Archive | March 2018

The City of Brass,  S. A. Chakraborty

The City of Brass,  S. A. Chakraborty

The City of Brass by [Chakraborty, S. A.]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

I was so excited to get this book, I’d read the amazon sample and it seemed a fun and unusual read. Thankfully there’s a glossary included because its full of new and curious people and creatures.
I loved the world the author has created, I could feel the heat, the hustle and bustle and that was really well done. I liked the different beings too, felt very magical, almost reminded me of the old Sinbad et al films my kids used to love.
I started off liking Nahri, but as the story grew she seemed to lose that spark of independence, that charisma that drew me to her, and by the second half just seemed a whiny girl. I loved Dara, honest in as far as a Daeva is honest, like so many of their type they often circumvent the truth and talk in riddles almost. It’s clear he doesn’t like Nahri, and they scratch up against one another, both full of distrust. Nahri has no choice though, you can’t go home as they say, so she has to go forward with him. She also wants to know more about her past, and hopefully a better future. When we first meet him Dara seems jaded, tired of his life, of all the things he’s done, many of which weigh heavily on him. He seems to view taking Nahri as a chore almost, something he has to do but doesn’t want to. Then we meet Ali, second son of the king. I wanted to like him but though he seemed to have a good heart he was very naive for his position and I didn’t see him as being a strong character when it was needed, in contrast to Dara who would do what was needed without hesitation. Ali didn’t like the way things were run, could have stopped up, could have tried to right things but seemed too apathetic really, content to fund small changes and quiet his conscience that way.
The story though seemed to meander, little interludes of drama breaking it, but I never really understood the point, didn’t see where it was going, what was the aim. It just seemed to drift, Dara, Nehru and Ali seemed to react only to events, never had any real plans, were never working towards a purpose, it felt like they were just drifting towards the city, fighting through minor mishaps and skirmishes but no actual plan other than to get there. I couldn’t help feeling “and then what will they do?”
Then the ending – and to be fair I skim read from about 40% as I was bored but wanted to see how it ended. I hate it when that happens, when someone major is lost, and I just have the horrible feeling that its going to be one of those rabbit out of the hat successes, where that character isn’t lost, returns despite all appearances, and I just don’t like that. (Think Dallas in the early 1980’s for those of you old enough to remember!) I didn’t want them to go, but hate that kind of comeback. I’m sort of talking in riddles here, but trying not to give anything away as of course there are many readers for whom this is the perfect novel. Sadly I’m not one of them. With a few changes I could have loved this, more direction and planning, some shaping of key characters, it’s so full of potential, such a unique and fascinating world, but as it is is a series I’ll pass.

Stars: Two and a half. So much I could have loved, but the story itself let it down.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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Pengarron Land, by Gloria Cook

Pengarron Land, by Gloria Cook

 

Pengarron Land (Pengarron Sagas Book 1) by [Cook, Gloria]

 

Genre:  General fiction (adult), Historical fiction.

I fell in love with historical Cornwall after the BBC drama back in the 70’s led me to reading all the Winston Graham novels. Many times! I hoped this series would be along those lines but sadly though there are similarities the story itself was too bland and uneventful for me.

It starts well, lots of promise but I was expecting the Poldark level of drama and it isn’t here. There is drama but its very slight, easily over and everyone is so -well- Nice. Kerensa is nice, Oliver is nice, Beatrice starts off being harsh to Kerensa but…she’s soon nice too,. Throw in others from the upper classes who welcome Kerensa (!), the villagers who are mostly happy for her, the wise but open minded vicar, the shopkeepers….you get it. Everyone is so Nice. Clem is to start with too but turns nasty, but even his jealousy has a stunted edge, he never really does much except moan and wallow in self pity.
Its not a bad book, felt very true to the period but I need more going on, more real drama, jealousy, angst, a bigger divide where Oliver marrying Kerensa would have caused a huge rift in society as it did in Poldark. I didn’t really understand why he married her, Tom was greedy enough that he’d have sold the land anyway, and Oliver could have fond a more suitable to his position wife than Kerensa. He’d barely noticed her so its not like he felt one look and he had to have her. Knowing she was already set to marry Clem he’s not the kind of guy who’d go against that just on a whim so his determination to marry her didn’t really work for me.

The Poldark echoes don’t really do this any favours, Oliver doesn’t have the charisma of Ross, Kerensa is sweet but doesn’t have Demelza’s sharp wit and determination, Beatrice has shades of Trudy, but without Jud it doesn’t really work. There’s a kiddley run by a widow, the miners and their hard lives, wrecks on the shore and smuggling, even a Rosina with a bad leg but somehow it all feels so pallid.
I expected Oliver’s contemporaries to be shocked, to be rude to Kerensa, for Clem to do more than wander round whinging, for the vicar to be spouting fire and brimstone, for the shopkeepers to be avaricious etc. Instead I read a novel that was probably far more true to the time period, but much less fun to read.
Its not a book I could dislike, its perfectly well written, just didn’t have the excitement and drama the Poldark connection gave me to expect.

Stars: Three, a story I had high hopes for but which ultimately was just an OK read.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

 

Captive Lies, Victoria Paige

Captive Lies,  Victoria Paige

Captive Lies by [Paige, Victoria]

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Romance

I really liked the sound of this story, and to begin I was enjoying it but….the the Russian Mafia slant came into play, and though I know there are readers who love stories with a Mafia bent I’m not one. Fortunately the Mafia were the bad guys, I really can’t take it when they’re passed of as good guys really, just misunderstood…

I loved Blaire, she was in the situation she was through her birth, nothing she could have done about it, unless she was prepared to knuckle down and have her life run by the Russians. Liam, her friend and protector was a great guy too, and he gave her the training to protect herself. I so like that, when a main character doesn’t have to depend on a man to save her but can hold her own in a fight. Grant, alpha male in the extreme and for me he was at times too pushy, too overly controlling, bordering on abusive in his need to control. Blaire is a tough girl, she’s survived despite having some bad people out to get her and though he wants to protect her he shouldn’t expect her to hand over all control to him and sit back and …well, what? Shop? Watch daytime TV? That’s just not Blaire, she paints but can’t spend all day every day doing that.

I was doing OK with the story, Grant’s obsessive personality and tendency to act like a jerk aside, but it got slowly more overly complex, with distrust everywhere, and threats from all quarters. That can be fun, keeping readers on their toes but can also mean a story gets overly complex. I had guessed one person who was not who they seemed, I wasn’t totally sure but looking back all the clues were there, I just wasn’t sure I was reading them properly – that’s good, I like to be surprised. Then the mafia and political threats began to overlap, technology that seemed improbable crept in and was used to make scenes work that wouldn’t otherwise, and it seemed a little too far fetched for me. I do need to believe in a story, and though technology has advanced hugely, and of course this is fiction I felt that some parts were a little hard for me to believe in. It seemed if you’d got money – and Grant had – then anything could be had for a price.

I wasn’t convinced by Cal, I kind of thought something along those lines would happen, there’s hints thrown in all along but I was disappointed that it worked that way – more of that improbable technology for me. I want to believe things could happen that way if this were a true story and that…nope, I can’t fall for it.

It sounds like I hated the story, and that’s just not true, these were just niggles, big niggles, for me and overall I enjoyed reading this novel. It was my first read by this author and I think if I’d read the Guardians novels maybe I’d have got more from it and understood better what they were capable of.

Stars: Three and a half, a good suspense and romance but both had too many niggles for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The One, Maria Realf

The One,  Maria Realf

The One: A moving and unforgettable love story - the most emotional read of 2018 by [Realf, Maria]

Genre: Romance

I should have known when I saw the Jojo Moyes comparison. There’s a reason I haven’t read Me before You, I read to relax, to enjoy. I love books which are full of angst, which move me to tears, where it looks like there’s no solution….but at the end I want happy, I want the solution, I want all the angst to have been worth it, and most of all I Need a HEA. Or at the very least a HFN, that gives the possibility of ever-after. This book, like Me before You, doesn’t give that.
Its am amazing emotional story, full of characters that feel real, flawlessly written and a gripping story. But the end though….when its that kind of ending I feel flat, cheated, bereft. Real life has too many endings like that for me to want to read them too. Sadly the subject hit very close to home too, and I don’t chose to read books that end this way. My bad, I was thinking the blurb meant the Jojo Moyes writing style not the emotionally sad, gutting ending.

Its one of those times when I can see just how subjective writing is, this book is written erfectly, others adore it, can’t stop praising it and yet me? That ending just killed all appreciation. There were parts I loved, but ending that way overtook all of that, and left me feeling wrenched emotionally without the positive buzz a HEA brings. For me thats not a good way to end my reading.

Stars: Three, I didn’t like the ending, big time dislike, and yet some parts of the story were perfect so I’ve taken a middle stance, a decent read but not one I can personally rate higher.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Mercury Travel Club, Helen Bridgett

The Mercury Travel Club, Helen Bridgett

The Mercury Travel Club: Getting your life back on track has never been more funny! by [Bridgett, Helen]

Genre:  General Fiction (adult), Women’s Fiction.

Usual moan…Woman’s Fiction. Again….* sigh* Why do we have a category aimed at excluding those who might want to read this. Men read – and write- romance and I can think of many that would love this. Don’t do it authors and publishers.

Its a wonderful read, I wasn’t sure when I requested it and it languished on my kindle for a week or so while I read other novels, but once I did pick it up it was perfect. I’m a little older than Angie, not much, a few years, and reading it I empathised with her, shared her reminiscing and laughed so much. I could see me doing all the things she and Patty did!

I tagged a few parts that really made me smile – the Spanx…I always imagine The Great Seduction falling apart when the Spanx come off.
Picture it, soft music, sweet nothings being murmured, clothing being slipped off…all’s going well until it comes to the Spanx. Ping, heave, tug, roll them down, acres of confined flesh spill out, red and sweaty, full of compression lines and itching. Cos when you take tight clothes of skin always itches doesn’t it? Not really the scene you had in mind. And going to the loo? Yep, men have no idea.
Mothering Sunday, yep, I’ve had the toast that is bizarrely soggy white in places, black in others, and the egg box daffodils.
The red wine dilemma, how come TV characters never have those gruesome teeth when they smile and never, never get drunk?
Poor Angie’s sponge cake, which knocks over the bird table, falls like lead. My cakes are like that, she mentions putting jam and custard on them a serving for dessert, and when my kids were little it was one they loved, the failed cake dessert. “Mum, mum, make a microwave cake today.”
Getting mistaken for a hooker, well, that’s one which has missed me but made me snigger.

Its a great read, uplifting for those of us a bit older, reminding us we Have Value, we have lots to give, and Angie and Pattie had a wonderful year.
There so much to smile at and yet its not just humour but some fabulous ideas encouraging us to continue having fun, its not a prerogative of the young. When she was going off for a bike ride with Ed and his Chapter I was so envious, never been on a bike and it sounded wonderful. Hmnn, wonder if someone has a bike and would take me for a spin…. 😉

I wanted Alan and Amanda to get theirs, so unfair cheating – its one thing I really, really hate, so cruel, so devastating. Sort your marriage/relationship out before straying. I wanted them to see Angie was doing so well, and they did but not quite as I hoped. I guess I’m the vengeful sort, I want the cheater to see what they’ve lost and regret it, for the third person to get the elbow and the cheatee to move on, to better and braver life, leaving the others regretful. There’s something of that in this book, but much more subtle!

Stars: Five, The characters were fabulous, from Angie and Patty, Angie’s mum and dad, her daughter, Charlie and Josie from the travel shop, Caroline, Peter, Ed, the Granny-Oks….so many fantastic people who all played a solid part in the novel

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Living in the Past, Jane Lovering

Living in the Past,  Jane Lovering

Living in the Past (Choc Lit) by [Lovering, Jane]

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Well, I’ll start with that genre category, women’s fiction. Why? I so hate that we alienate men from stories that they could well enjoy, splitting books into Women’s and Men’s is so dated, harks back to the fifties or so and has no place in literacy today. Well, that’s my take.

Anyway, to the book. I love Jane Lovering’s stories, find ChocLit delivers books I almost always love, and this one was another perfect read. A story that’s got that bit extra, not a cut and paste romance but one where there’s a fascinating story line running through.
I’m kind of open minded about time travel, just because we don’t understand it, if its possible, doesn’t mean it isn’t. After all years back what’s common place now was thought impossible, but science and technology brings leaping progress in what was thought impossible. I think of it as sort of parallel worlds, existing at the same time and maybe parts are thinner, maybe its some bloodlines, maybe time of year etc that allow people to pass through.

I love Grace, she’s been a widow for two years, and talks still to Jamie. I talk daily to my late husband to, so her feelings resonated with me. She has some great friends and they have been a solid support and as part of that Grace gets dragged off on an archaeology dig.
Duncan, the dig leader is a terrific character. He appears abrupt, abrasive and grumpy, yet his colleagues and students follow him avidly, knowing he’s very skilled at his career. This dig is personal for him though, and through it Grace discovers some of why he appears so unapproachable. I so felt for him, what an awful thing to happen, and the repercussions have shadowed his whole life.

Its kind of not hard to see where the story goes, but that didn’t matter, its delivered in such a fascinating way. I really felt there with Grace, out in the mud of the 21st century with the dig, and then back with Lady Hen. I love the way the two stories worked seamlessly, how they fitted together, and how we gained insights of the characters, saw how events can shape us. Life happens and we react to it, and what happens to us affects us as people.

Stars:Five, another great read from Jane, one I was really absorbed in and enjoyed thoroughly.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Watching You, (Hollywood Heat 1),  Leslie A. Kelly

Watching You, (Hollywood Heat 1),  Leslie A. Kelly

Watching You (Hollywood Heat Book 1) by [Kelly, Leslie A.]

Genre: Romance

My first read by this author, so I didn’t know her writing style. It proved to be a fun read and one I enjoyed but…there were a few things that made it fall short of a five star read for me.

The way Reece obsesses about Jessica after only viewing her from a security camera and then sets up their meeting, weird. Then when he gets her alone knowing what he does about the room…well, it made me feel uncomfortable about him and full marks for Jessica for being strong enough to stand up to him, to call him out on his actions. It made him look again at what has become almost an unnoticed habit, viewing real life and acting as though he’s filming all the while and he does apologise. It was a bit weird though.

I wasn’t convinced of the romance between them, they didn’t really have enough interactions in the book for me to feel it developing, she was interning and working with him, but most of that was related “off book” so to speak and meant I didn’t get that build up from initial attraction and lust to real feelings and love.

Then there’s the mystery….s. It was hard working out was was connected and what wasn’t, whether there was one person doing multiple things or multiple people doing one or more events. Confusing and given the length of the book ( fairly average at 4500 kindle locations) it meant there was a lot of characters and detailed that didn’t really get explained properly. I did wonder as I approached the end whether all the incidences would tie up or if they would carry over into the next book, because time was running out. As it happens they did all tie up but in a way that was far to brief, lacked real detail for me. It felt a bit rushed.

It’s billed as romantic suspense, but for me the romance side fell a bit short, though I did love the Hollywood B itches – I love characters like that, and the suspense angle was overly complicated. I felt like people were put in place purely to throw in another possible suspect when the story didn’t need it and the time and words would have been better spent on fleshing out more the romance and the story-line as it was without them. ( Johnny, Alan, Steve for example, who all had stories that gave them plausible reasons to be connected to events, but which I felt were just muddying the waters rather than adding to the story overall)

Its a good start though to a trilogy and as we now know the brothers back story the next books will at least not need to repeat that, and be able to concentrate on more current events.

Stars: Three, I liked parts but felt others made things feel overdone.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Old English Medical Remedies, Mandrake, Wormwood and Raven’s Eye, Sinead Spearing

Old English Medical Remedies, Mandrake, Wormwood and Raven’s Eye,  Sinead Spearing

Genre:  Health, Mind & Body , History

I’m kind of conflicted about this review. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, which was actual historical remedies and then a discussion on individual issues from them in the light of today’s knowledge.
I’m fascinated by old ways, remedies that were surprisingly effective, gained from acute observation of patient, remedy and effects mixed in with what seems to us much weirdness, gathering herbs on certain days, standing in certain position, using different coloured materials and of course the ever present evils of the day….What I got was an intensely interesting read, but which was much more like an academic treatise, at times pretty hard going for a hobby historian like myself.
I think that really needs to be made clearer in the description as I can see from reviews several others felt the same.

I really enjoyed the remedies and discussions when they cropped up, learning about how many are finding their way into modern medicine. The discussion too on why practices that seem so irrelevant to us now, with our science knows all outlook, things like times, days, colours, that are all set down so precisely were so important and not the side dressing they appear.
It reminded me of the way I read years back that so many recipes called for “the water of a man-child” and that seems sexist. Did they really think male urine was somehow stronger, more special? No, but the penis naturally allows urine to remain sterile longer while female urine can get skin contamination more easily as its gathered. Simple but important stuff. They may not have know why, but observation and records will have shown them that male urine was more effective.
Then too we now have a whole school of theory based around bio-dynamics, incorporating moon schedules for planting etc.

I found fascinating the research now done on intention of thought, where research was done on stands of human DNA, one group were asked to hold the vial while maintaining a heightened state of emotional positivity, the second asked to mentally intend to unwind the strand of DNA and the third group asked to do both. There was a marked difference in the first two groups compared with the third, with that one showing material change. It lead to a conclusion that focused intention could produce a material change, a small study but certainly food for thought, and one that could explain why intention was regarded as so important.
We’re so quick to dismiss what doesn’t fit our current science theories that we often dismiss old words, and yet as shown on the MRSA antibiotic, we could be losing valuable cures. Just because there seems no science base, no logic doesn’t mean a theory or remedy in invalid. I remember my shock years back when my PC/IT son told me about water being research for computer chips as water has a memory…I still find that hard to take 😉

Its a fascinating read, but so intense and academic that I found it hard at times, and I’ve skimmed through, reading sections that catch my eye. Its certainly a read I’ll dip back into for sheer interest, and its very clear the author has a real knowledge and passion for the subject. I had convinced that what she wrote had been thoroughly researched and checked, and wasn’t just an opinion of hers, but something gleaned from thorough analysis of the texts available.
For me though a read that was a bit lighter, or a better description so I knew what to expect would have made me happier.

Stars: 4, a great read for anyone interested in old remedies and the history of why they were so used.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

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