Archive | July 2018

Girlfriend, Interrupted, Patricia Caliskan

Girlfriend, Interrupted, Patricia Caliskan

Girlfriend, Interrupted: From carefree twenty-something to instant mother-of-two... by [Caliskan, Patricia]

Genre: Romance, Humour.

I hate it when book blurbs promise “you will cry with laughter/hilarious/laugh out loud” etc. Too often I find its forced comedy at best.
This book though is different, the humour was perfect, typical British understated, so carefully tucked in I almost missed parts 😉 and that’s what I love. Subtle humour, words and actions that make me smile, while still delivering a story that’s interesting.

Its a slice of modern day life, “blended families” as the self help books and Sunday supplements so often say. What they mean is that part where families break up, parents meet new loves, kids are caught between two homes, two sets of parents, and can play the emotions to their best effects sometimes. Its tough, my mum used to have a saying “you can’t do right for doing wrong” and I guess that fits these scenes. Whatever you do is wrong with someone.

I loved the characters, so very real, not perfect despite first impressions, and I could see this story happening easily.
I so felt for poor Ella, she loves Dan, is trying so hard to be what the family need, to help the kids, to push her career at work, to be a good friend and sometimes it seems there just aren’t enough hours. Among all that where’s the time for Ella?
Pippa, Dan’s mum, delights in encouraging the kids memories of idyllic times with perfect Bryony, pulls out perfect family photos, refers to the home as Bryony’s still, but time sneaks in the truth. Perfect Bryony though is struggling in her new marriage. Then Ella’s mum and the wonderful Jeremiah, I want to be her….and maybe have a toyboy like him 😉 The kids, Ethan is a great lad, so loving and accepting while like so many kids his sister, Grace, is struggling. Of course she wants Bryony and Dan back together, most kids want their parents together, and its beyond their understanding why that can’t happen. She’s awful to Ella, who tries valiantly to step forward, to help her, to hold the kids weekends as something precious. Ella however spends so much of her time flying round, mending events, picking up pieces, arranging things others have dropped, forgotten, ignored, and runs herself ragged trying to be all things to all (wo)men.
Then there’s Dan. Oh how I wanted to slap in at times, he loves Ella, loves his kids but seemed blindly ignorant to just how hard it was for her. The chaotic party was so illustrative of everything she was fighting. It made me wonder how often scenes like these play out every weekend.

Its a fabulous story, subtle, perfect humour, so much emotion, a feeling of real love between Dan and Ella in danger of being broken by the pressures of step parenting and fractured families. The only part that stops this from being a five is the end, its too quick, too rushed and for a romance I need, if not a HEA, then at least a very, very solid HFN. This ending suggests things will work out but I need it to be written in stone 😉

Stars: Four, a little more on the ending and this would be a five.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

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The Story After Us, Fiona Perrin

The Story After Us, A heartwarming tale of life and love for modern women everywhere,  Fiona Perrin

The Story After Us: A heartwarming tale of life and love for modern women everywhere by [Perrin, Fiona]

Genre: Romance, General Fiction (Adult)

This is one of those books that’s well written but which I didn’t really enjoy. I wanted to like it, but was expecting a second chance style romance, or at least A romance, when what we get it the disintegration of one and a possibility of another. If the genre was in the Romance section I’d have felt a little less disappointed. To me a romance is a HEA or at least a solid HFN.
So, Ami and Lars were so in love, where did it go wrong? Sadly that happens to lots of marriages, so busy with work and family that the romance, the love, gets lost. I felt so sad for them.
Yet Ami annoyed me, I felt sorry for her at first, Lars just didn’t want to recognise there was an issue and I felt she still loved him dearly, wanted their marriage to work and was prepared to put in the effort, where Lars was just either ignoring the issues or blaming her for nagging. Familiar story? Of course it culminates in a massive row and Lars leaves.
I wish we knew more of Lars, his thoughts, his personality, but we really only see what Ami thinks of him. The one insight when he was talking to his friend I did feel sorry for him, but still felt he was being unfair to Ami.
The main thrust of the book is Ami’s life separated from Lars, and she seems to veer madly back and forth, one moment missing what they had, the next declaring she was happy without a man. Of course it doesn’t help that she’s got money issues, a new business and young kids to worry over. Given that she is now a single parent responsible for the kids, Lars is always away anyway, she somehow manages to have a remarkable amount of free time. In the real world it isn’t that easy to go out for an evening, just saying 😉 I did love Ami’s bag campaign, excellent idea and fit with the theme of the book really well. I loved Ben, but had to wonder just what he saw in Ami at times 😉

As I said its a well written story but I really didn’t like either Lars or Ami and for me that’s a huge issue, and added to that I was expecting a Romance so this book wasn’t a hit for me. That’s a personal view of course, and I’m sure others will love it.

Stars: Two and a half, there were parts I liked and it was well written, just that I didn’t like it enough for a three.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Tap – A Love Story, Tracy Ewens

Tap – A Love Story,  Tracy Ewens

Tap: A Love Story by [Ewens, Tracy]

Genre: Romance

Well, I didn’t realise this was a series of connected reads, and though it is a stand alone romance, I think I’d have got more from it if I’d read the others, knew the back story. The Melissa thing especially, I don’t know if that’s covered in earlier books, but I was so puzzled, what was it that Sistine ( and all I can think of is Sistine Chapel each time I read her name…) was doing for Melissa for all that dosh, and why did they fall out years ago.
I loved the characters but I didn’t feel the connections between them, did really understand the little nuances and side jokes that I suspect I would have if I’d read the other books.
Cade is a gem, but apart from idealising what his family and friends have I wasn’t really sure why he was all out for his own family. Do guys suddenly get that instinct for family? It just seemed such a sea change in behaviours and thoughts. Why hadn’t he noticed Sistine before, can he really be so attracted now he’s noticed her when she’s been there all the time. Its easier on her part, he’s a hot guy and she’s a long held secret attraction for him.
I didn’t really connect with this story, found myself skimming parts trying to work out what was behind events and actions, overall it was just an OK read for me. As always though others love it, we all enjoy different things in our reading.

Stars:Three, a story I never really connected well with.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

The Backpacking Housewife, Janice Horton

The Backpacking Housewife,  Janice Horton

The Backpacking Housewife: Escape around the world with this feel good novel about second chances! by [Horton, Janice]

Genre: general Fiction (Adult)

A mixed read for me, there were parts I really loved, but others that didn’t sit quite right for me.

Its a read that starts off with a bang, poor Lori making a horrible discovery when returning home earlier than expected. She grabs her passport and bag and ….she’s off, to the destination furthest that’s available Right Now.

I would have liked to know a bit more about her home life, kids, mum etc, so I could see how much Lori had changed. I loved the traveling, loved the scenery, the people she met, the places she went and especially her time with the turtles. It made me feel part of her trip, as if I was there with her it was so well written.
It was quite hard though to separate it out into an actual fiction novel rather than a kind of travelogue….and it was fiction I wanted. I wanted Charles to get his comeuppance, to see what he’d thrown away in his arrogance, wanted the best friend to see what she’d lost in Lori, and I did find it a bit hard to believe that someone like Lori, devoted to her family could just up and leave them, with so little contact, so little worry. She seems to tell herself, boys grown up – they’ll be fine, mum’s got her friends…and doesn’t really worry about them or let them know where she is. It just didn’t feel quite real there, if it was just her and Charles yes, but she has her two (grown) boys who she loves, has her mum who she’s on good terms with and I didn’t feel she would have been happy to have just left them like that.
I loved Ethan, a true gentleman, loved how he was with Lori, loved his enthusiasm for life and everything in it. I was supposed though how abrupt the ending was, it seemed to be a little rushed, a bit brief when I expected more. Maybe that’s just me though and my romance/HEA addiction. There’s certainly promise of a HFN here.

Stars: Four, a wonderful read and escape, made me wish I was there with her, but which felt a little unreal in parts.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

The Nothing Girl, (Frogmorton Farm 1), Jodi Taylor. Honourable Lies, Fran Connor

The Nothing Girl, (Frogmorton Farm 1), Jodi Taylor

The Nothing Girl (The Frogmorton Farm Series Book 1) by [Taylor, Jodi]

Genre:, Romance, paranormal

Well, an innocuous title for what proved to be an incredible read for me.
I wasn’t sure about this book, but its free, so if I didn’t like it I didn’t need to read/review it. I’ve not read any of Jodi’s other stories, having taken a quick look I’m not sure they’re my kind of read but then this one surprised me so maybe someday..
There is a follow up but this book feels like it ends well enough for me and I’m not keen on sequels when I don’t need them to feel story is complete.

Poor Jenny, brought up by her aunt and uncle after her parents die she’s quiet, hidden away, “Jenny can’t cope with/Jenny needs to be protected/Jenny will be upset and unable to speak”…. Its as if her relatives want the best for her, as if they’re over protective and yet from the inside they don’t really make her welcome, and seem to be happiest when she’s tucked away in her room.
She’s 13 ( I think) when we first meet her and decided to end her life. No one will miss her she thinks, and she’s mulling over the tidiest way to do it, to leave the least mess when along comes Thomas.

Thomas is wonderful, and he feels so real, I adored him. I love all things equestrian anyway and Thomas just felt so very unique, and I had no problem believing in him. I loved when he referred to her as a foal, when he interpreted her snorts of laughter as swear works!
Only Jenny can see him, he’s always with her, speaks and advises her and really helps her to cope with life. She’s still quietly tucked away but with Thomas help has persuaded her aunt to let her have the whole of the attic where she and Thomas can make hot chocolate, watch TV and relax in their own private, happy space.
That’s enough for many years then Thomas seems to decide its time for her to see more people, get more of a life. She doesn’t need to work, has money from her parents and he seems to see that she’s just becoming totally introverted. She’s 29 now and still has to ask her aunt and uncle for permission for things, still believes them when they say she’s “special” and can’t be allowed freedoms others have, and allude that if she doesn’t live quietly with them then she could end up somewhere with far more restrictions…..
And into this quiet, sombre life falls Russell, totally opposite, outwardly chaotic, charms everyone, a golden boy, talented artist whose fallen when he lost his muse. Said muse just happens to be Jenny’s cousin Francesca, spoiled, rude, thinks life revolves around her and who had a fling with Russell where he painted her continuously, was at the top of the art tree, and she adored the adulation he gave her, along with his fame of course. Then the next victim comes along and she leaves him for someone who can further her ambitions. You can tell I don’t like her 😉 and I was so angry at Russell’s fixation, infatuation even when he’s trying to help Jenny. And himself, of course, but he has good in him and sees Jenny for who she is, not who her relatives want everyone to think she is.
Jenny and Russell marry, and her life changes so much. She grows fast away from all the restrictions. Of course her relatives aren’t happy and make many concerted attempts to bring her back, but Russell is determined, even when he’s being a total ass over Francesca. He’s truthful with Jenny, tells her how he feels but its an escape for her, the best chance of a life of her own and Thomas encourages her to take the risk.

Its a madcap book in many ways, chaotic at times and yet quietly poignant too, and we see Jenny growing slowly in confidence, finding she can live a life of her own, that there’s no reason she needed to be hidden away.
And I kept thinking why did they do it? Were they just ultra protective, was there some reason I’m missing, did they just want their daughter Francesca to shine away from Jenny’s light, maybe it was just easier to be a dutiful relative if they didn’t have to actually interact much with Jenny.
There are some surprises and twists in store for Russell and Jenny, and some serious drama towards the end..

I went into this thinking it might be a YA, twee kind of read, but soon found myself immersed in Russell and Jenny’s world, getting so cross that Russell couldn’t see through the b itch Francesca, mentally shouting at his actions, feeling for Jenny and encouraging her to carry on, make plans, and hoping they’d both soon see what was obvious to everyone else.

Stars:Five, a fabulous, escapist read and one I know I’ll return to.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Honourable Lies,  Fran Connor

Honourable Lies by [Connor, Fran]

Genre:, Romance

Edit: 14/7/18
This novel is set in the 1860’s, so my comments about divorce are not strictly correct, what I had read was in the process of changing at the time this novel was set, and it wouldn’t have been as difficult as before to obtain a divorce, so please read my original comments with that in mind. Apologies for my incorrect facts, and I’d like to add the following info to correct things.
Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 divorce was taken away from the Ecclesiastical Court and parliament jurisdiction. Under the Act it was possible for a man to divorce his wife for adultery, but a wife could not divorce her husband for adultery ‘only’. She had to have ‘aggravated’ cause to go with it such as serious assault or being abandoned. The civil court could then grant the divorce without recourse to parliament or the Church.
********************************************************

So, sometimes I just want to dip back into history, with a simple romance. Sadly though this was too sweet and simple for me. Victoria is a historical Pollyanna…. whatever happens to her she’s something good around every corner. Ditto for anyone that crosses her path.
She gets thrown out of the orphanage at 16, gets attacked while out and her little money stolen, but she’s well read and educated, and gets a job living in, with no references, no belongings, and probably looking pretty grubby, as companion/tutor to a 14 yr old. That quickly falls through but no worries, she just happens to meet and do Queen Victoria a favour….and the whole book feels like that, any mishap brings good things Every Time. She really is a charmed girl and everyone in her orbit benefits, everyone loves her. Its little things that were so unreal for me, she starts growing carrots, cabbages and potatoes with no knowledge of how, and within a couple of years has graduated to a huge flock of sheep, employing people to help her.

Then of course there’s Richard and his wife – who’s name I can’t recall. She loves another and so – hey, they get divorced. Now even I with my scant historical knowledge know it wasn’t that easy, so had a quick look on google “A couple could only be divorced by the passage of a private act through Parliament–remedy available only to the very wealthy.  According to Feminism, Marriage and the Law in Victorian England, 1850-1895, about ten private acts for divorce were passed in Parliament each year.” It certainly wasn’t the easy option.
So, I know I’m reading fiction, I’m happy for authors to bend the facts and use them to their advantage but this was just too unreal for me. Life doesn’t work like that, I can accept one good thing happening, people do get lucky breaks, but for Victoria every cloud had a silver lining. There’s no way she’d have been taken on in her first job, no way she’d have met the queen, got that position, grown enough veg to buy sheep in such a short space of time…it was all too slick for me. I have to say here that from about 40 to 80 % I just skim read, bored with the story but wanting to see the end.
If you can suspend any semblance of reality and like a sweet and cute read you’ll love this, but sadly I want more real life, more angst, more blocks to happiness, though I need a HEA and was glad that came through.

Stars:Two, too far from reality for me 😦

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Crossroads of Bones, A Katie Bishop Novel Book 1, Luanne Bennett

Crossroads of Bones, A Katie Bishop Novel Book 1,  Luanne Bennett

Crossroads of Bones (A Katie Bishop Novel Book 1) by [Bennett, Luanne]

Genre:, Sci-fi and Fantasy

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this, Luanne is a new-to-me author, but its a story I really enjoyed.

There are some terrific characters here, and that’s really important for me. I loved Katie, a strong and independent lady, not a whiny TSSL heroine. She’s got a mysterious past, is making a new life for herself in her tattoo shop. Her employees are a mixed bunch but really interesting, and as the story unfolds some of them have valuable info for her. I loved her friend Sugar too, a great secondary character who proved very important and was such a treat to read. I really enjoy reading about people who are different in some way, individuals in the fullest sense and Sugar was perfect.
The adventure, the story, the bit that’s the focus of the book was cleverly done, and kept me reading avidly and this book set me up to look forward for the next. I like that there are characters other than the usual vampire/shooters, I love those but I love stories which take things a bit further too. This one was very vivid in the way it played out and even though we’re talking about fiction, specifically fantasy, it all felt so very real to me. The touches of root/voodoo/voudun magic were good and added so much to the atmosphere, and blended perfectly with the setting.
That ending, not a cliffhanger but a terrific, tantalising glimpse of what’s in story for Katie next. I look forward to reading that.

Stars: Four and a half, almost the magic five, and a terrific series opener.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

 

 

A Boy Called L, (A Taboo Love Story 1), Amy J. Heart

A Boy Called L, (A Taboo Love Story 1), Amy J. Heart

A Boy Called L: A Taboo Love Story by [Heart, Amy J.]

Genre:  Erotic Fiction, Romance

this is a novella prequel, around 14K words. I’m not a novella fan usually as I find they’re just too short for me to deliver a story, but of course as a prequel or a side to a main series its something entirely different. It doesn’t need to give the whole story, just the background.

So this starts of with a bang, or rather a BJ! L avoids the bangs if he can….
It alternates from L’s POV to Eden’s POV. It does feel a bit disjointed at times but I think that’s because of what it is, trying to deliver background without giving away the full story. I loved the restaurant scene and – I’ve forgotten her name – but the lady who opens his way out of the awful position he’s in, she is just wonderful! Really drawn well as a character, I could just see her, all smart, out with friends at top restaurant when in walks L, bedraggled, dirty, and yet she sees under that to his striking looks, the potential for big money in him – for both of them.
Eden, she’s in a bad situation, though I’m not wholly sure of just why Coop holds her strings, and I really really want to know what the connection is between L and Coop too.
There are some pretty graphic scenes here, they fit the story perfectly, but if you don’t like things like that then stay away. Personally I was really moved at one scene towards the end which could have gone disastrously wrong for the characters, could have been written in a sleazy way but which was really well handled IMO.

My only criticism is that slightly disjointed feeling, where its L then Eden, now then a couple of years in the future, and I couldn’t really get a clear sense of what was happening and how. All very mysterious and I’m the impatient sort! Book two should sort all that out though, and I’m really looking forward to that.

Stars: Four, an interesting and tantalising preview of what’s coming for Lightening Boy

ARC supplied by author

 

 

All I Want is You, Patricia Mar

All I Want is You,  Patricia Mar

All I Want is You by [Mar, Patricia]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

I thought I’d love this, but found that it a bit disappointing.
Set in Rome I’d have like to have fell more of that, to me it could have been anywhere, and yet that part could have added so much romance to the atmosphere. Apart from her Tour job there was little to make Rome stand out.

I expected to sympathise with Sara, instead I didn’t like her most of the while, she seemed “woe is me” constantly, and was always looking for ways to see that Daniel was playing her.
He was sweet about that, kept telling her he loved her for herself, didn’t want all the models etc, the people that just wanted to be seen with him, just wanted her for himself. Yet she seemed to disbelieve him the second he left the room….I wanted to say “c’mon girl, enough whining now, appreciate what you have instead of looking for ways to tear it down.”
I did feel for her over some issues, I would find it hard to remain “its just a job” when someone had their hands all over my almost naked boyfriend – it did make me wonder just what he was modeling for, seemed a bit OTT for usual stuff.

I didn’t feel that much of a connection between the two and I guess that coloured my enjoyment, I love to feel that sizzle between a couple and here it was just missing. I hate too when a book is described as “laugh out loud/hilarious/side splitting” etc. Please publicists, just don’t do it. Its a let down, this had some genuine humorous moments, but as I often feel too many episodes felt forced.

Stars: Three, its a cute read, one I thought I’d love but which proved to be not quite right for me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Islands in the East, Jenny Ashcroft

Island in the East, Jenny Ashcroft
Island in the East: Two great loves. One shattering betrayal. A war that changes everything. by [Ashcroft, Jenny]

Genre: historical, Romance

I loved Jenny’s previous book, and this one is even more special for me.
I really felt I was there with the characters, I could see the colours, feel the heat, smell the exotic and the not so pleasant scents.
So much felt real that I actually skipped some of the wartime scenes, as I’m a little squeamish. There wasn’t anything particularly graphic but being the wimp I am I found it hard to imagine characters I’d come to love in that situation. I don’t really enjoy reading about the reality of war anyway, so I skimmed just looking for mention of the characters to get an overview of what was happening.

It set back in the late 1800’s and the 1940’s and reads as two stories with connected characters but its how they connect that’s the puzzle. Slowly as each story continues in alternating chapters we see them begin to join, see how they relate to each other and it made for a wonderful, escapist read.
From the early chapters I had an idea of what might have happened, but not why, or who was responsible, I an idea of how it played out but as it happened I was way off track.
Its a vivid story, the closeness of twins brought up with a sense of shame at being illegitimate – how harsh and judgemental humans can be on others. Some delight in others misfortunes, and the Mems certainly found fodder for their gossip in Mae and Harriet.
I so felt for the girls when things started to go wrong, they didn’t really stand a chance in the mans world they lived in.
Then the later section of the story with Ivy, Kit, Alex and those from the past and the present I wasn’t sure how it all fit together. Again I had ideas about some characters but how they got there, what actually happened eluded me. And when the truth came out it was incredibly moving.

Stars: five, A tear-jerker read, full of angst and emotion, and with an amazingly realistic setting.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

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