Archive | June 2020

Party of Two, The brilliant opposites-attract rom-com from the author of The Proposal!, Jasmine Guillory

Party of Two, The brilliant opposites-attract rom-com from the author of The Proposal!, Jasmine Guillory

Party of Two: The brilliant opposites-attract rom-com from the author of The Proposal! by [Jasmine Guillory]

Genre: Romance,

I didn’t realise this was book 5 in a connected series til I’d finished it, so you can read and enjoy without having read earlier ones. Like most character connected books though I suspect it will read even better if you’ve knowledge of some of the side characters from earlier reads.

I really enjoyed this, it wasn’t a five star for me, but a solid four. I loved Max and Olivia, I understood why she was a planner, not a spontaneous jump right in with both feet character. She puts it down to her life experiences as a black lady, but some of us are just that way without any real reasons. I did feel her reactions were very deeply entrenched, and I understood the fear that she felt about being in the spotlight with Max. That’s his life though, not just his job but his passion, so how are they to get round things?
Max was just adorable, loved his impulsiveness, even though, like Olivia, that would scare me. I can’t understand how people can just make decisions on the fly like that. He was so in love with Olivia, that came over really well, but were the differences between them insurmountable or could there be a way through.

When things come to a crux I felt for both of them, I understood Olivia’s horror but at the same time could see exactly why Max did what he did. He just wanted to help someone, and it seemed to him putting two folk together could do that. And maybe if there weren’t a few hundred eyes on them at the time it would have been fine…..

I can see the author is in a position to understand racial issues more than me, though being naturally dark skinned I was bullied as a kid because folk assumed I was coloured, and then when I married a Zelos…..that assumption became more prevalent. However for me I felt I didn’t need the constant reminder Olivia was black, I’m interested in her as a person, and of course being black affects that but its not all she is. She’s an intelligent, talented businesswoman, a good sister, a great friend. She’s more than *just* black, and I felt that the reminders all the way through that being black had affected her was a bit OTT for me. That’s just a personal feeling though. I guess its a book where the race issue counted but when I’m reading I don’t really think of people as being black or white, blonde or dark, fat or thin, they’re just people to me.

When things went wrong – perfect, I loved that drama, and they seem to be in a position where I couldn’t see how they could meet. Sometimes Love just isn’t enough, but thankfully Jasmine found a way through, saw what could change where I couldn’t see how they could get there.

The food – oh wow, loved all that, though being UK not US I have never had yellow cake with chocolate frosting? Unless yellow cake is just some kind of Victoria sponge? Sometimes English as a language used by different countries can be very confusing. And pie. Strawberry rhubarb sounds horrible to me, give me apple, apricot, blackberry, raspberry but not strawberry/rhubarb. (Rhubarb, my late husband loved it. I once made a crumble for him and a friend of mine who was also a rhubarb addict, but forgot the sugar….. My poor friend said it was really eye watering)

Stars: Four a fun read, good story with real issues between the couple that I wondered how the author could resolve. Good job I’m a reader not a writer as I couldn’t see a way through.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Intended Bondmates, D. Lieber

Intended Bondmates, D. Lieber

Intended Bondmates by [D. Lieber]

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy, Romance.

I love paranormal romance, and this sounded intriguing, with some serious conflict happening. Sadly the conflict only lasted a short while before everyone was happy and friends 😦 From there it became a fairly simple story of friendship that quickly turned to more, a few vampire clashes, meeting others in the extended family, and a neat twist towards the end, throwing everything Luna believes into confusion.
Its a sweet romance, I’d have liked to know a little more about how the different types of paranormals interacted, and their history but it was easy enough to follow on. There’s no overall story arc that suggests a series, so I assume this is a stand alone read. It is a pretty basic story, low on drama and high on cute, which makes it feel to me a YA type read. I’ve read some great YA reads, even though I’m long past that, but this is one that I think YA readers will enjoy more. I’m looking for something with a bit more depth and drama, more twists and turmoil, more story and less simplicity.

Stars: Two and a half, its a good read, well done but the story-line just feels too YA for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Widow’s Secret, Katharine Swartz

The Widow’s Secret, Katharine Swartz

The Widow's Secret by [Katharine Swartz]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Historical fiction

A dual POV novel, in the present Rachel is researching the history of a wreck, a ship she believes to be a slave ship, and then we see the past, where Abigail Fenton is the wife of the ship’s owner.

Its an interesting story, Rachel isn’t just learning about the ship’s history but examining her own. She loves her husband, he loves her, but its a tense relationship, with Rachel not understanding her actions so how on earth can her husband?
I got the feeling this was a tipping point in their marriage, that Rachel had always been a prickly, closed off person, and we see from her relationship with her mother that she doesn’t exactly have a loving role model there. It seems to stem from when her adored father died when she was young, but its spilled over and now her marriage is in danger. She doesn’t want that but doesn’t know how to be the person she wants, open, friendly, loving.
Then back in the past we’ve Abigail, lovely young lady, adores her husband and he loves her. Typical of the time though they are restricted by society and what’s deemed correct. Abigail is unsure of the belief commonly held that slaves are more like animals, her own experiences make her doubt that, putting her in a hard position with her husband and contemporaries. Can she speak out? What about the effect on her family? If she doesn’t though what does that make her?

Its a good story, and Rachel is escaping to the past rather than face up to the issues in her present life. It hits back though, events make it so that she needs to take action or lose everything. In a strange parallel Abigail too has to pick a side, contemporaries, friendship, marriage and the accepted view of slaves, or can she voice her opinions, and maybe hope to bring about change in a small way, but risking her marriage and her position in society?

There’s a thread of Christianity running through the past, but not in an overbearing way – its something I avoid, but here it fits the story and isn’t dominating it. Its was interesting reading about the past, the slaves ( awful trade. One wonders how many really felt as Rachel did inside) and wondering what the future held for the characters involved.
I really felt for James, a good man, but carried along with accepted beliefs until confronted with the harsh truth. For anyone with a conscience that makes things tough, and I felt his struggle. Its easier to think everyone involved in that trade was awful, bigoted, a bully, but James was a gentle man, adored Abigail but initially really didn’t see wrong in what he did. Then as facts began to solidify in his mind he was struggling, what to do? Risk everything he had earned? Leave things as they were and live with his conscience? What about Abigail, he can see her actions in a different light now.
Its very complex, being horrified at his actions and then seeing them for his POV.

I loved Antony, Rachel’s husband, such an incredibly patient and understanding man and yet eventually he feels he’s tried and tried, and needs Rachel to make an effort too. I did feel that for such huge issues as they have, the ending was a little slick, very quickly all those issues were put behind them, when really I felt they would need a huge amount of work. Of course this is bookland, where problems can have quick situations leading to a HEA, but I would have liked a bit more time for them, a little more delving into the issues, and how they were going to get past them. Its simply not possible to have a blinding revelation and say all will be well……

Stars: Four, an interesting read, the abhorrent slave trade looked at through eyes of the time, and of course through Rachel’s current day view. I enjoyed the story, just felt the ending was a little too easily fixed and settled.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Calypso’s Heart, Orion’s Order Book 1, M.C. Solaris

Calypso’s Heart, Orion’s Order Book 1, M.C. Solaris

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy, Romance.

I love this genre combo and expected to love this book. Sadly I couldn’t get past 20% and that was a struggle.
I found Caly obsessed with her morning drinks, and just plain weird. I mean, you have a recurring dream, you wake up one night and they guy – searingly hot and massive of course – is in your bedroom. What do you do – scream? Leap out of bed to grab something to defend yourself with? Rush for your phone? All of those? Caly? She just tells herself she must be dreaming and happily has sex with the guy. I was rolling my eyeballs there. I mean Blake is supposed to be a hero/gentleman, yet he’s happy to have sex with this unknown woman, who might be a threat to all he and his friends do, who has one of said friends waiting for him in the next room…..
Then there’s the confusion over who was who. Caly meets and dates a couple of times someone called Nick, so when we met a Nico among Blake’s guys I thought maybe they were the same – but no, The guys making up the order behaved like overgrown college kids. There’s a difference between banter and tussles or juvenile talk and fights. It was as if everything was either something to joke about or something that involved some of them fighting it out. I didn’t feel the long bonds of friendship I expected, hadn’t a clue what they were actually doing, hadn’t the patience to listen to more of Caly’s inner musings or watch her unbelievable actions.
Maybe if I could have made myself read more it gets better, but for me if its not working by this far in its not going to suit me. I can see others love it, as usual its the horses for courses stuff, what one person doesn’t like another loves, so make your own judgment.
I did restart this twice thinking maybe id missed something, that restarting might make it read differently but sadly, no. Just not one for me. I hate writing low star reviews, I’m aware of all the hard work that goes into a novel, but sometimes it has to be done, or it makes higher star reviews meaningless.

Stars: Two, a book others love but which was a fail for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Little Teashop in Tokyo, Julie Caplin

The Little Teashop in Tokyo, Julie Caplin

The Little Teashop in Tokyo: A feel-good, romantic comedy to make you smile and fall in love! (Romantic Escapes, Book 6) by [Julie Caplin]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Romance.

Well, wow, I adored this story. I didn’t realise it was one of those complete stories, but connected books series, so I’m off to find the rest when I’ve time. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the others, but I can see for those who have, getting snippets of the characters in their updated lives will be fun.

Fiona, what a lovely lady. Lives with her widowed mum, its been just the two of them for so long, her dad dying when she was small. Her mum is clearly a bit of a hypochondriac, and even though Fiona is 28 still treats her as if she’s 8 much of the time. Fiona understands, chafes at it sometimes, but has found a way to manage her mum’s anxieties. Of course now she’s off to Japan for two weeks her mum is terrified for her. Fiona is determined not to be put off though and bravely marches in. this could be the makings of a whole new career for her, and will work well with her travel blog.

What she doesn’t expect though is Gabe. The man who’d been booked has had to cancel and Gabe is taking his place. He’s a well known man, top photographer, and certainly no second rate substitute but……Fiona has a history with him, from when she was 18 and he was taking a half term class at her school. Its didn’t go well, she’s been affected by the events ever since, and this throws her. Gabe doesn’t recognise her, and she’s not sure how she feels. That incident affected her ever since, changed her whole way of life and yet he seems t have forgotten it….how, she thinks, can something that was so big for her be nothing, forgettable to him.
,
Gabe was such an obnoxious man to begin, clearly not happy about mentoring her and it shows. Slowly though he changes and became a man I fell in love with a bit too.
The ladies she’s staying with are amazing, and teach her so much, taking her in as part of them, showing her some of the traditional Japanese way of life. I loved those parts, could taste the food, smell the teas, see the beautiful kimonos, and the wonderful relaxing garden. It sounded magical, and Fiona really grew in her confidence with their help. She was like a different person at the end, more confident but still with her amazing fascination and enthusiasm for life.

I hated a Certain Person but was so glad she was in the book, I love that sort of character.
I loved that when things fell apart it wasn’t a quick solution, that it lasted for some time. I hate when its all off one page, and all on again the next.
I guess my only minor criticism would be the time span, its just two weeks and for the first couple of days they really don’t like each other, but then if I take into account the history and how things were then, it makes up for it. A bit. I just have trouble with insta love. Lust I can believe in, love takes a bit longer IMO

Stars: Five. A wonderful, engaging read, transporting me to a country I’ve always wanted to visit.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Night Girl by James Bow

The Night Girl by James Bow

The Night Girl by [James Bow]

Genre: New Adult, Sci Fi & Fantasy

I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that. I’m not the target demographic, but I often enjoy YA reads, good ones appeal to all ages. While I enjoyed this I found it wasn’t one of those IMA, its one that’s a great read for YA/NA I think, but for we folk past that age its a little too simplistic.
Its got some fun characters, a bit of mystery, a lot of whimsy, and a kind of moral theme about acceptance and rights of minority groups. That’s particularly interesting given I’m writing this while the world is seeing the impact of BLM. Being in a minority group myself I understood some of the fears the supernatural folk had, and of course the frustration. I found the Amnesia Reset particularly sad, to have life wiped away like that, all knowledge of your past gone.
Its a quirky read, some fun moments and subtle humour, and though I don’t know Toronto it was easy to visualise from the descriptions given. Overall I felt it was a great reader for the target age group, but just a little too YA simplistic for me to really enjoy.

Stars: Three, its a strange read at times, some quirky events and good but weird characters, and a theme of acceptance that’s particularly poignant right now.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Harpy, Megan Hunter

The Harpy, Megan Hunter

The Harpy by [Julie Hutchings]

Genre: General Fiction, Literary Fiction.

Edit: its out now in US but not in UK til 3rd September 2020

I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that.
The writing was mostly beautiful, but at times I felt it was a bit overdone, almost took away from the intent by the wordy descriptions. Even of simple things like the pasta sauce….and that for me took away the richness and importance of other parts.
I didn’t like Jake, not that we really got to know him. Right from the fist I felt he had more remorse about being caught out than for the actual affair. He was concerned too about the effects of an action on Vanessa, the lady he cheated with, when I felt it should be Lucy he worried about.
Lucy is strange, I feel her childhood wasn’t happy, with a father that beat her mother and she seemed to accept it, leading Lucy to feel that it was usual in a marriage. Then there’s her childbirth problems, that left her with some deep issues. I felt that maybe she still had an underlying Post Natal depression that wasn’t recognised.
Of course The Harpy – she was fascinated by them as a child, ( I too adored Greek and Roman mythology) and that’s persisted as an adult. Now though it feels a bit as if she identifies herself as one, doing the punishment to a man who has done wrong. Her mother described them that way, and Lucy’s depression/grief over the affair has turned inward and it feels as if she things The Harpy – her alter ego perhaps – has the answers and can make everything right.
We can see that though she appears confident and happy, she’s very much not so. Her inner thoughts are rambling much of the time, making excuses and wondering why she isn’t reacting as others do, as TV shows have taught her. She’s almost playing a role, trying to fit who she thinks she should be rather than just Being. I really felt sad for her.
That ending….perfect.
Its a story that had me wondering why, how, who, what would happen if, and of course what really happened at the end. Its very disquieting in parts, but it gave me lots to think about. Its a shortish read but even so parts felt unnecessary, the minutiae of food, chores, day to day stuff that seemed superfluous. I began to skip over sections, to get to what was actually happening. Quite a discomforting read, no particularly nice characters.

Stars: Three, its a strange read at times, not really my usual genre but I like to dip out sometimes into something different. Its not a story I’d reread, though I’m glad I read it.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Wedding, A Cruise Control Novel, Sian Ceinwen

The Wedding, A Cruise Control Novel, Sian Ceinwen

Genre: Romance,

I loved book one, The Album, and this one catches up with Gabriel and Ariana, while focusing on Heather and Harrison, and is another riveting read.

I loved that Heather and Sebastian gave Ariana a hard time when she came back. Hayden and Harrison are content in that Gabriel’s happy, but Heather and Sebastian can’t get past the hurt and damage she caused so easily. Heather thought they were close friends, and Ariana just dropped her, ghosted her, didn’t answer her calls or texts. Plus of course they had a ringside seat to Gabriel’s heartbreak and devastation. That felt so very true, the anger and loss came over very realistically. Heather, Sebastian and the Yoko convo 😉 that felt very real and I could picture it.
In the middle of Ariana’s return its Harrison’s birthday, and he proposes to Heather, his long time girl. They’re like an institution, nothing can shake them and marriage – well its just icing on the cake. Until it isn’t, something terrible happens that affects the whole band, and causes a massive, humongous rift between the two.

This kind of angst and heartbreak is what make a romance novel so special to me. I love this kind of plot, where someone does something totally unexpected, and that causes issues. Very big issues, and I was sucked in to the drama, the unhappiness, the problems, the heartache that befell them all. In the midst of all this poor Heather is running her new and incredibly successful fashion line.
I loved this story, loved that the problems set in quite early which left lots of time to explore them thoroughly, see what could work, what would work, what and who is behind the issues, and whether given time they could be overcome. For a while, even though this is book-land and its going to be a HEA, I really felt that it was possible that actually Love couldn’t conquer all, that perhaps some things are just too devastating to get past, to forget.

Its handled wonderfully, and the solutions are not quick fix, instant everything’s OK now, type answers. That we see them working so hard, and yet still there are problems. Real life is like that, there are no magic fixes, its a slog getting past something like this and not everyone can do it.
I especially liked that when things are finally resolved, there’s another person that got caught in the crossfire and had their life turned upside down, but they weren’t forgotten, they were helped to resolution too.
I can just imagine how vicious the fans were, in this day of instant tweets and posts things spread like wildfire, and some folk hide behind anonymity to say the most appalling, cruel things. We – and I’m one – often blame the media for the intrusion in people’s lives, but if we -as the public- didn’t buy the papers and magazines, didn’t salivate over the photos, there wouldn’t be a demand for them. Its a two pronged fault, the papers and media for chasing and intruding, but the general public for creating the demand.

Stars: Five, a wonderful follow up and I can’t wait for the next book.

Arc via author

The Dark Horizon, (Linford 1), Liz Harris

The Dark Horizon, (Linford 1), Liz Harris

Genre: Historical romance

I like to dip back in time every now and then in my reading, and this proved to be an easy, fun read.
I loved Lily right from the start, she’d had a tough beginning but every opportunity she has she works hard and turns it to her advantage. I did feel she could have tried a little harder with Roberts family, the MIL and SILs could have been won over. Possibly 😉

So Robert and Lily fall in love, and ever the optimist 18 yr old Robert is convinced his family will like her. TBH even today wealthy families still have that air that some folk just aren’t good enough, and back in the 1920s he was hoping for a miracle really. His father is the most die-hard snob, and wants spouses who not only have the right background but also have money to bring to the family business. And Lily doesn’t. Never the less, once she’s pregnant and Joseph knows Robert will marry her anyway when he’s 21 he gives in.
I so felt for poor Lily, she adores Robert, but she’s on her own in a family who see her as a gold digger, taking advantage of Robert. I did think Robert could have been a little more sympathetic, but these are different times and I guess his expectations were those of the day. You married into a family and made the best of it. Sucked up the nasty and moved forward anyway, hoping things would get better.

Joseph, is irredeemably awful, once of those patriarchs who are convinced they know best for everyone, he’s determined that Robert won’t ruin his life, and he does something irredeemably awful. I don’t want to spoil it but lets just say I was gutted, totally gutted, and though that action would be harder now with IDs, CCTV, phones etc back then its plausible things could happen that way.
I loved the American part, felt very true to time, and I enjoyed reading about everyday life there, and the people we met.

Where the book falls down for me is the end. I loved the drama of what happened, how it worked out, and was looking forward to the time when Joseph and the others were discovered. I enjoyed that the drama section lasted a good chunk of the book, that I could really feel for Lily, admire her determination. I liked that once back she wanted her just desserts, so to speak, in denouncing, those responsible but then tries to soften things because of Robert and James.
What I didn’t like was everything worked out a little too slickly, too easily, I wanted Joseph et al to suffer, but everyone seemed t take the view he meat well so that’s all that mattered. To me it wasn’t. His actions mattered, not just his intention.
I did feel too that Marian, who was innocent of everything, was the one who really paid the price. I hope somehow a future book has a happy ending for her.

Stars: Four, a great read, very real but the ending was that little bit too neat for me.

Arc via author

The Chalice and the Crown, Kassandra Flamouri

The Chalice and the Crown, Kassandra Flamouri

The Chalice and the Crown by [Kassandra Flamouri]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, Teens and YA

I’m way past the target age range, but reviews suggested that this book would still appeal and I’ve loved other fantasy reads aimed at this age group. Sadly I’m on the fence about this one.

I really liked the sound of this, a very different fantasy read and was excited to start. I found Sasha hard to like though, she’s really not a particularly nice girl to those around her. I know she’s worried about becoming ill like her mother, but that’s more recent and her behaviour seems to have always been like this.
I was puzzled at how things changed, how she actually got pulled in to the other world, it seemed one page she was in this world, worrying about illness, feeling strange and then she was in the next, though her body remained here. I didn’t see the transition, needed a bit more detail there.
Then she’s in a horrible situation, has become a thrall, among thousands more. For a time she simply doesn’t realise who or what she is but slowly that changes. Even then she’s still a hard to understand person, there are flashes of when she knows there’s something wrong, but mostly she carries on. As with the best war/slave/fantasy reads there’s an underground movement though and they see Sasha as someone they can help…..

I found the writing absorbing but the actual story very difficult to follow. I didn’t wholly see how things worked, how they found potential thralls, how they pulled them in. Sasha still remained someone I found difficult to understand.
I felt this book had a lot going on, but jumped too quickly from one situation to the next without fully explaining how things happened or worked. As a reader I had to follow the text and guess. There were explanations for parts, but other things just had to be accepted and the reader just go with. Its hard to explain, the apostate for instance, this person/name just popped up without explanation of who or what he was, ( other than he lived on an island) and yet he was a fairly important part of the story.
Overall for me it was an ok read, not one I’d re-read, and one that left me with questions as I was reading that largely seemed to be unanswered. If things like that don’t bother you, then like others you may love this unique fantasy read.

Stars: Three, an on the fence read for me. I loved parts but there were too many unanswered puzzles for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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