Archive | December 2017

Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood by Chris Yarrow

Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood
by Chris Yarrow

Thirty Years in Wilderness Wood by [Yarrow, Chris]

Genre: Biographies and memoirs, Outdoors and Nature

Its taken me a while to review this as its not a kindle ARC, but an Epub, and I have issues reading on a PC, but finally got through it.
Its a really interesting read, detailing a family’s progress from first idea, searching for the right wood, purchasing and of course building a home and business from it.
I enjoyed reading about their day to day struggles, with not just Nature but Those (nominally) In Charge. The Officials who make the rules, but don’t always realise the one size doesn’t fit all, and things like soil type can vary within a few hundred yards, therefore growing some kinds of trees, while it may be in Local Plans, just won’t work.

I think in the UK we can get OTT over planning, obsessional almost over control, and Chris and Anne find this again and again. They want what ostensibly the planners want, to return a woodland to a working woods, to look after, to protect, to encourage healthy trees, but sometimes – as I’ve found myself – officials are too ready to land Tree Protection Orders on trees that just don’t need it. Rules and regulations get in the way of practicality and doing whats right for that woodland, not necessarily whats right on paper or proscribed in Local Plans.
I really felt for them when they came up against officials and locals determined not to listen to their plans, convinced they were out to ruin the land. Somehow though they work through, and I loved the successes and the descriptions of the working wood, and that gorgeous house.

It gave me lots to think about, opened my eyes to the many things that can be done with woodlands. I wish I’d been able to do something along these lines when younger.
I’ve always had a love of nature, enjoying growing things and seeing them mature, and trees of course can take a very long time to reach maturity, but there are ways of making money from younger trees while encouraging mature ones for future generations.
It’s not just wood that’s harvested, but leaf mulch, charcoal making, school trips and education, cafes and woodland walks, basket and hurdle making, so many things not just planks and logs from trees.
Of course we also get the benefit of plants and fungi that flourish in healthy woodland, the animals, birds and insects that depend on the trees in all states from young to rotten, and of course they way trees clean the air.
I love the keeping of old crafts, of the way woods were used in the past, I feel we do let so much old knowledge go in the quest for modernisation. The UK has a centuries long forestry heritage, and I’d like to play a part in keeping that.

Its not all fun and games though, trees take a lot of work, and though I’ve only four acres of land it seems there’s always tree limbs need pruning, sapling thinned out to encourage strong growth and dead trees to be felled – only yesterday, 30th December, we had to remove two silver birches in danger of falling into the road. It natural progression that trees age and need to be managed, but its expensive if like me you can’t do it yourself. Its been entertaining read of Chris and Anne’s struggles and successes, and anyone interested in doing something along these lines will learn much for the book.

Stars: five, a practical and entertaining read, with careful dollops of gentle humour to balance.
Arc supplied for review by Netgalley and Publishers

 

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Water Viper ,(Jesse Alexander 1), R.J. Blain

Water Viper ,(Jesse Alexander 1), R.J. Blain

Water Viper: A Jesse Alexander Novel by [Blain, RJ]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

My first novel by this author, got it as part of some free book offer, I’d read the amazon sample and wanted to read more. Sadly I didn’t note exactly how I came by this book, just found I’d filed it in the review collection….

Its a long book at almost 500 pages, and usually I love long books but TBH at times this felt a bit Padded, a little too much Filler and – heresy for me saying this – I think if it had been a little more succinct it would have been better for me.
There were story-lines which looking back the day after finishing I can’t recall what was their purpose, nor what the resolution was in some of them. I’m thinking here of who was behind the second bounty/kidnapping attempt, the one where Henry and Anatoly find her? There are other parts too which were funny the first and second times but after a while….they got old. Its frustrating reading plots and then finding they don’t actually add anything to the story.
I didn’t see how on earth, even cleverly disguised, she thought she was still getting away with fooling everyone about who she really is/was when she was day to day living with people who she classed as friends, who knew her very well.

Set against those moans though was some subtle humour, some terrific characters, and a really interesting new world post Starfall, with a good mix of paranormal creatures. Sometimes the shifter/magic types stories feel like I’m reading the same ones but with minor plot changes and new names. This was very unusual and I really liked it.
Overall, even with my caveats, I really enjoyed the story, and would be happy to read more Jesse Alexander stories, or other characters set in this world. I think it has a lot of potential, and is an interesting take on a genre that can get tired from all the stories set in it.

Stars: Four, an interesting read, one I really enjoyed but which dragged at times, losing it a star.

 

The Wife – Part Two: For Better, For Worse (The Wife series) by M.L. Roberts

The Wife – Part Two: For Better, For Worse (The Wife series)
by M.L. Roberts

The Wife - Part Two: For Better, For Worse (The Wife series) by [Roberts, ML]

Genre: general fiction (adult)

Well, part one had me gripped, and part two keeps up the “what is really going on” drama. Is Ellie paranoid, is Michael having an affair or is it all in her head.? I’m not sure I like either of them, she certainly needs help and he comes over as cold, and I just wonder why won’t he talk to her? What happened to two people so in love? She steps up her actions to find evidence. I’m thinking one moment yes, he’s acting as if he’s hiding something and then I’m thinking, what the heck is this woman doing, does she really think that will help?
Now we know what happened I do feel sorry for both, but we still only know barest details. Was it really just an obsessive student out of the blue or had Micheal given her reason to think he felt more for her. Then there’s Michael and Ellie’s best friend Liam. What does he know? What’s his motivation.

There’s really not much more revealed, a story line comes in that was pretty clear from book one it was going to be there but other than that its more of the same. And yet its curiously addictive. Lucky I have book three on my kindle….

What I hate though is that this is a four part book that could easily have been a stand alone, and for me waiting breaks the tension, the story loses impact. I had to go back and take a look at part one to recall what had happened. Each part is only around 100 pages, modeled I guess on TV specials which is fine for many readers, but one of the reason I don’t watch TV. I want ALL the story, not just teases.

Stars: Four, curiously addicting even though not much actually happens.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Searching for Billy Shakespeare, Crista McHugh

Searching for Billy Shakespeare,  Crista McHugh

Searching for Billy Shakespeare by [McHugh, Crista]

Genre: Romance

I loved the description – I adore movie star romances – but though Crista has written many books I’ve only read one, Here All Along, which is about Gabe’s friend Gideon, and it didn’t really work for me. Still, hesitantly I requested and – I’m so glad I did as I loved it.

It doesn’t have the deep, heavy angst and drama I love so much, but Kate and Gabe were such great characters that I still was totally hooked by it. We don’t actually meet Gabe til nearly halfway through, but he’s there in multiple phone conversations with Kate and I was in love with him just from those 😉

Kate’s wonderful, studious and slightly klutzy, and with a total jerk of a boyfriend, Mike. He seriously took her for granted, and in way he’d become just a safe habit for her. He’d sapped her confidence which is why she left him get away with it. Catching him out was awful, but with the help of her friend Lizzie moving out and on was the best thing she could have done. I was hoping the jerk would get to see just how well she’d moved on from him but…maybe in another book as a secondary plot.
I loved her, she was so hardworking, so honest and one of those people who are just plain Right. She worked hard at her PHD, did the best she could for her students, was a good friend to Lizzie, and TBH had been carrying Mike when it came to relationships. All that time though, she was a bit lost, a bit marking time it seemed, not sure of direction, and Gabe came along at just the right time.
I love that she doesn’t know who Gabe is, so she’s not awed by him, treats him as anyone else. He needs that, the Gabe I remember from the other book was a bit of a prat, but here he’s wonderful. Maybe he just reflects how he’s treated, and Kate talks to him as an equal so he reacts back the same way. He admires her intelligence, isn’t awed by it as so many people are, and that gives her confidence.

Its a great fun read, I really enjoyed all of it, made me smile and I was so understanding of how Kate felt. I did wish for a teeny bit more angst, y’know, the sad bit that usually hits about 80% when relationships hit a block, but that’s just me, and this was still a perfect read without.
Its not one I’ll re-read though I think, I’d need the drama for that but I’ll certainly feel Crista is an author whose work I wont hesitate to try again.

Stars: Five, a great fun read, a real feel good romance, though for me I could have had a teeny but more sad parts…..
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Tell me no Secrets, Lynda Stacey

Tell me no Secrets,  Lynda Stacey

Tell Me No Secrets: a gripping thriller you won't want to put down by [Stacey, Lynda]

Genre: women’s fiction, Romance

Gah, women’s Fiction, I won’t rant…too much..but why women’s fiction? Why assume men won’t like this? Aren’t we being as sexist as men are when they exclude women? Horrible category title.

Its a Choc Lit book, and usually I love those so I looked forward to this. I didn’t dislike it, but TBH was a bit indifferent to it.

The characters were very “just so”, almost caricatures, the grieving widower, the nerdish employee, the sister in the wheelchair, the scarred sister, the wicked boyfriend and the parents with issues….it was almost like the author had a tick list of characters to include. They were OK, but none of them really stood out to me, they weren’t in any way special, and I guess that’s why I fixed on their type instead of who they are.

The plots too were a little cut and dried, I felt I was being spoon fed them. The problem would be mentioned and hey, Kate’s in the hairdressers, and just happens to hear some info which sounds really vague, but Eric the nerd manages to dredge out time, place, transport from it. Then the bad guys just happen to leave out a handy map with everything noted on it for Kate to photograph. I almost expected a pirate style X to be marked on it 😉
Maybe for other readers that works, perhaps they like to be given results, but I prefer to try to work it out myself from some more subtle clues.

Its horses for courses, everyone wants different things, and just because I don’t like this way of delivering the story doesn’t mean its not a good way, doesn’t mean others won’t love it, just that its not right for me.

Stars: Two and a half, will be perfect for others but too slick, too quick with answers for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

New Hand, L.A. Witt

New Hand, L.A. Witt

Genre: LBGTQIA, Romance

I’ve loved the Bluewater books I’ve read, love LA Witt’s writing style and expected to love this read. Sadly it was a decent read, but not a great one for me.

I really didn’t feel the “pull” between Garrett and Jesse, and I needed that. I didn’t even feel lust in particular, they felt to me more like just two very good friends.
Garrett’s friend Scott puts it well when they are talking about whether its too soon after Sean’s death to start a relationship. He says Garret hasn’t just been grieving since he died, but since they knew he was terminally ill some 18 moths before, and in a way that made sense. Like others looking on I found it hard to see how he could fall in love with Jesse so soon.
I’m still kind of fence sitting on that. Grief is different for everyone, we all cope differently and I just can’t imagine finding someone new so soon. That’s just personal though, and of course this is fiction… 😉

Jesse, I loved him. He’d had a tough time, scarily what happened to him is probably commoner than we think, in terms of STDs rather than full on HIV. Poor kid. It must be hard coming to terms with being sexually different to most of your peers without having that lumped on top. He copes really well, and I understood his anger at others actions. People are scared though of what they don’t understand, and I liked that Garret took the trouble to look things up, ask professionals and not just give poor Jesse the elbow over something out of his control.

Its a interesting story, with the factors of grief and grieving family, HIV and all the issues that brings wrapped up so neatly. Age difference too, though I never felt that age was a factor with them, but others perceive it.
Odd isn’t it, age gap of 15 years or more being seen as OK with man being older and woman younger, or as in this case when both are males, but make it a younger guy/older woman and there’s sly insinuations and calls of Cougar…I wonder how F/F relationships are judged if there’s an age gap?

Anyway, an educating read, gave me lots to think over, taught me stuff about HIV that I didn’t know. I’m older than Garret and can recall the first rounds of it back in the 70’s and 80’s, when people didn’t know much about it, and being positive was pretty much a death sentence.
I knew there had been forward movement, medical progress but not that it had advanced so much, great news to hear.

Stars: Three, an interesting read but not one of the best Bluewater or LA Witt novels for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Silenced Tale, Book 3 of the Accidental Turn Series, J.M. Frey

The Silenced Tale, Book 3 of the Accidental Turn Series, J.M. Frey

The Silenced Tale (The Accidental Turn Series Book 3) by [Frey, J.M.]

Genre: LGBTQIA , Sci Fi & Fantasy

I’ve loved this trilogy, fresh and unusual, it hinges round the characters in a series Elgar read wrote. By some quirk of fate he wrote magic so perfectly that it – and the actual characters, places and events, became real. As a Reader, Pip was pulled into the world and met Forsyth. Now they both live in the Overrealm, our world, with their daughter Alis.
They had issues with Hain and certain people in the last book, where events there were affecting the Overrealm, and now they fear that things weren’t as safe as they left them, that maybe, just maybe, someone else has come through to the Overrealm.

There’s another fantastic adventure, Syth being his spymaster self here in the real world, master of the PC and Internet. I love how he’s adapted to it, his careful turn of phrase, his planning, always looking ten steps ahead and of course his love for Pip and Alis.
Pip is wonderful, such an intelligent girl and I love how she breaks out the writing jargon, explaining to Syth ( and readers like me!) about tropes, genres, and how books are plotted. I read, I had no idea of the structure of a story but it makes sense, and makes my author admiration even greater! She’s having a bad time in this book, due to the events of the past that connect her to magic through the carvings.
To begin its just a series of odd events that could be explained away, but Syth being the cautious type he sets his programme up to look for anything that might be connected. I love when he says he thought Pip’s Poster “its not paranoia if they’re out to get you” was a warning not an irony. That sums him up in a way, written to protect, its in his very marrow to do just that.
Of course what he and Pip don’t know is that Elgar is having issues too, with what the police think is a stalker, but what Elgar fears is Hain stuff, and vengeance from there. He had no way of knowing what he wrote created a real world, and he feels so guilty for the casual way he wrote torture and death in his stories. There’s a top secret TV series based around his books being planned and the police agree its a good idea for him to go there for a couple of weeks. Syth’s programme tells him what Elgar didn’t though, so he’s beginning to piece together events and he now knows he, Pip and Elgar are facing real danger that the police can’t help with. How can they fight magic and fictional people that have become real. If they tried to tell them they’d be taken to the nearest Psych centre!

It all comes together in a nail biting, climatic finish, and I was gutted at some of the events and yet – it was the perfect way to end the trilogy.
I read the Magician trilogy when that was first out, back in Oct 2014, and thought it would make a great family film, Disney agreed some time later. I think this too would make a great film, has that magic (hah!) content that will appeal to kids and adults alike and is so very unusual.

Stars: Five, a perfect ending to a terrific, exciting and fresh trilogy.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Sugar and Spice And All Those Lies, Evy Journey

Sugar and Spice And All Those Lies,  Evy Journey

Sugar and Spice and All Those Lies by [Journey, Evy]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Gah! Women’s Fiction roll eyes I hate that classification, I won’t do my usual rant except to say why shouldn’t a man enjoy this?

I wasn’t sure what to expect here, but its a mix of romance, riches, and resolution.

Gina is from (her words) a white trash background, though I don’t think I’d describe it as such. She decides to go for what she really wants after deciding that she wants more than to just marry and have a family. Cooking is her love, nurtured by her mother, and originated from her grandfather.
She’s working in a Michelin starred restaurant as a line cook when she meets Leon. Her workmate and friend Marcia tells her a little of his history, he’s a true Ladies man, going out for a brief while with them and treating them really well, but finishing within a couple of months. Payoff is good though, diamonds, jewellry, meals out, flowers… Marcia says go for it when he shows an interest in her, but he’s dating Gina’s long time friend who isn’t happy that he’s asking about Gina.

She meets Brent and he seems interested in her, but she’s not sure if he’s being polite or not, Leon is still pressing her to go out and she’s uncertain what to do. Brent seems to be keen on her but hasn’t asked her out, Leon asks her out almost daily.

I loved Brent, wasn’t sure about Leon, but he seemed to be open about what he wanted, and what he would do even if I didn’t agree with his ends, felt a bit shallow to me, I couldn’t respect someone that made that choice. I wasn’t sure about Marcia, she seemed friendly and open, and was really helpful to Gina. Gina herself I admired to begin, and felt for her when her friend was upset with her, she couldn’t help what happened, it wasn’t anything she could control. Her family were lovely, very supportive even if her mum really hoped Gina would just live close, get married and have a family. Somehow though I didn’t really warm to her, I felt she was swayed too much by Leon’s money, even though initially she held out against him. I wanted her to see poor Brent was attracted to her as more than just a friend.

Its kind of a mixed romance and suspense/thriller read. I did like the food/restaurant part, an interesting world where people pay more for a meal than many earn in a month. That happens, and always stuns me ;-(

Stars: Three and a half, a fun read but the romance side was pretty much a side issue.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

What Happens at Christmas, Evonne Wareham

What Happens at Christmas,  Evonne Wareham

What Happens at Christmas (Choc Lit) by [Wareham, Evonne]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, Women’s Fiction

A mixed read here, it being a Choc-lit read I didn’t notice the genre, ( I adore Cho-lit romances) and was expecting more romance. There is some, but its tied up in the mystery, kind of equal parts.

It was a fun read, and I loved the section where Lori, Misty and Drew were having Christmas in the barn. That was just magical, and felt so right for this time of year, had me hankering for some snow and crisp, bright days. That was my favourite part of the story, I felt “there” with them, sharing their Christmas. Sometimes its so commercialised we forget how simplicity can make it special.

Misty was a real star, poor kid had a flake of a mother, Lori’s actress sister, and was just dropped off with random friends while her mum swanned off being Actress and Film Star….thank goodness for Lori, and for Misty’s dad Dan, also a film star but not so concerned about image, aging and having a growing daughter.
I loved Lori, a real heart of gold person, ready to help anyone, wanting to be a writer but lacking in self confidence, so determined though that if she was a success it was going to be on her own merits and not by way of her famous family.
Drew, what a sad tale, and even sadder when he reveals the full details. Twenty years of carrying that around, what a burden. I was so glad he found Lori, and the fact they kept things secret and then he was tied up with work, and couldn’t trace her fitted perfectly. Fate though brought them together again, but the mystery of how they met and the repercussions weren’t over, and we got a gripping action finale.
I hadn’t guessed who was behind things, and the motive and that was a perfect surprise. I had a slight idea but couldn’t see how it would fit, so it was satisfying finding out how everything joined together.

Stars: Four, a little slow to pull me in, but once they found drew and had those magic days in the barn I was hooked.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours: A gripping, unmissable and shocking tale which you won't be able to put down by [Wingate, Lisa]

Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Gah, I have to start by saying its categorised on Netgalley as “women’s fiction” and I HATE that title. Why shouldn’t a man enjoy this book? Why do we rule out a whole section of readers under this stupid stereotyping? We shout Equality, and rightly so and then practice inequality in this unnecessary way. Ah well, rant over, now to the book which was Fabulous, gripping, unputdownable.

Its two stories, that at first don’t seem to have a connection. There’s Briny, Queenie and the family back in 1939, and Avery and her political family in the present time. Slowly as things draw on the two begin to merge. It took me til about 25% to really get hooked on the story, I loved the bit in the past but the present day story was quite enough to keep me reading and I did put aside at about 20% for something else….picked it up the next day intending to read to 50%, thinking it was one of those review books that I’d struggle with and would have to make myself read a bit each day, and found myself drawn in to the story and unable to put it down til the end 🙂 It was a fascinating read, a truly gripping story and chilling in that although this is fiction stories like it were real for hundreds of families. No-one really knows the true extent of the crime. All those families, fractured for profit was heartbreaking to me, and there were times in the story, Camilla for example, when I found myself tearing up. I still feel a bit choked thinking of that reality for all those poor kids, and parents who knew their children were somewhere but who were unable to find them, and had no legal rights to them even if they did. Sadly I suspect this Baby trade still goes on in too many parts of the world.
Madonna – remember when she adopted an “orphan” who was later proved to have living father and other relatives but they were poor so in our Western eyes that make taking him from his family to live with people thousands of miles away OK. It was that same kind of thinking that let this awful trade exist back then, the kids in the book were often described as “river rats” and inferred that their parents were poor so therefore they were doing the kids a service finding them new homes. The people adopting must have had questions, but suppressed them, especially as this was being sanctioned from the very highest in society.

I wasn’t sure of Avery at first but quickly grew to love her, and when she first met Trent I could feel that attraction, though they were very much a backstory. I loved the way she was with May, so determined to find out the truth, and yet so respectful of May’s feelings. She was doing something that from a political side could have been the downfall of her families political ambitions, but which was right. Should the truth be left alone? Of should people have a right to know where they come from? I’m with Avery, Truth is all, and I was glad she wasn’t dissuaded from her quest.
It had a perfect ending, rounding things up wonderfully, but I still wondered about others in the story. I can’t name them for spoiling things, but I kept thinking what happened to them, and wondering too about how the kids grew up, what kind of families and story they had. I guess you could go on ad-infinitum as each person would draw others into the story.
A wonderful story, harrowing at times but Lisa resisted the all too often temptation of making things too graphic. Sometimes its what isn’t written that holds more power, what we imagine is worse than words on a page. Violence, written too often in many novels, loses its horror impact, and Lisa keeps it all “off the page” so to speak. It’s not a novel full of horror though, its a horrible story in that it was reality for so many, but lightened by the friendships, the day to day life on the river, little things that meant so much when kids had nothing. What people forget sometimes is for kids, a poor but loving family is worth all the fine clothes, fancy food and ponies.

Stars: Five, a heartbreaking read, but with moments that made me smile, like little sparks of light in the dark. A story well worth reading.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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