Dear Enemy, Kristen Callihan
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance
I love Kristen’s VIP series, have re read those several times and they still make me laugh – and cry….but her other books just don’t quite live up to those for me. This one was the same, it was good, great banter, Kristen excels at that, which had me giggling like a loon every now and then, but somehow it didn’t have the VIP magic.
I never like it when a guy dates a sister – or vice versa, and her its an integral part of the story but I just didn’t – even when everything came out – understand just why Macon ever dated the horrible Samantha.
Delilah coming to work for Macon was…a little contrived in terms of real life, but this is fiction so jut go with it. In reality would a chef/PA really be worth all that money? She might be the greatest chef- but is untried as a PA. Somehow though if you can suspend belief, and just accept it has happened it makes for a great story.
The characters are good, I love an evil, selfish character like Samantha, loved Macon in his early unpleasant days, that means when we learn his history it puts a different slant on what seemed like pure vicious nastiness.
I loved the way it finally came together, how Delilah was such an open, natural lady, always ready to help anyone, with a humorous quip at the ready for when its needed and yet also has a very serious side under that humour.
Its a great read, I’m just spoiled by VIP. Maybe its time for yet another re-read of those, Sunshine and Chatty-girl’s ( aka Gabriel and Sophie) story is the best IMO!
Stars: Four, a great read, just suspend belief in the reality of certain plots and go with it. Its worth it.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Pivotal Decisions, (Moonlight and Murder 2), Reily Garrett
Genre: Romantic suspense
Murder and bodies, swamps and alligators, guns and bang sticks ( never heard of them – I want one !!), drones and tech, none of which I know much about but it didn’t matter for the story as it was kept loose enough for me to keep up and enjoy. Some suspense novels get very heavy on the detail and I end up skipping pages, this had just enough to interest me and let me follow how the story fit together.
I loved Sabine – and Heath. That dog was the real star of the book 😉 Coyote too was great, it was hard seeing little Sabine all grown up, and he was struggling to keep his hands to himself. Of course Sabine had always been attracted to him so she wasn’t worried when he didn’t…. The secondary characters too, Augie, Sabine’s bestie and Coyote’s work partner and GF and sister were fabulous. Poor Nolan, Keiki was one determined lady.
The girls together brought some much needed humour among the seriousness of the story. The guys were all macho protection, Augie warning Coyote not to hurt Sabine, Coyote determined to keep her back from the danger, Nolan all het up in defence of his little sister and his girlfriend, and the girls all running rings around them equally determined to not be kept out of the action. Lucky they did, it needed all of them.
I understood the potential financially of what poor Jinx had been working on, and could see so easily for many the murders to get their hands on it would be nothing. Sadly that’s the way of the world, dominated by money and the desire for more of it.
I wasn’t entirely convinced over the capture and rescue of Augie’s lady, it seemed a bit too simple and why leave the VR goggles? Maybe its just me missed some essential connection but I really struggled with the relevance of that bit.
Where the story fell down a bit for me was the last section, the end, and the reasons for all the murders seemed to just almost fizzle off. Somewhere I even missed what happened to one of the bad guys, one moment there was still one accounted for, and then it was the end and clearly I missed how he got caught. There were times when the actions stretched credulity but not too much and after all this is fictionland 😉
Stars: Four, a fun read, humour to offset the murders and a great bunch of characters.
Arc via author
Red Hatchet Falls, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 7), Susan Clayton-Goldner
Genre: Mystery and thrillers
Each time I finish a Radhauser novel I’m in awe of how Susan manages to pull together a story, including so many side plots full of interest, taking me on a journey to find who’s responsible for the awful things in that book. She makes me think its one person, then doubt myself, as Radhauser does so often.
This book is the perfect example of when there seems like a straightforward murderer, all the clues and evidence point to that person, and yet Radhauser feels its too easy. As usual his gut feeling should have been listened to, although hopefully here that mistake will lead to future good.
I really didn’t suspect who the person was, Susan hides them with only the most subtle of clues that only make sense when we reach the conclusion.
It was good to catch up with not only Radhauser and his family, but also his work colleagues, characters from other books ( yay for Rodney!) and meet new ones.
In among the main crime there are plots about bullying, racism, domestic violence, and of course we see just how pervasive racism is, how easy it is to prejudge someone purely on looks. That happens here to an Islamic family, who have made America their home. Of course even now the fall out from 9-11 hits them, they are hated by some people, feared by others, simply because of their religion, which a few extremists used as an excuse for horrific actions. Y’know, Christians have done that too, in history and probably recent times too.
Poor Ahmeed, Daria, and their little son Kareem go through things no family should have to, and I have the feeling that this happens in real life too, from those supposed to protect them. Racism reaches all occupations, being in a “responsible” profession doesn’t stop bigots from using that position for their own ends and I could see the results of Ahmeed’s shooting ending just as Radhauser suspected it would. And that made me sad – no-one ever learns when actions get hidden.
I think In the same way as Radhauser is learning from Heron, the ME, I’m learning the way Radhauser’s mind works ( or Susan’s!). I start looking for evidence, mulling over actions, wondering what comes next. Of course its not all crime all the way, there’s Radhauser taking Lizzie to sports, talking to Gracie ( I love her), fussing his beloved horses.
I felt so sad for the kids in this book, some bullied by adults, some by kids following adults examples, but they were hurt by those actions, and of course that impacts on the adults they become. Its well known that abusers were often abused themselves. That doesn’t excuse it but does sometimes explain it, the anger comes out in odd ways, they don’t have that loving family role model. Its something I get so angry about, children missing out on the fun, secure, loving childhood they should all have. Sadly a percentage never get it and others only part of it. Horrible reflection on us as adults. I remember my own son at five being told by his then best friend he couldn’t play with him any more because he was “ a black’un”. Jay had dark skin, dark hair and big brown eyes, and clearly his friends parents had looked at him, looked at the name Zelos and decided we were foreign. We’re not, but it gave me an insight into how cruel adults can be, how easily they influence children. He was five, didn’t understand what his friend meant, and it was tough explaining bigotry in a way he’d understand.
And as usual I’ve rambled here, but the gist it, once more Susan has knocked out a five star read. Meticulously researched, everything makes sense, there are no lose ends, no stretching of credulity but a story that could so easily be real. Sometimes as series continue they get tired, feel stale but Radhauser has a long way to go yet. Each story feels fresh even though the characters feel like old friends. I was looking back after finishing this at the early books, I started with book two, maybe its time I read book one, see how it all started.
Stars: five, long may Radhauser continue his investigations. Each book feels like the best yet, and then along comes the next which is even better.
Arc via author
The Album, A Cruise Control Novel, Sian Ceinwen
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
OK, start with my usual moan. Women’s Fiction – why? Men write romance, men read romance., ’nuff said…
So, this trope is a real favourite of mine and I really enjoyed Sian’s writing style. What didn’t work, and stopped this being a five was the past present format that lasted the majority of the book. We know right from the start they’ve been broken up for two years, and I was hoping all the way through that this chapter we’d finally leave the past and get to Now. That didn’t happen until the every end though and though that was absolutely perfect, angst and heartbreak just as I love it did mean it felt rushed.
I’d have liked to read more of how the band felt about them being together, what they said etc. we get a sneak preview of this for book two but I wanted more.
I did feel Arianna was a bit pigheaded, stubborn in the extreme although her fears were real. Gabriel showed no signs of being like her uncle and I think she could have recognised her issues and maybe sought therapy for them. She’d learned what she lost when they were apart but I felt unless she’d actually dealt with her fame/limelight issues they cold be headed for heartbreak again. Time helps, it doesn’t heal automatically though.
An excellent debut novel, good things to come from Sian I’m certain, it was just the story format that let this down for me. If we’d left the past about a third or even halfway through, it would have worked better for me.
BTW I Loved, Loved the mean girls, the bitchy groupies, I was hoping their manager would prove to be a bit difficult too- one of the reason I love this trope is the potential for jealousies, back stabbing and some real b itchy characters.
Stars: four, a great read, excellent story and I’m looking forward to book two.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Smoke Bitten, Mercy Thompson Book 12, Patricia Briggs.
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy
Well, wow! This series continues to grow, each book building upon the whole story. With some ongoing series its clear at a certain point they’ve run out of steam, but this one has plenty of potential stories yet.
Patricia Briggs is my favourite author, this series my number one closely followed by her alpha and Omega novels. I could – and have- read them over and over, seeing this I missed each time. This twelfth book still feels as fresh as the first one.
There are so many fantasy reads out there in book-world, some excellent and some ( only imo of course) are just dire. I’d love if Patricia could write faster, I could devour everything she puts out, but what makes these books special is the realistic characters ( even though the are anything but real!), the solid story, the multiple plots, the carefully woven links that grow through each book, and that takes time. I’d rather wait and have quality to read, than for the series to have more books but devolve into some of that dire writing. Actually I don’t think Patricia could ever write like that, its just not in her. Thankfully.
Well, another puzzle for Adam and Mercy here, and as usual there’s not just one plot but multiple ones. A weird and incredibly dangerous creature no-one knows much about, that may have escaped through the door Tilly opened in Mercy’s back yard, some strange werewolves in town, and problems between Adam and Mercy, not with their relationship but which could affect it.
Its always a treat trying to work out just how Marcy and Co will resolve things. Because although Mercy is always the driving force, she’s aided each time by her pack, her friends and somehow she always ends up in the firing line.
I love that we see so many of the old characters here, along with the new ones. I can see how things from earlier books have led to relationships – not friendships but those kind of connections that prove very important when Mercy needs them. As well as the tension and danger, there’s the usual fun and games, the day to day issues that make the story feel grounded and balanced. Fae bargains have to have balance, and for me books need to have balance too…
With some authors I feel they write themselves into plots that only magical solutions will get them out of, and when they just pull those out of a hat, do things no-one has heard of, that have never been mentioned and don’t have any real connections and – bingo- everything’s fine, I feel cheated. With this series though the magic is part of it, and though Mercy has no magic per-se, she has those connections, the Fae, the vampires and of course Adam and the pack, with the Marrok always in the background, and of course her own special heritage from Coyote. When there’s magic involved it always follows set rules that have been brought up in earlier books, so I don’t feel its some new, unheard of superpower solution. Mercy and the pack bonds feature strongly here, and her being pack but not pack, being coyote and something different, means her pack bonds are different too. I found that part really interesting, had me visualising what Mercy was seeing.
I love that Adam has some problems here. I adore the man, the perfect mix of gorgeous, charming, Gentleman and sex, and sometimes guys like that need a few issues to make them real. There’s one point where I was really almost tearful at events, very much moved, and also very much angry that things had gone so far.
Once more its like meeting old friends, and knowing their individual strengths and weaknesses ( Aurielle and Christy!) I can see how they will work in the story. I guess my big fear is that the constant dangers to them mean each book maybe is the last for some of them. We’ve seen people die in previous books, it happens with the constant pressures, it can’t be just the bad guys that die, that would make it unbalanced. The fact so many have died or left the pack because of the dangers is brought up here. The Colombian Basin pack is noticeably smaller, and that brings in vulnerabilities. My heart was heavy that it might happen here to two longstanding characters, and that fear is what makes it real. And I’m not saying if they died or not 😉
So, I finished this yesterday and am already thinking – read again or go the whole hog through the series – I know that these books can stand that constant re reading. Maybe I’ll do both 😉
Stars: five, a cracking read, perfectly paced and balanced, and gave me a story to lose the real world for a time. I adore these books, fingers crossed there’s many, many more to come 🙂
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Kika & Me, How One Guide Dog Changed My Life, Amit Patel
Genre: Non Fiction, Biography and memoirs
Well, most of us know about assistance dogs now, but when I was a kid Guide dogs were quite new, and there was lots of fundraising to train them. They really are a life line for people and in this book we can see just how important they are for visually impaired people.
Kika really did give Amit a new life. I remember a lady mum worked for as a cleaner, her ex policeman husband was blind. This would be mid 60’s, he spent all day every day in his bed in their living room. The house was a typical mid terrace, and from what I recall there was no support for him. What an awful life he must have had, they didn’t have TV, he couldn’t read, there was no such thing as audio books. Once every couple of weeks a friend would take him out for a short walk. Horrendous life, and yet apart from his blindness he was well. Dogs like Kika allow folk to keep their independence.
I have very bad eyesight, rely on some pretty strong lenses, and possibly may lose my sight as I get older. I treasure being able to see, to be able to do what I want, be independent still. I loved reading about Kika, her training, her individualism, her fierce protectiveness for Amit. When he gives examples of times when she refused to move and help that came told him she was right, to move was dangerous, it showed me just how much trust he needed to put in her. To regain his Independence it was necessary, but its not easy.
It was an inspirational read, Amit could so easily have lapsed into depression, as he did in those first days, and that would have ruined not only his life, but his wife and parents too. It must have been so hard to pick life up again – he was so young, but his wife and parents were determined being blind would just become part of his life, not the defining characteristic. I really enjoyed his journey from emergency doctor, to blindness ( not that I enjoyed that bit of course) and how he managed to get out of the depression, how hard he worked, how first the long cane, and then Kika helped him become what he wanted, a functioning, useful part of society, a god husband and son, and ultimately a good father too. All that took so much work, its not an easy journey and I am so in awe of his strength and support from family. May he have a long and happy life ahead of him.
Stars: Five, a fantastic, inspirational read of a real life experience.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Follow Me To Ground, Sue Rainsford
Genre: General Fiction (Adult) , Sci Fi & Fantasy
I finished this book three days ago and….usually I write my reviews the following day, but I just don’t know where to start with this, and keep putting it off.
Its….an odd, weird story, and yet I can see from early reviewers that some folks adore it. I guess its the book equivalent of Marmite, you either love it or hate it! And sadly I just didn’t like it, I can’t say I hate it as TBH most of it was just so confusing, and at the end I was left thinking “ what have I read?”
Oddly it shares a few similarities with You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce, which I absolutely loved. They both involve people/creatures who are different to the usual supernatural beings in books. I understood You Let Me In though, well, partly, but that confusion was a deliberate facet of the story. However with Follow Me To Ground I just found it totally confusing. One moment it would be one person telling the story, then it would switch, but without any indication, so I’d be thinking “ What? Whats happened that I missed” before realising it was someone else talking. I had to keep going back, rereading, backtracking to try to understand, follow what had been written. Nothing really seemed to add up, make any kind of sense and even in a supernatural read I do need that.
I read to 50% and skim read the rest, as I wanted to see what would happen and yet was so confused by events and characters that I couldn’t bring myself to waste time in a thorough read. I knew by then it wasn’t going to be a great read for me, but wondered of the second half would be any clearer. Nope, it wasn’t.
One big plot in the book oddly was very clear to me, right from early on – weird that the ordinary events were difficult for me to follow, and yet this big major mystery was so obvious to me. Maybe that’s the way the author intended – I don’t know?
Stars: Two, a weird book, I can’t say I hated it, but I didn’t understand it, or like the characters. By the end I felt strangely irritated that I still didn’t know what it was supposed to be telling me.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
You Let Me In, Camilla Bruce
Genre: General Fiction (Adult) , Sci Fi & Fantasy
I loved this book, was blown away by it, transported to the magic world of good stories. It’s fairies, but not as we know them Jim, to misquote Mr Spock 😉 These fairies are very different, made of nature, some are centuries old and have lost what humanity they ever had. They live off energy, human, animal, nature such as trees and rivers and take on those characteristics. That’s if you believe they are real of course….
I guess that’s what made it so great for me, there’s a part of me that is convinced that just maybe there’s more to this world than we know, that maybe we aren’t the only inhabitants…after all think back to history, pre car, trains, electricity, mobile phones, PCs and TV. Talk to someone the other side of the world, see them? Listen to people who’ve now died? Travel faster than the fastest horse? That would have been scoffed at as impossible back then, but really it was always potential, always there, just not yet discovered.
You need that kind of openness to fully enjoy this I think, to believe that maybe, just maybe Cassie was telling the truth.
We start a year after she’s disappeared at 74, no trace of her and before her nephew and niece can claim her considerable estate she insists they read her story, her memoir if you like. Tucked away in it is the password they’ll need to claim. Like many gifts though this one may just have a hidden side.
I so felt for young Cassie, where her mum dotes on her golden sister and seems to dislike Cassie. It made me wonder, what was she like before she met Pepperman, did her mum dislike her even then, or was it the result of Cassie interaction with him? Were he and the others real or were they, as the doctor her mother insists she sees, products of a trauma induced psychosis?
What happened to Tommy Tipp if her story about him isn’t true? The same holds for her father and brother, she gives us an explanation, her mother and sister as always blame her, but how could she have physically done those things without help, and she had no friends, no-one who would have helped her?
Its perfectly paced. I can remember thinking “ who IS Mara?” as she kept cropping up in conversation, and then just as I was about to flip through book to find more the next chapter opens with something like “You may be wondering about Mara”. If I’d known earlier it wouldn’t have fitted as well, it needed that build up.
Its a complete story, but much like the book there’s possibilities in the ending, its not neat and tidily wrapped up but leaves readers wondering. Its one of those stories where it seems impossible to believe what she’s saying, and yet there are so many things that just don’t add up it feels like maybe, just maybe the impossible is possible. Then at the end, where is she if not in the mound?
I like to think she’s there, living happily with Pepperman and her friends, hard life though it may be. She had a tough enough “real” life, disliked by family, no human friends, always in trouble for things Pepperman did ( or was it her all along?). Mocked and ridiculed at school, dragged to doctors in the hope of making her “normal”. Did she just have a vivid imagination that took her way from the horrors she was living through, or was it all real? She deserves to be content now whichever.
Its one of those stories that stay with you, make you wonder, and I’ll be looking out for Camilla’s next work.
Stars: Five, amazing read, full of questions and possibilities, very realsitically written.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Land Beyond the Sea, Sharon Penman
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction
Its years since I read a Sharon Penman novel, so I was really looking forward to this one. Sadly though, it didn’t grip me the way some of her earlier novels did. Its possible that my tastes have changed, but I think its more likely that this book, with its focus on Outremer, just didn’t draw me in as much as the books set around the UK, with figures from history I’m already familiar with.
There are so many characters here to absorb, people from different countries, differing loyalties and of course the anomaly of Jerusalem/Outremer being out of the Saracens control. It must have been difficult to keep when surrounded by enemies, and much of it seems to have come from constant negotiations, allies and truces rather than never ending battles. Its not all war, and even centuries ago politics were very important and played a huge part in running countries successfully.
I know everyone called Baldwin’s mother Agnes a cruel woman but I felt for her. Not allowed to marry the man she wanted, she was forced to marry another for family glory. Then having two kids by her husband, he puts her aside for a new bride simply because he wants to be king and the lords won’t accept her. . She doesn’t even have the children as solace, Sybilla being brought up in a nunnery and Baldwin staying with his father. No wonder she was so bitter.
I felt for Baldwin, such a potentially wonderful king, intelligent and fair, but struck down with an awful disease. The parts of the novel I enjoyed most where when it focused on particular people, and I felt I was getting to know them personally. There are just so many folk here though, such a mass of detail that I felt overwhelmed by it.
Its a well written novel, in Sharon’s usual intense and thorough style, but I just felt I couldn’t seem to get that personal angle that makes a story flow for me. I found there were so many folk, so much intensity that I had to keep putting it aside for a while. Then because I knew so few of the characters I had to recap who they were, how they fit.
Stars: Three, a well written and very intense novel, but I felt bogged down at times by the sheer numbers of new to me historical characters
Arc via netgalley and publishers