Archive | May 2020

The Return, A Second Chance Flower Shop Novel, Noelle Adams

The Return, A Second Chance Flower Shop Novel, Noelle Adams

The Return (Second Chance Flower Shop Book 1) by [Noelle Adams]

Genre: Romance,

For me this book was a well written story but just lacked any drama to make it what I enjoy reading. Most romances hit a spot about three quarters through where there’s a hiccup, things go wrong etc and then get resolved. This book though didn’t do that, there was a faint possibility that things might go wrong but it didn’t.
Ria and Jacob were both pleasant characters, but though there were some sensual scenes TBH I just didn’t feel that strong romance between them, certainly not a passion thats lasted all these years. I had a hard time believing Mia could just put all those years of hurt aside so easily, ignore how broken hearted she was just because Jacob is back now. Its as if he says “this is why….” and she’s all “oh, OK then” kiss kiss. I just wanted more, more drama, more tension, and a bigger reason for him leaving in the first place. I just didn’t see why he wouldn’t have told Ria why he was going.

Stars: Two and a half, I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t a book I could really engage with. I’m a drama fan, essential for me in a romance. Not everyone loves it though, many like this kind of sweet, easy read better. Horses for courses.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

The Cowboy’s Pregnant Fake Fiancee, Mary Sue Jackson and Leslie North

The Cowboy’s Pregnant Fake Fiancee, Mary Sue Jackson and Leslie North

The Cowboy’s Pregnant Fake Fiancée by [Mary Sue Jackson, Leslie North]

Genre: Romance, General Fiction (adult).

Well, like many others in these weird times, the uncertainty of life has affected my reading, and sometimes I’m finding it hard to concentrate on a story. I usually avoid this type of read, scarred in memory from the old 60’s/70’s M&B mum used to read. Of course M&B has moved forward and as I liked the sound of this I gave it a try. It turned out to be just what I needed, a sweet romance, some humour, a little angst and an easy to read story.
Dean, in the spotlight at the top of his game for a few years now, but I could still feel his need to prove to himself he made his own life, and his insistence that unlike his dad no-one was changing it. He’s got a real chip on his shoulder about his childhood home and the lady his dad married after Dean’s mum died.
I could understand him, he’s got no deep hidden corners, he’s a charmer, a grafter and that’s worked well for him. Injury has sidelined him for a bit and he’s just bought a ranch in the town where he met Marley for a one nighter. Usually he can move on easily, but somehow Marley has stayed in his thoughts. Then he learns of the consequences of that night….
Marley, she was so sweet, such a genuine lady, and always out to please her mum, to live up to what feels like impossible expectations. She veered off that track though when she split with Trevor, and mum and her friends haven’t forgiven her for it.
I loved Marley, but her mum was a true horror. I didn’t understand why she was so controlling, it was clear she loved Marley, thank goodness Marley’s sister was far more independent, and she was such a great help to Marley.
I felt their dad was a cop out, didn’t understand how he could just sit back and let his wife be so awful to Marley. Still, folks are weird, and though this is booklandia, real life has folk like that too.

I loved the day to day stuff, the town and their little battles, her ex and his blind insistence they would get back together, and of course Marley and Dean together. It was clear they were suited, they had a very hot attraction for each other, but also respected each other. Still, Dean’s lived a long while alone and being a couple calls for some changes to his life, but he didn’t always see it.

Stars: Four, a sweet romance, some humour, a little angst and an easy to read story.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

One Last Verse, The Encore: Book 2, N.N. Britt

One Last Verse, The Encore: Book 2, N.N. Britt

One Last Verse (The Encore Book 2) by [N. N. Britt]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction.

Gah, women’s fiction again…men write romance, men read romance, lets get with the 21st century.

So, book two. I loved the first book, but if anything, this was even better. The issues facing Frank and Cassy aren’t just the publicity, the media and her job, but the way Frank is coping with his injuries.
When they finally go public, the timing is bad, because within a short time Frank’s problems have them at odds once more. Poor Cassy, it feels like she’s always struggling, trying so hard to help Frank, and when he’s not drinking he’s wonderful. Caring, thoughtful, generous and the perfect man, but then – as anyone who’s had dealings with an alcoholic knows – the reverse side of this person is bitter, angry, cruel, and when the hangover is worn off, they’re sorry, won’t do it again. Its a continuous cycle.
Cassy saw all that with her dad, how her poor mum was ground under by it, and always vowed she wouldn’t be like that. She loves Frank though, she feels for him, understands some of why he’s so angry, upset, and in this book the bad parts get really heaped on Frank driving him t the edge. It was superbly written, having lived with an alcoholic I can vouch that part was spot on. The ups and downs, the highs when everything is wonderful, and then the sudden crash, often over the most trivial things.
I did feel for Frank, but as Cassy tried to tell him, he still has so much, but all he could see was what he had lost. His career was his life, and he’s lost if he can’t perform so he’s pushing himself, using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain so he can continue. He can’t see any other future, won’t admit he simply can’t do it. Its turning him into someone Cassy can’t continue with though, she loves him but can’t accept the person he is in the bad times.

I loved the drama in this, so intense, so perfect for me. Drama in a book is what I adore, proper drama, not the angsty, pseudo drama that many romances feature, but real, gritty, relatable stuff. I loved that Frank struggled, let people down, pushed Cassy away. His anger was palpable, I could feel his despair, even while I was so angry with him for letting others down, for his awful behaviour to Cassy. I loved that the drama lasted, wasn’t over in a few pages, but took a good chunk of the book to resolve. That made it feel real, I couldn’t get behind someone who claimed to be past the problems if they hadn’t used time to actually change their life. I so felt for Cassy, she was such a hard worker, looked after her family, tried to help Frank, and even Dante at times. She’s one of those folk that are good at heart, won’t hesitate to step up when its needed.
I loved her brother too, he was a typical teen, and really grew through this book. And of course Levi, her work partner for the past seven years.
Its not a rock star on the road type read, thankfully its not an alpha male, grunting, monosyllabic read, those ones that run “ you feel me?” “ I feel you” and that’s about the extent of a conversation. Its not a Kylie Scott or Kristen Callihan humour filled rock star read, they’re both Queens of Rock for me, but it is a superb book about fame, drama, human frailties, and lets N.N. Britt join that precious group, Queen of Rock Reads, for me. Its one that I know, along with the first book, will become one of my re-read staples. Right now, along with N.N. Brits other two books, they are on KU so a great time to read them.

Stars: Five, terrific read, a rock star romance, with so much extra in the story, full or drama and reality.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Final Serenade, The Encore: Book 1, N.N. Britt

Final Serenade, The Encore: Book 1, N.N. Britt

Final Serenade (The Encore Book 1) by [N. N. Britt]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction.

Gah, women’s fiction again…men write romance, men read romance, lets get with the 21st century.

Anyway, rock romance, I love it, and this features characters a little older, which is great for me. Teen angst can be fun, but its much nicer to find characters that have a little more depth.
I loved this book, loved it. So much in this genre features ( as above) teens, lead females that swoon as soon as they are looked at, forget all their principles when the MC approaches them, or MCs that are little more than monosyllabic, shallow males, who demand everyone falls at their feet.
Frank(ie) came as a real treat, and of course Cassy isn’t one to fall over, legs akimbo just because her teen crush looks her way!

I loved that it wasn’t just Cassy meets Frankie, but that both had a lot of other things going on in their lives. That made them feel real, made the story so much more interesting. Cassy was great, determined to stay professional even when faced with her teen dreams. I loved that she tries to help her mum and little brother, even though he’s a typical at times obnoxious teen….That is mirrored in so many people’s families, we love our parents and siblings even when it feels like they are going to drive us mad.
Frankie, Cassy ( and I) had so many questions about his return. Why now? Is he touring? And When? Why has it taken so long? Is he well enough or hiding something?
Then there’s his band-mate Dante, who at first seemed a decent guy underneath the rock star ego, but then we learn more and he’s not quite like that.

I understood why Frankie worked so hard to keep their relationship secret, the media are relentless, and Cassy’s career will be shot to pieces, so while they’re seeing what’s between them he tries to keep things covered. And yet I also felt for Cassy, she knows this is for the best, but at times her imagination runs away…I think most of us would be like that.
And that ending, Gah, I hate those, but luckily for me I’ve been approved book two, the conclusion of their story. I hope we get to hear more from the band, from the other members, its such a treat to get characters in their thirties 😉 This duet is on KU right now too.

Stars: Five, terrific read, a rock star romance, with so much extra in the story. One I’ll happily re-read.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

1066: What Fates Impose, G.K. Holloway

1066: What Fates Impose, G.K. Holloway

1066: What Fates Impose by [G.K. Holloway]

Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction.

I love history now, hated it at school but have learned so much more via books such as this one. I like to read history by way of characters telling the story, the personal touch, the day to day minutiae. Text book style history leaves me cold, but books like this, where I can feel people are real, can see events happening are perfect for me.
Of course the author has taken certain liberties in doing that, who really knows what was said, why, how things really played out but we know enough from primary source writings to at least take an educated guess as to motives etc.

King Edward comes across as a somewhat weak, peevish character, but determined never to have a child, even though he is married. It makes me wonder, what really went on in his mind, did he just not find women attractive, and that’s why he came up with this “God will provide” excuse about his heir. Was he really celibate? Was he homosexual, his friendship with Robert de Juminiers, and later with Tostig Godwinson seemed very close, but of course it could have been just that, a close friendship. Who knows?
One thing we do know is that lack of a ready heir led to lots of infighting, power struggles, people vying for the position. Frankly I often wonder why anyone wanted to be king back then, its a position that puts an immediate target into place, and was fraught with potential double dealings, not knowing if friends were genuine or just close for what that friendship could give them. Not just kings either, any high position carried those dangers, and dangers to family, with children being seen as potential threats and used as pawns.

I loved the way the story unfolded, how we see behind the scenes to whats going on ( albeit much very imagined). Harold was clearly a very intelligent man, a thinker and strategist, and for me a good man. (Although I was angry about his treatment of Edyth and his later actions, it was pretty common at the time). When he first saw Edyth, and was entranced by her, determined not to marry the lady his father had arranged for political reasons, I felt there was something special between them. Then he says he can’t have a Christian marriage with her as he needs to be free to marry for political expediency, but that he would hand-fast with her, that his parents were devoted and had been hand-fast for over twenty five years. It was the first inkling I got from Harold that though he was a well intentioned man, he was also a very, very ambitious one.
I really felt for Edyth, for all his protestations that it was unlikely ever to happen, he still wanted to leave his options open…but she really didn’t have a great deal of choice. I was angry with him for even thinking it, but it wasn’t uncommon and probably seemed reasonable to him. If she refused Harold, who she was in love with, she’d likely be married off to someone she had no choice in selecting. Even marriages were put aside for political expediency at times, with wives and children suddenly becoming illegitimate when a new wife was wanted for political or power reasons. Rock and hard place for Edyth. I really felt for her, made me think what would I have done? It was little details like that which kept me reading, brought the characters alive.

There are a huge number of characters, and at first I had some trouble with who fitted where. Its an area of history I’m not very familiar with so knew very little of the main players. Gradually they started to form groups in my mind, but even towards the end I had to stop and recall who was with whom, who was on which side, but that’s a failing on my part. The book is long, some 448 pages according to goodreads, which feel about right. It needed all of that to tell the story, to make events unfold naturally, and not feel rushed.

I skimmed the battle scenes, that’s on me, I hate the horror, the deaths and maimings, the sheer cruelty man has for man. I’m aware that all that did happen, life was fragile, cruel, with horror and danger at every step, I just can’t read it without feeling sick. Even so I got a real sense of the cruelty, of the harshness of life, of the way battles were fought without needing to read each bloody ( literally) detail.

Its a book for those like me who love history told as a story, not a set list of people and dates, battles and successions.

Stars: Five, a great read, bringing alive for me a period of history of which I knew little.

Arc via Author

Just My Luck, Adele Parks

Just My Luck, Adele Parks

Just My Luck: From the author of Sunday Times bestsellers, including the Number One bestseller Lies Lies Lies, comes the most gripping domestic thriller of 2020! by [Adele Parks]

Genre: Mystery and thrillers, women’s fiction.

Sigh…women’s fiction. C’mon, its 2020 not 1920.

Anyway, what a read this was, full of the very worst in people. Until the win the six have been friends for 15 years, though there are cracks at times, and Lexi has discovered something about one of them that she finds difficult to deal with. I would too. The characters are very real, warts and all, but TBH I only liked Lexi and Toma, the rest were selfish, vain, money obsessed. Toma had gone from being a hardworking family man to the depths of depression after his loss, and Lexi helps him crawl out, start living again. I rally liked him.
Jake her husband was not the man she saw, not the guy she fell in love with. I guess we all change along the way but while Lexi is all about helping others – hence her work in citizens advice – Jake is just money and self orientated.
The friends have fallen out, and then soon after their long held winning numbers come up. Jake and Lexi insist they’d dropped out, they insist it was just a tiff and they were still in. Who’s right? Who knows.
Complicating matters are their kids. Jake and Lexis daughter Emily is best friends with the Heathcote’s daughter, Megan, and the Pearson’s son Ridley is her boyfriend. We see much of the events after the win through Emily’s eyes, and she is a typical teen, spend, spend on big brands. Their son Logan is a bit younger, happy that he can have some new games.
Jake also can’t wait to get his hands on the cash and start spending. His greed shows right from the start when they ring in and one of his first questions is how soon can they get the cash. He seems to mostly want others to see how rich he is, to show off his new Lamborghini, throw a huge party, buy expensive new clothes, he’s all about flashing the cash.
We see quickly how the money brings problems, not just with their friends but themselves, it affects Lexi’s job as the CA office is inundated with people wanting help – or help in the form of money. Emily gets problems at school as Logan and Megan turn against her. The trio have been friends since childhood, don’t have other friends and it hits her hard.

Things get worse, trust is shattered and events quickly go downhill, showing how different Lexi and Jake have become. For me Jake was an awful man, I guess he must have been different when they met, Lexi is such a lovely person its hard to see what they have in common. Then the action ramps up, and the twist at the end has me rethinking things once more. I guess no-one is quite who we think they are.

Stars: Four, a gripping story, a bit predictable at times but then throwing in some curve-balls that had me rethinking.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Dear Child, Romy Hausmann

Dear Child, Romy Hausmann

Dear Child: The twisty thriller that starts where others end by [Romy Hausmann, Jamie Bulloch]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers,

Well, I didn’t know what to expect but was seduced in by the description. I just had to know how things played out.

It was one of those reads where just as I thought I’d got things worked out another facet was thrown in to the mix. It was very complex, very multi dimensional.
It felt very real, I could feel Lena’s horror, feel the anguish Lena’s parents felt, understand why her dad was so angry. Yet I also got annoyed at him when he kept charging in, on an “ I know best, somebody needs to do something” I guess any loving parent in their situation would get frustrated at what they see as lack of progress.

I could feel Lena’s terror, both in the cabin, when she realised just how dire her situation was, and when she escaped. You’d think relief would come from being home, but of course she’s got some real PTSD issues going on. She really was in a bad place.
Then there’s the children – how on earth do kids ever recover from something like this? On the face of it Hannah seems to have adjusted better, although she’s a little strange she is very intelligent, and that caught me out. At the end we could see just how programmed to ignore horror she had become, even when it was right in front of her.
I just wondered what would happen to her, would she ever get past the things she’d seen? I loved seeing so much from her POV, her thoughts, her complex explanations for every little thing, the way she cited statistics and facts so thoroughly, the way everything is black and white to her, her complete obedience, devotion and acceptance of everything Papa said. I felt she’d woven a world in her head that overlapped the real world and she genuinely found it hard to tell what was real. I loved when she talked about whispers – how she described her speech and mouse voice, or when she’s really insistent, the Lion voice. I could visualise her doing that. I felt Lena did so much to try to make these poor kids lives happy. I’d say normal, but that was impossible.
I guess what I had in my mind was that terrible story a few years back where some poor girl had been kept like that for 24 years, and she and the kids she had were living underground all that while. I remember then thinking how on earth can anyone pick up life after that? The characters in this book felt real to me and made me have the same feelings, wondering what kind of life they would/could lead after their escape.

Stars: five, a fantastic read, riveting and gave me much to think about.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

On Common Ground, Book 1 in the Grounded Series, Jansen Schmidt

On Common Ground, Book 1 in the Grounded Series, Jansen Schmidt

On Common Ground: Book 1 in the Grounded Series by [Jansen Schmidt]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, Romance

I really like the sound of this, its ages since I read a western themed romance, and I really liked how this sounded.

Sadly I find I’m out of step with the majority of reviewers who loved this book. I’ve got to 40% and I just can’t continue. There’s a fine line between being a sexy alpha male and a man who isn’t listening to what a woman wants and is just imposing his own wants on her and for me that’s what Trevor is doing. Right from the start his old friend Rocky warns him off Ketra, and from what he sees she’s very skittish, very wary around men. So what does he do? Well, he fancies her so he pushes, and pushes even when its clear his attentions are unwanted. To me he was no better than another person who does a similar thing but as Trevor is the MC, handsome, sexy etc he gets a free pass. Not from me. There’s one part where she’s sick, raging temperature, vomit splattered hair but as he helps her to the bathroom her robe slips and he’s almost salivating at the sight of her nipple. That just doesn’t cut it for me, sick not sexy.

Ketra annoyed me too, she was just plain rude to Trevor even when she didn’t know him, wasn’t the subject of his unwanted attentions. On one hand we have a traumatised women, scared of men – but working in a ranch as what seems to be the only woman there – and yet one look at Trevor and she has the hots for him? Its been two years, and she’s been working among men all that while, I’m sure she’d have learned some bit of being able to get along with most men by now. I know abuse can leave traumas that take years to accept, and one never actually gets over it, but learns to live with it. I’m just suggesting that in the environment she’s in I would have thought Ketra would have been able to deal better. I struggled with the inconsistency.

I did stop about 20% in, but decided I needed to give it more chance but I just can’t finish it, I am too angry about Trevor’s behaviour and Ketra’s flipping back an forth, scared female to has-the-hots-for-Trevor…..
As I said, clearly I’m in a minority and these things don’t spoil the story for other readers. That’s fine, we’re all different, want different things. Maybe you’ll be able to ignore or excuse the bits I can’t and love this book too, as other reviewers have, maybe like me you’ll feel Trevor’s behaviour borders on his own wants and needs, rather than looking for what Ketra wants. Horses for courses really is an apt saying in this case. Its not a bad book, just characters that don’t suit me personally, you need to asses if its your style.

Stars: Two, DNF, only got to 40%. I found the characters behaviour not what I cold accept. My issues though, others love it.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

In His Kiss, The Unrequited Series, Ava Alise

In His Kiss, The Unrequited Series, Ava Alise

In His Kiss (The Unrequited Series Book 1) by [Ava Alise]

Genre: New Adult, Romance

I wanted to like this book, best friends to lovers? Those classic words “this was a mistake” So tempting.
I did like it, just so many little irritations. The biggest one was that Jordan was 24, Xia 21 and yet they both were still in school? I guess that’s a US/UK thing. Here we finish school/college at 18, uni at 21 and its off to the world of work then. By 21 you’re expected to act as an adult, be mature, yet these two were like teens so much of the while, teen drama stuff. It really irritated me at times, I wanted to say to them Grow Up! There was so much to and fro stuff about their emotions, so much inner musing, one step forward, two steps back it got old fast. Usually that’s fine with me, but there seemed to be no real reason for the constant vacillating. I wanted to say to them stop playing around, talk to each other, Do Something. TBH I didn’t really feel anything between them more than friendship with a bit of lust, and I guess that’s why I found it hard to get invested in a relationship between them.
In contrast Xi’s parents story was much more interesting 😉 but unlike Xia, there’s no way I could not have asked more, contain my curiosity about pictures etc. Xia had her life turned upside down by her parents issues, and yet when she finds out some pretty curious pics she does nothing?
Then there’s Jordan’s issues about his home, and then the problems with his ex. I love stories that have more than one plot, that have side issues to keep things interesting, but here I felt that they were only very tenuously connected, and rather than back up the main story that actually detracted from it. My issues of course, I’m sure others will love this story – its that horses for courses thing again. No story suits all readers, we all like different things.

Stars: Two, a story that just didn’t resonate with me. I found it hard to invest in the characters. My issues though, others love it.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

A Wedding in the Olive Garden, Leah Fleming

A Wedding in the Olive Garden, Leah Fleming

A Wedding in the Olive Garden by [Leah Fleming]

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Women’s fiction again….sigh, its 2020, why do we have this outdated genre heading?

Anyway, I thought I’d love this book, an escapist read, romance and sunshine. I liked it, but sadly didn’t love it as I expected 😦
I loved the Greek setting, the sunshine and sea, the food, the local flavour that made it feel real. What I had issues with were some of the characters, especially Griff and Sara. I understood why she did what she did, what I didn’t understand was why she felt bad about it, why she kept it a big secret. Still, I guess a big chunk of book would have gone if she didn’t – it just didn’t feel right for me though. Griff was a lovely guy but he and Sara are really prickly to each other at first, she is rude to him on first meeting, shocked I get but rudeness once explained? Griff too is hiding, escaping, keeping things quiet and I understood that. You don’t tell all the world your history when you first meet but when it was clear he and Sara maybe getting closer, perhaps a hint of the past would help? I don’t know, it just seemed there wasn’t that magic connection between them.
I loved Mel and Spiros, and the mother in law ( forgot her name). They were so real to me, especially when MIL goes all Mafiosa towards the end! There were some other great secondary characters too, and Sara’s fledgling business provided some great moments.

Stars: Three, a good read, just some parts felt a little not-quite-right for me. As aleays though, reading is subjective and others will – and do – love this story.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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