evelyn’s son. He still thinks of Stevie as a kid so he;s a bit shocked when he meets her and there is some fabulous humour thrown in, such as when he’s recounting the meeting to his friend Og (Olivia). He has to admit all his plans of being tough, of negotiating  the best deal ( or preferably not letting her get the job) go out the window when he sees her, is stunned at how she’s grown, is fiercely attracted, and just as she asks him a question he chokes on a biscuit. By the time he’s recovered the deal is done, Stevie gets her way and he’s lost the chance.

From then on its a race to make the Ball go well, offset by the usual issues, lack of time money and a celeb to bring in ticket sales. The house, Evelyn’s, is wonderful and I loved the descriptions of it and the gardens, sounds a lovely old home.
The characters and situations are so real, we’ve all met ones like them, and organising things when there are several people involved leads to friction all too often. I was involved in an art exhibition with ladies from a local art group a few years back. Got to the venue, no one wanted to go first, but we finally started putting works up ready for display, and then one lady came in late, started complaining about how things had been done, grumbled very vociferously, which set others off and it really was a Handbags at Dawn scenario! Never again….
The humour is threaded throughout along with some very real issues, Stevie’s feeling of abandonment, Tom’s work pressures and stress. Evelyn’s missing her lovely husband since he died, Lady Beryl wanting to be in control but not do any work, thankfully Priya is one of those gems who get things done quietly, Alice, typical teen with teen issues, and Marsh, devoted brother who now needs to see his sister as grown, not as the kid he needed to guide so carefully. Vienna, (or Salzburg or wherever! ) was good, a real B itch but I’d like her claws to have been even sharper, she was perfect for that role.

I have to mention this part which made me snigger. the posh Lady Beryl has heard one of the people at the ball has donated a large sum in order to have a ward at the Sri Lankan hospital named after his wife, so she’s persuaded her husband to do the same. Priya says how sweet that is, to immortalise a loved one in that way, named after a ward. Depends on the ward though Tom says – it’s not so good if its the Dysentery Clinic!!

I  loved it – its a magical story,fun and gentle humour, perfect ending and one I really enjoyed reading.
Would it get a second read? Yes, if I’m in the right mood, its a “full” read with lost to see and I’m sure I missed some of the more subtle clues.

Stars: five. a great fun read with a perfect HEA.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Second Chances, FROSH 2, Tree Houses Reimagined, A Vampire’s Honor,

Second Chances, FROSH 2,  Mónica B. Wagner

Second Chances: FROSH #2 by [Wagner, Mónica B.]

Genre: Romance, New Adult.

Gah!! third part isn’t out til next year… that’s just what I hate about trilogies and duologies, you’re hooked in to the story, racing along with the characters and then..The End, For now anyway, come back next year😦

I loved the first book, First Blush but that was last year and a few hundred books back, so when picking this up although I could recall roughly the story and the main dramas the intensity had gone, and I was confused by some of the references such as the Tanner/Ellie kiss..I just can’t remember that, what prompted it, why it happened.
Books like this are great because they allow the space for the author to really expand the characters and the plots, but its the waiting that’s so hard. I get the most from these by rereading when all parts are out, going straight from book 1 to 2 and then to 3. Still, next year *sigh*

Its another terrific read, packed full of dramas and angst.
Ellie and Grant have parted after the revelations of the last book, but there’s still the feeling that they are on the edge of getting back if only they would talk, see each other, one of them take that step.They both still have such strong feelings for each other and I was rooting for them to move forward.
Ellie’s still dealing with the fallout, getting bullied and blamed for the situation, even though she was a victim too and not the one who caused the issue. Its easier to blame her though, than to look at the years of abuse and failings of the booster system. Now the problems have stepped up and Ellie is scared – when will it stop? Is it really worth staying here given her reputation is in tatters and Grant seems lost to her? He asked for space and she’s given it, but will he ever want to go back to her?
Then there’s the gorgeous Charlie, he’s really such a Gem, a true Gentleman. I remember loving him in book one and he’s still that same incredible, intelligent, caring and genuine man. Wish there were more like him, and given how hard its been for him and his mum he’s a real credit to her, has some values that would make the world better if we all shared them.
He’s been hiding though, behind his created anonymous podcaster Dr Love, a fun thing that’s become really popular and a huge question for the students, they love Dr Love, but who is he? He’s the man Charlie would really like to be, cool, popular, able to fit in easily. You can see Charlie’s issues by looking at how he’s shaped Dr Love.
Then there’s his girlfriend Devon. She’s got issues too- on the face she has it all, money, popularity, self confident and yet her family are fractured and she’s trying to put it all right. Her parents are more concerned with reputation than rightness, and her brother has had drug and alcohol problems which of course get covered up for the family rep.
I’m kind of mixed about Devon, can’t remember really feeling strongly about her in book one but here – she’s all the things I hate, selfish, self obsessed, a bully, a real b itch in fact! Yet Charlie thinks the world of her and she does seem to think much of him. Opposites attract and all that.
I love the family dinner and Lobster Woman. Poor Charlie, he seems to see a different side to Devon and its well hidden from the rest of us. What will happen when he sees her as we do? Or will she change? Can she change? Does she want to? She likes the ease of her life, the way money sorts out most problems and its a lot to give up.

Sorenson – the man with the answers, Devon’s childhood friend and her go-to guy is still around though we don’t see as much as him. I feel for him, he wants Devon but she’s blind to it, she wants Charlie, though she did want Grant before…tangles all round then, and of course there’s a couple of new players too in this book.
One of them is Rebecca, one of Charlie’s students who looks set to throw things awry in her effort to attract his attention. The second one is  Tali,  who does drama in her spare time and becomes a friend to Grant. I think she wants more than friendship, but am I right or off base?
Does Grant still really want Ellie or am I wrong there too. Will Tali come between them. Will Ellie stay or go, will they get back, will Devon and Charlie stay together or will Rebecca and Sorenson interfere. What about the scandals, and the bullying – can they pass or will they still cause such problems. Is Devon’s brother really clean or still hiding his problems from everyone.

Its another story full of questions and ends on yet another cliff-hanger, Gah! By next year book one will be a faint memory, and I’ll have forgotten from this one all the little subplots that make it such a great read.
Still, there’s always the Wallow to look forward to, the back-to-back reading fest where I can indulge myself in these characters and not lose the momentum  ;-)

Stars: Five, another fun drama filled read, but oh…the wait😦

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Tree Houses Reimagined, Luxurious Retreats for Tranquility and Play,  Blue Forest & E. Ashley Rooney

Genre:  non-fiction

Tree houses – they conjure up rustic structures, made of old bits of wood roughly nailed together by kids in the boughs of old trees don’t’ they? Well, a look at this book will certainly challenge that perception.

These aren’t  playhouses – except for few very lucky kids, but structures built to blend into the landscape,  intended  to create a stunning contemporary retreat, or create a fairy tale structure.
Its hard to find a  favourite, there’s so much thought gone in to them. I love the ones that mimic the “real” tree-house ideal though, ones that use imagination and create fairy-tale strictures. Maybe its just that living close to nature in the way Fairies etc are supposed to means that these houses can feel real to me, be places I’d love to live. And maybe I’m just still a child of the 70’s in my heart, and a lover of all things nature and natural.
I would adore to have some of these, to live in them and become part of the land. Its self sufficiency made up to date, made beautiful. Yes you can live in a wood cabin, work the land, survive that way, but how much more satisfying to do it while living in homes like these…

They have more going for them than just stunning appearance though, the whole live-with-nature ethic is worked in to most of them, with materials used, water, waste and energy very carefully thought out, well designed to make use of local natural features and to cause least harm to the land. I’ve been drooling looking through this book, just adore the places created, and wish, wish, wish I could afford something like this in my garden.
They aren’t just kids playhouses, but places for holidays, for holding meetings ( one of them can hold 40 adults!), to be used as a home office, or for businesses like Yoga studios, where the idea of creating a place to work from natural materials to fit in with nature and become part of the landscape is an extension of the Yogic ethos. they truly are places of relaxation.

I’ve been reading this on my Kindle Fire and that really shows the illustrations well. I’ve been waving it in front of visitors, friends and family for past few weeks, and making them all drool too. We all agree the things created here are incredible, the thought that’s gone in to each very well researched and carried out, the book is one to treasure, to inspire and to build dreams with.

Stars: Five, a stunning, visual feast for nature lovers, inspiring creations for those talented enough to build them. *sadly not me😦 I need a goodly lottery win! *

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

A Vampire’s Honor,  Carla Susan Smith

A Vampire's Honor (Vampire's Promise) by [Smith, Carla Susan]

Genre: Romance, Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Onto book three and ..Gah! Ack! It ends in a cliff-hanger…and I just so, so hate them, despise them.
The good part is that book four is due in Oct, just a month after this one releases so its not too long to wait. what makes me so cross about this type ending is when authors end book in cliffies and then sequel gets delayed and delayed until suddenly its 2, 3 even 4 years since you were left hanging. Thankfully Carla has book four lined up ready to come out soon after this one – Thank You Carla!!

So after all the deep drama in book two this one feels a bit less intense, but its still got a huge amount going on. Its a while since I read the last book, and ideally I’d have reread it before starting this but as even time was limited😉 All was fine though, as I continued reading the full events came back to me. It’s so clever the way authors weave little things from earlier books into major plot angles in later ones. Sometimes its just a tiny thing, a throwaway remark, and I like to challenge myself if I can pick them up – I spotted one in this book that led to some big events later, but I’m sure there’s more I missed. Its why I love to read a series back to back when all parts are out, I get really engrossed, pick up things I missed first time round, and its a great way of enjoying a story, getting totally immersed. Don’t try reading this without books one and two though – you’ll be lost.

You’d think Gabriel and Rowan could get a break after all the things that have happened but no, once more it seems events and certain others are against them, and the dangers start up from Rowan getting abducted, and end in what looks like could be a permanent separation.
How can that be when she’s his Promise?
Well, there are always little details, little clauses in agreements, and Rowan does tend to rush into things without thinking of the consequences. This time her impetuousness really comes back to bite her with a vengeance.

I love Rowan and Gabriel, loved seeing some of his history with Aleksei, and of course Anazstazia, and of course there’s the wonderful Tomas. The five really do make up the core of this book, with the introduction of an old enemy, and someone new coming in who seems to have a desire to cause trouble – why though?
Well, as always who knows? Seems Rowan’s Demon from the last book may have got a few irons in the fire too. Its left on a real gut churning cliff-hanger, where it looks like things could be permanently split for Rowan and Gabriel – I can’t believe he hasn’t worked some way out though, can’t see him just rolling over and giving in, but what he can do I’ve no idea.
Good job its not me writing but Carla or it would be a weepy ending, and not the happy tears kind of crying!

Another fantastic, engrossing novel, and I Just Can’t Wait for book four!

Stars: five, roll on book four.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Kinky Sprinkles, L.A. Witt and Farm to Table, Colleen Seward

Kinky Sprinkles,  L.A. Witt

Kinky Sprinkles by [Witt,L.A.]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I love L A Witt’s writing and have read quite a few of her books now, so looked forward to this one.
It covers something I’ve often wondered – what happens when two people fall in love but don’t share sexual tastes?
Sometimes its a choice thing for people but sometimes in cases such as this they have a need for certain practices as opposed to just enjoying them.

André is like that – he needs to be a Dom, needs to dominate and hurt people to be satisfied. He wants to be with Joel though, who’s just got out of  a two year, very bad relationship with a sadistic Dom who wasn’t a good one, wasn’t safe, didn’t respect his sub and look to his needs.
He doesn’t want to go back there. and only got into the role because of his ex. He’s not interested in that, not going there again.

So what happens in those kind of cases? Usually we get the perfect blend, sub meets Dom, someone who wants pain meets a Sadist – its interesting when two opposing sides want to be together and I suspect that’s far more likely to happen than the usual way portrayed in romance reads. So I was interested in how LA would let things play out, what solutions she’d come up with..
I loved Joel, hurt by his ex in more ways than one and yet he’s still got an inner core of strength that allows him to say No to André, to explain he just doesn’t want to go there, isn’t a natural sub.
Andre too is lovely, he doesn’t want to hurt Joel, isn’t interested in doing that to someone who doesn’t want it, but they decide neither can make things work long term, either Andre will give up what he needs or Joel will do something he doesn’t want to and one will start resenting the other. Not a good start to a relationship.
They each try to stay apart and yet circumstances keep bringing them together, and wow – the heat between them is scorching, sensual and addictive. Each time is sort of “we can’t keep doing this” but then they can’t stay away, and neither can get interested in others.

Finally Joel comes up with a solution – well, something they can try anyway and to be honest its blindingly obvious.
WARNING – SPOILER AHEAD

He suggests an open relationship where Andre can play with others….sounds good but though it doesn’t outright say, the inference is that Andre will be having sex with others too..
What!! I didn’t see that coming and don’t understand why they go that route. We’ve already been told André likes the play most, that’s the bit he really gets off on, and can stop before sex, getting with someone else after for that – its how he and Joel had their first encounter after all.
Why couldn’t they repeat that? Joel likes watching, he could watch and then when its over he and André could satisfy the need for sex, no need for others to get involved in that side of things.
Maybe its just me, but I have trouble with the being in love with one person but wanting sex with others, and here it was so needless. It spoiled what would have been a five star read for me…still, it’ll suit others and maybe you won’t feel as strongly as I do.

Stars: Three, a fun read, but I wasn’t happy with parts of the solution

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Farm to Table Colleen Seward

Farm To Table: 50 Recipes for Clean Eating (The Healthy Foodie) by [Seward, Colleen]

Genre:  non fiction, cookery, lifestyle

Healthy eating – we see that pushed out all the while don’t we? Yet its usually in the form of buy this supplement, try these health ready meals, or sometimes there are recipes, but they have four hundred ingredients, some of which needs sourcing at daybreak on the summer solstice, while wearing a robe made of unicorn hair…well, that’s how it feels:-)

None of that here, just simple, easy recipes, with ingredients available everywhere.
Colleen doesn’t push any one super food, but more the idea of a properly balanced diet, where making meals from basic ingredients naturally keeps the preservatives and additives to a minimum.
She puts forward the argument for food that’s as fresh as possible, grown without too many extras but doesn’t take the somewhat fanatical “if its not organic its no good” stance. Too many books seem like they are preaching, too pushy and make the reader just switch off. Colleen’s persuasion is more gentle and accepts that sometimes a compromise is needed.

You could start by changing just one meal a day – or even just four a week, something like that, and once you start to get into the routine and appreciate the taste of real food, ingredients that aren’t chemically enhanced, hopefully you’ll want to include more in your life.
Using this book is simple, its dived into sections full of easy to follow recipes that don’t take hours to make, and are easy for even those new to cooking.
Start by adding a few a week and take it from there.

The recipes are simple and its easy to ring the changes using the ideas for one meal and replacing certain ingredients – pork for chicken, mushrooms instead of peppers or sweet corn, things like that.
The main proposal Colleen puts forward is that the most important thing is that ingredients are as fresh as possible and as free from additives etc.
Go to farmers markets, get to know your butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer and you can find out that info.
Supermarkets have a bad name, undeservedly IMO, and the same idea works there – most have dedicated butchery etc so speak to staff, find out how fresh your food is, where its been, how its been treated.
Its your body, take care of it. You won’t put cheap, second grade fuel in your car and expect it to perform top class and its the same with your body.

I found this an interesting read, especially as I tend to eat this way anyway, having been brought up on home-grown fruit and veg and meals from scratch.
In the long run its much cheaper than ready meals too, and with a little forethought so easy to do.
Living alone now I tend to make a batch of meals, casseroles, cottage pies etc and freeze in portions so I have home made ready meals. You can do the same even if you’ve a big family, just double up on the main ingredient and freeze half. Than all you need to do is put your meal in the over for 40-60 mins or so from the freezer,add some salad or fresh veg, maybe some crusty bread and you’ve a meal with very little prep that’s nutritious, healthy and tastes good.

Stars: Five, excellent practical read to start a healthy approach to eating.

ARC supplied by author

Where the Lotus Flowers Grow, MK Schiller

Where the Lotus Flowers Grow,  MK Schiller

Where the Lotus Flowers Grow by [Schiller, MK]

Genre: Romance,

My first book by this author and one I really enjoyed.

It was a very different to what I expected story, but I soon fell in love with Liam and Mary, and the wonderful settings.
Its beautifully described, I felt there in India with them in the heat and dust, seeing the markets, feeling the hustle and bustle of the country. The way the hotel staff are described, the way they tell Liam what they think he wants to hear, rather than the truth is perfect, and when people need their jobs, are unlikely to find others its a situation that’s happens the world over. He needs to see why the hotel is losing money, the staff just want to show him the good side, convince him they’re doing a wonderful job. Its so easy to picture it and his frustration.
Then he spots Mary, lighting candles at her beautiful Lotus flower that’s blooming in the ruins of an old pool. The flower, the Lotus tag, is echoed throughout the novel and made what seemed like very different parts join up – gave them a connection.

Its not just a rich man, poor girl romance though, there’s so much more, some horrific tragedy in Mary’s past, so much that makes up this puzzle of a woman, well educated, multi lingual, working as a maid. Its very typical the way the hotel manager saw her as a woman and assumed she couldn’t speak English, assumed she was illiterate. We do judge on appearance and culture, and that was true for so many Indian ladies but not for Mary.
She had her reasons for staying in the background but once she caught Liam’s eye circumstances threw them together, and they began a romance that Mary insisted was for while he was there only, that when he left that would be it. Of course emotions aren’t easily controlled and it was interesting reading how hard she fought hers, how Liam tried to convince himself she wasn’t more to him than a holiday romance.
He’s got his own issues, his own difficult background and family problems, and the last thing he’s looking for is love.
I really enjoyed the way they struggled against their feelings, and the dramas, the way they turned out, and how disparate things can actually be connected even if by very slight means. Its that Six degrees of separate thing. Fiction often seems far fetched, and yet real life does have these really odd coincidences.
Looking back from the end its easy to see the trail that actually connected them, and how it was set in motion, Mary’s need for revenge led her to the one place Liam’s family circumstances took him to. They could easily have missed each other, but its strange how often circumstance places us in the right position. Is it fate, predestination or truly just chance – who knows?

Stars: Five, a lovely story that made me think, made me feel there with the characters.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Outsider, Olivia Cunning

Outsider,  Olivia Cunning

Outsider (Exodus End World Tour Book 2) by [Cunning, Olivia]

Genre:  Romance, erotica.

Well, I’ve been in love with Olivia’s writing since I first found Backstage Pass some while ago now. I loved the first Exodus end book, and was really looking forward to this. It was a great read but there were some niggles, small things but irritating.

Its Trey, Ethan and Regan again as with Insider and Double Time, but the members of both bands appear here and it was great to catch up with them. Its kind of another view of those stories, as it recaps much of the events of what happened there to Logan and Toni but from a different viewpoint, and of course brings forward the Ethan/Reagan/Trey trio.
I did find Reagans reaction to the leak about the three of them very strange, she supposedly knew Toni, was good friends with her but never once doubted she was to blame when things went t its up….Harsh I felt.

Trey is happy finally, has what he needs, not just wants but needs, a male and female lover, and they love each other as well as him.
There’s a flaw though, a barrier in that though he’s always been open about his fluid sexuality, Ethan and Teagan very much aren’t, mainly because of fear of family issues, but also for Reagan how the public will see her.She’s still finding her feet with the band, still very much on the outside, with a time limit to her membership of Exodus End, and there are events here that remind her of that.
This means that she and Ethan hid their relationship and Ethan also has to hide his love for Trey. I do really feel for him, he’s in a really awkward place.
I like Ethan, and loved his family when we finally met them. He’s got valid reasons for hiding his bisexuality, but while he was with Reagan his family were happy and unsuspecting. Now he doesn’t officially have her either and life is just one big secret for him it feels…poor guy.
I loved Reagan in Insider but here she comes across as a bit self obsessed at times and whiny too. That side of her I didn’t like, nor the Reagan that could drop Toni like a hot brick after being so close with her, how could she believe the worst without looking elsewhere?
I love Trey, right from first meeting in the Sinners books. There’s just something special about him. He is really pretty insecure, he always seems happy and easy going outwardly, but inside he’s very scared that Reagan and Ethan will leave him, take the easy relationship not the one with him that gives such issues for them. Yet neither Reagan or Ethan see how what hiding their real relationship does to him. They just focus on what it’s doing to themselves.

Its a story mainly about their relationship, how the public and their family view Polyamory. It feels in that way a bit too long, with parts drawn out that felt added just to fill, not to bring something new to the story.
I loved the scenes with the families, and Trey’s mum is a real darling.
Dare, Trey’s brother is always there for him, for everyone it seems, a silent support, a moderate voice in the band but I wonder who’s there to support him. He feels kind of lonely and that was reinforced in this book. Like many readers I am dying to get to his story, to what’s his background, and of course where he’s going in the future. I don’t yet feel as though I know the other band members so well as I do the Sinners, but its early days and that will come ( or cum as the case may be!)

Its a fun read again, full of Olivia’s scorching sex scenes, they burn up the page as always.
I enjoyed it but it didn’t have the magic five for me, just felt a little flat, maybe as so much had already been covered in Insider and Double Time.
It does make me wonder what’s going to happen to Reagan when her time with Exodus End comes to an end, will she be absorbed in as an extra member, will she just join Trey on tour like the other Sinners ladies, or maybe go it alone?

Stars: Four, a fun sexy read, but at times felt a little too drawn out.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Eviternity Elke Stevens

Eviternity  Elke Stevens

Eviternity: An Arash Novel by [Stevens, Elke]

Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi and fantasy

I loved the main Arash novels, and loved Ruth’s character in them – a “bad” character, a beautiful, vindictive and jealous b itch like Ruth adds such fun to a story, but as a main character? As someone who’s going to be centre of the plot and romance? Well, I wasn’t sure that would work for me, I so Hated her in the other books, could she really redeem herself?

Well, in part she does. I still find her cold and selfish but she does see her past actions in a different light, and recognise she was wrong in her actions sometimes, but she’s still making excuses and justifying some of the things she did. I was glad for her the way things worked out, but still couldn’t really warm to her, Elke did such a sterling job of making me dislike her before😉

She’s in New York now, alone by choice, having left her family suddenly and told no-one where she is. She’s lost her powers and is trying to live as a human, even though its clear she sees them as “lesser”. She comes across Quin in the park, and Jeremy in her apartment block, and is attracted to both even though she thinks they’re human.
They’re very different to each other though, Quin is very aloof, they have an instant attraction and Ruth is surprised at her actions, how quickly she’s getting down and dirty with him. He’s hot and sensual when it comes to sex, but once its over he’s gone.
Jeremy never gets that far, is pursuing her but Honey, another family member interrupts their first two “dates”. Well they are dates to him but more a passing whim to Ruth. She’s still thinking of them as human and she tends to treat them as disposable, people to keep her amused.

Jeremy, Quin and Honey are part of James’ Arash family, and they are strange, not close like Ruth’s previous family, but all sort of detached from each other.
Ruth doesn’t realise they are Arash at first, they’ve a way of hiding their lack of shadow and she’s fooled. When she does realise they’re Arash, she finds they’re very different from her old family who pulled together even when they argued and disagreed with each other and worked as a team, – well, the others, not her when it came to Olivia!

The new family were a strange bunch, and I missed the closeness of Ruth’s old family.
I liked Quin, and adored Humphrey his dog🙂 even though he comes over as solitary and at times uncaring about anyone else, and as I knew more of him my first instincts felt right. He’s the most caring of them IMO, and though he’s attracted to Ruth I felt at first that she doesn’t deserve him😉 He’s full of secrets, in fact all the family are very cagey about discussing things.
Jeremy was a bit odd, he felt like one of life’s moaners – you know the sort, those who complain and complain and then when they get want, they want decide they didn’t need it.
Honey was like an enthusiastic puppy, desperate to befriend Ruth, and things like the scenes where she filled Ruth’s pristine white minimalist decor apartment with dirt and plants were amusing. She’s not all friendly though, could be quite sharp to the point of cruel at times.
Head of the family James seemed like one of those bombastic types, loud, controlling, need to be centre of attention, one of those who need adulation all the while, and though Honey and Jeremy seemed to play up to it Quin just did his own thing, stayed on the outskirts of the group.

The family are very concerned about a string of murders recently, of both humans and Arash. James thinks its linked to someone from their past, who they thought would no longer be a problem, but the signs are too close to what happened then and they’re trying to find out who’s behind it and protect themselves.

Its a fun read, more of the Arash story and Cosmos connection which is so unusual.
I enjoyed the story even though I still couldn’t bring myself to actually Like Ruth – I disliked her less, understood her a little ore and maybe got as far as being ambivalent to her…in time if the series continues I might grow to like her.

Stars: Four, fun to be back with the Arash group again

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Programmed To Please, The Tau Cetus Chronicles Book One, Jenna Ives

Programmed To Please, The Tau Cetus Chronicles Book One,  Jenna Ives

Programmed To Please (The Tau Cetus Chronicles Book 1) by [Ives, Jenna]

Genre:  Romance, Sci Fi & Fantasy

Well, I thought this sounded intriguing, how could a woman act as a robot in such an intimate situation but…just didn’t work for me as a story but it was well written and for those that want erotica its pretty spicy.

Its over such a short time period that it just didn’t feel real to me, found it too much a stretch to believe that feelings could change so quickly, that someone allegedly so intelligent could be so duped, and talk to the “doll”.

I hadn’t realised it was so short – my bad – its only 159 – 170 pages (depends on which site )or 2450 kindle locations, and that just doesn’t let anything more than superficial actions take place.
If it had been longer, and spread over a longer time period I think I’d have enjoyed it but as it is its just too brief and there’s seems to have been an emphasis on sex rather than romance and story. That fine if you want an erotic read, but I was looking for more romance, love some spice but I have to believe there’s meaning behind it and with these two characters for me that was missing .

Still, it clearly works and works well for many readers so its that old one man’s meat is another’s poison rationale again.
Make your own decision: if you want story and romance you may feel as I did that its not here, if you just want a shortish erotic read you may love this.

Stars: Two, not one for me but will appeal to lovers of erotica novellas.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Taste of Persia, A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan. Naomi Duguid

Taste of Persia, A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan.  Naomi Duguid

Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan by [Duguid, Naomi]

Genre:  non-fiction

I adore cookery books, and when they’re combined with real stories about the food in its natural setting, grow locally and eaten how the natives of that country eat it – well, its a wonderful treat.

I loved the recipes, beautifully illustrated and described so as to make me drool….While I’m reading I’m mentally going through my cupboards thinking “do I have that spice? This herb? Shall I try that recipe next time the family are all here?”
The little anecdotes that accompany the recipes are great, made me feel there with Naomi, made me want to shut my eyes and dream, feel the heat and dust, smell the fragrance of a myriad of spices and herbs, hear the babble of voices selling food on the markets.

I love books like this that set food where it should be, don’t take a recipe and present it in isolation. A strawberry picked straight off the plant on a warm summer morning tastes very different to one presented in the sterility of a supermarket. They’re both strawberries but we taste with our eyes and ears, use our senses to feels what’s around us, and that creates something more than just “taste” to me.

I’m an artist and when I see a painting I like I love to try to see who it was constructed, know the story behind the inspiration – that adds to my enjoyment as much as seeing the work does.In the same way when its food I want to think of where a recipe originated and how, why that cheese was used, why this spice was chosen to add flavour. Its how a recipe is built up what is so fascinating to me, and when we know the stories of the locals, know what food grows best where, and can see how those recipes developed over time that makes me best appreciate them. Sometimes its a simple as the UK tradition of roasts, casseroles, long slow cooking which developed over centuries where we were a heavily wooded isle so fuel was plentiful, and food could be left simmering all day while other tasks completed, but in countries where fuel was scarce, cutting food into small pieces or shreds and then quickly stir frying became the norm.
Then of course there are the things that grow best in each place, and the lack of refrigeration that led to highly spiced foods and curries developing in some countries, possibly to help disguise some flavours and to add an element of preservation. Herbs and spices can do so much more than just add flavour.

Food isn’t just fuel, but a time for people to gather and share experiences, and that comes over so strongly here and makes this book not only a visual feast but a whole learning experience too.

Stars: Five, a fabulous read, a cook book that appeals to the brain as well as the taste-buds.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Le Chateau, Sarah Ridout

Le Chateau,  Sarah Ridout

Le Chateau by [Ridout, Sarah]

Genre:  general fiction (adult), Women’s fiction

Well, seems I’ve hit lucky again with another debut read. Its always a gamble when you have to rely on just a brief description to make your choice, when you’ve no idea if you like the author’s writing style, if the plot will really work for you, and when it comes together as it did here I feel really satisfied.
Descriptions are so, so succinct its really hard to judge if its a book for you in a few short sentences.

I love romance and enjoy stories that blend it with an element of suspense as this one does, not too deep, just the right amount to add extra interest to the story. But romance with who – husband Henri, father of their child Ada, or Ryan, neighbour who Henri’s mother keeps suggesting Charlotte knows rather too well….
Poor Charlotte doesn’t know what to think, would she have an affair, is she really that sort of person and if she is, what went wrong, as it seems she and Henri were so in love. Sadly after an accident she remembers nothing of her life, who she is, where she’s come from and as for her husband and family that’s all a total blank.
Its a fabulous story slowly revealing Charlotte’s memories, and all the while we get her inner thoughts.

Henri seems so devoted, so in love with her but she doesn’t feel anything – and Ryan, he seems a somewhat slick Englishman but he too sort of indicates that maybe he was more than a neighbour to her.
Ada her daughter is wonderful, portrayed so well how a child would react in this situation, carefully groomed by everyone to try not to press but she’s a child and needs her mum, needs reassurance. Charlotte can’t give that yet, but soon comes to adore her anyway, and there are some really tender moments with the two – the rabbit, the bed bugs lines – they made things very real and made me think how it would be – and is for some people – in this very situation in real life.
Charlotte is a great character, it would be so easy to give up, go with the flow, accept what she’s being told but she wants to remember, wants to know if she really was cheating on Henri, needs the truth. It seems impossible, their life seems almost charmed so if she was what went wrong?
Her quest for answers brings back her long time best friend and business partner Suzanne, who is another terrific person. She’s come to the chateau to help Charlotte find answers, and like Charlotte she’s not convinced things are as they seem. The two go to some strong methods in their search for answers.
Ryan, the handsome Englishman who looks after her and Ad’s horses is a charmer, but is he telling the truth,, or just what he wants her to belive? Why would he lie, he’s got no obvoius motive but would she really have been cheating?

Of course one of the main characters is Madame, Henri’s mother. Outwardly charming to Charlotte she still feels somehow wrong to her. There’s nothing she can pinpoint, nothing obvious and she’s so thoughtful and kind, suggesting rests, arranging delicious meals, making suggestions to help her recall her memory but I just couldn’t take to her.
I adore characters like that and when Ines comes on the scene I was so happy. Another person to dislike – I adore those kind of characters!! If a story is filled with just good people for me its bland, I need some horrible, devious, complicated characters to keep things fun!

Its a great read, the suspense element is well done, cleverly revealed, with the reader being taken down roads along with Charlotte and wondering which is the right one, where is the truth and what will it reveal.

I loved the ending, loved the way things worked out – its a fabulous debut read and I look forward to more from Sarah.

Stars: Five, a great first novel

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

School Ties, Tamsen Parker

School Ties,  Tamsen Parker

School Ties by [Parker, Tamsen]

Genre:  Romance,

I loved Tamsen’s Compass series, once I really got to know the characters. This time its less intense BDSM and more forbidden romance. Well – forbidden as far as teacher/student goes.
It must be a difficult scenario when teachers are only a few years older than those they are teaching, and if they met in a club, pub, via friends or something it would be fine, but put in the teacher/student bias and its not. Its a far cry having people with just four years between them as Erin and Shep do, to a teacher that’s in thirties or forties carefully grooming a 12 or 13 year old.

So Erin’s back at her beloved aunt and uncle’s school, as a teacher. Its where she feels at home, where she’s wanted to be all along and its her dream job. First day of teaching a student catches her eye – and its Shep.
He’s seems to be attracted to her too, but its a road they can’t travel and both determinedly avoid it though we can still feel that tension between them, can see in Shep’s art how he feels about Erin.
There are a few incidences that show just how strong they feel about each other, nothing actually happens but the intensity of what goes on when they meet in innocent situations is there.

Fast forward 4 years – things have changed for both of them. Erin’s been married and divorced, and her husband’s attitude has sapped much of the confidence she had, made her feel she wasn’t good enough.
Shep comes back to the school, as a teacher and they begin a tentative relationship, but they struggle with some things, Erin’s worry over being good enough, her ex cheated on her and though she didn’t love him it still hurt, and Shep’s home situation, that wasn’t good and he wants to give his younger brother the chance at Hawthorn that he had.

I loved Shep and Erin, but the story was a little – meh…seemed to drag a bit, long periods of nothing really happening. I guess after the drama and intensity of Compass I was expecting ore of the same and it isn’t.
Still, that’s down to me and false expectations, this is marketed as simple romance. Maybe it was the air of forbidden romance along with the earlier books that made me expect a story that would be deep, where there were real dangers if their romance was discovered, but in fact for the first half or there about they don’t do more than exchange a few looks, think about how the other is feeling, have occasional innocuous conversations and it just felt a little slow for me.
Its a well written story, great characters but I just felt there wasn’t really much going on.

Stars: Three, a good read, just not a great one for me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

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