Archive | October 2020

Christmas Wishes, Sue Moorcroft

Christmas Wishes, Sue Moorcroft

Christmas Wishes: From the Sunday Times bestselling and award-winning author of romance fiction comes a feel-good cosy Christmas read by [Sue Moorcroft]

Genre: general Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Romance

* sigh * women’s fiction, I seem to have been moaning about this genre for ages now. Its 2020, men write romance, men read romance, lets stop with the sexism.

Anyway, its Sue Moorcroft, an author I only discovered recently and I adore her writing style. This book was the usual well plotted, cleverly laid out story, that kept me reading right to the end. ( Sometimes I get impatient and skip bits when authors waffle…doesn’t happen with “good” – for me – books)

I loved the characters, loved when Hannah first met Nico again and thinks he’s fallen on hard times. She tries to help him by taking him for a meal, and it turns out she chooses the worst place for him 😉 How easily good intentions have the wrong result.
Albin, Hannah’s boyfriend was deliciously wicked, one of those folk you’re happy to thoroughly dislike, he was cold, calculating, cruel, and I wondered what Hannah ever saw in him. I guess he presented his best side to her then. I like a character like his in a novel, it adds to the drama. Manipulative described him well, and also Nico’s wife and mother in law. Its a treat to get some truly unpleasant characters in a novel 😉 Set against that Hannah’s family were lovely, close, accepting and encouraging. I adored Nan Heather, a loving and practical lady. There were a mix of other characters, some really lovely, tenants of the new shopping courtyard, others were not so much, like the owner of said place.

Its a fun story, hot and cold in that neither Hannah nor Nico really know whats happening to the other, and their attraction is there but the action hampered by misunderstandings and bad timing.
The real star of the show for me was Maria, “ Yozee! Snow!” Poor little girl. Sadly there are many like her, with unwilling or incapable parents, and Nico showed just what a big and caring heart he had.
The happy ending comes but there’s a long and angst filled journey to it – perfect for me. I love the drama of some angst and heartbreak….

Stars: 5 A fabulous romance, with realistic characters and a heartbreaking story line at times.

Arc via Netgalley

Crazy Stupid Bromance, The Bromance Book Club returns with an unforgettable friends-to-lovers rom-com!, Lyssa Kay Adams

Crazy Stupid Bromance, The Bromance Book Club returns with an unforgettable friends-to-lovers rom-com!, Lyssa Kay Adams

Crazy Stupid Bromance: The Bromance Book Club returns with an unforgettable friends-to-lovers rom-com! by [Lyssa Kay Adams]

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Ah, no…. Women’s Fiction, again. An outdated, no-place-for-in-2020 category I hate. Yet it still keeps creeping in. Why alienate half your potential readers. And the irony of labeling this Women’s Fiction when the premise is about a group of guys reading romance * roll eyes.

Anyway, somehow I missed book two, I thought things had changed from what I last remembered 😉 Now the Bromance Book Club is coming to the rescue once more. Can the guys wave the magic wand, do the Fairy Godfather stuff for Noah and Alexis.

I love this concept, a group of guys, very diverse from the burly taciturn The Russian ( who has incredibly sensitive moments!) to hipster Noah. I can just imagine them getting down to plot devices, analysing how and why they work in real life….
This book had such a lot going on though, Alexis and Noah friends to lovers maybe romance, Alexis past issues, her cafe that’s become a survivors haven, and of course the prejudices that brings out in a neighbour. There’s always one isn’t there. Then a real bombshell gets dropped into Alexis life and I wasn’t sure how I felt. It gave me some things to think about. I think, as Alexis did, that maybe I would have made that decision as I didn’t want that on my conscience, and yet you then can’t help wondering, do they like her for who she is or what she is? Tough one and so hard on her just when she doesn’t need more.
I got cross at both of them at points though, they seemed to be pushing forward, then stepping back. Aggravating even though it was part of who they were.

The stars: Beefcake – fab cat, and terror extraordinaire. Toebeans – what is with that name? Mack and the wedding planning, he was a real Groomzilla. When they all went for a bachelor party massage, that had me in stitches. Emergency texts to find out naked or underpants? The cucumber one of the lads used on eyes and then another wondered what they did with the carrot…..

Another great read, my only criticism was that there seemed at times to be so much, maybe too much, going on. The issues with Alexis father was a lot to add in a story already packed with events.
Hint of the next book looks like it might be The Russian taking pointe place. I hope so, he’s on the face one guy but through the books has shown us another side altogether.

Stars: Four, a fun read, has me sniggering, tears down my face in parts, the tears for an entirely different reason altogether.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

A Village Vacancy, the laugh-out-loud new book from the bestselling author of A Village Affair, by Julie Houston

A Village Vacancy, the laugh-out-loud new book from the bestselling author of A Village Affair, by Julie Houston

A Village Vacancy: the laugh-out-loud new book from the bestselling author of A Village Affair by [Julie Houston]

Genre:Romance, Women’s Fiction

Oh no, women’s fiction yet again. Men write romance, men read romance, lets stop with the silliness now.

Anyway, I’ve seen a few reviews that mention this read being confusing in that they don’t know the backstory of characters and tbh, that plays a huge part. Its not listed as a series but of you’ve read the earlier books you will follow and enjoy this one so much more.

I’ve never been Grace’ biggest fan. If she lived on a council estate she’d be judged very differently. Shiftless/feckless single parent would be the judgment. As someone middle class though it seems her behaviour is excused. Bah, its like those condemning folk they see as lower class for drinking too much, while snorting yet another line of the socially acceptable cocaine. Having brought that in the County Lines thread of this book was excellent. We do think drugs are something that happens elsewhere, only in the ghetto areas of cities for example whole all the while its being done in homes around us, by our kids, sucked in as couriers.
I do feel for Grace with the on off husband, the affair with Seb was always going to come to nothing, but Jonty means there’s always a tie. Then Dan’s off again and it just seems like she’s on the search for another man. She’s got two kids now, Jonty and the adorable Peitronella. That kid was a show stealer, I loved her – and the cock porn/popcorn ( I wonder if amazon will let that one through?) She needs to be more responsible. I’d say that if it was Dan with the kids and Grace wobbled off too. Kids come first.
The story kind of centres round Grace, but fortunately for me brings in many of the characters we already know from earlier reads, and it was great to catch up with them.
It opens with a shock, I didn’t expect that, nor the things that resulted from it. I love David, he’s a true gentleman, and he always seems so wise, so responsible as well as being a killer businessman.
I wasn’t convinced of the romance here. To be honest for most of the book it isn’t there, its just suggestions of what’s to come at the end. I didn’t think either party was really ready for it anyway.
I love the school scenes, really felt for little Noah. I loved the Esme/Emsy bit – brilliant, perfect comeback when Esme was deliberately getting Ariadne’s name wrong. I never think of stuff like that at the time.
Loved Harry Trotter, and of course Tilda. I’ve a grandson like her, he’ nine going on forty nine. He reprimanded me at the weekend for “ inappropriate behaviour” in front of the toddler. I was squeezing the rubber dinosaur, making its belly pop out….that’s all 😉 Then was treated to a lecture about how the school are not taking social distancing seriously.

Its a fun read, the village vacancy in the title actually has more than one connection. I loved catching up with past characters, and sympathised with Grace even when she annoyed me in her actions. Its hard when a partner leaves, even if its not a huge surprise.

Stars: Four, a fun read again, lots going on, lots of laughs ( even though I hate it when a story promises me I will “laugh out loud” I hate that assumption).

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

The Once and Future Witches, Alix E. Harrow

The Once and Future Witches, Alix E. Harrow

The Once and Future Witches by [Alix E. Harrow]

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy

I was so intrigued by the description, so eager to get started on this. I adore fantasy reads, and witchcraft and witches are a huge draw for me. Sadly, though I restarted several times I just couldn’t get into the story and abandoned it at about 40% in. Life’s too short 😉 Its perfect for others of course, as can be seen from reviews but for me it just wasn’t a good fit.

It was well written, but at times even so I found myself drifting away from the story, a good read has me gripped to the page, reading “ just one more chapter/just to see what happens to…” but this was such a struggle I had to keep flicking back to refresh my mind over connections.
The little fairy-tales in the chapter openings were fun, but I didn’t always connect them with the section that followed, maybe my mind runs on a different track.
I was really disappointed not to get along with this story, it held such promise and I was sure it would be perfect for me.

Its one of those novels where its reader taste, not an issue with the book that makes for the low stars. One of those stories folk will either love or be indifferent to. For me it was indifference. I could have made myself finish, I just wasn’t invested enough in the lives and actions of the characters.

Stars: two. I just wasn’t invested enough in the lives and actions of the characters.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Unlikely Angel, The Songs of Dolly Parton, Lydia R. Hamessley

Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton (Women Composers) by [Lydia R. Hamessley, Steve Buckingham]

Genre: Entertainment, Biographies & Memoirs

My bad, I didn’t fully read description, just Dolly, Biography and Memoirs…and as a Dolly fan I thought it would feature more of her life, her journey into music. It does do that to a degree, but is more focused on analysing the music and writing ( I was shocked she was so prolific – didn’t realise quite how many songs she’d written).

As a businesswoman too she was a shrewd lady, recognising that to get the music she wanted to make rather than the producers wanted her to do she needed to play a long game. She was clear sighted about where she was going eventually, but it took her several detours. I so admire her persistence, when so many others would have given up, and she deserves all credit for that, her hard work, sticking to her ideals.
I enjoyed the more personal sections, about Dolly and her life, her upbringing, imagining little Dolly touring the US in the van with her uncle, belting out songs from that tiny frame. I loved reading the inspiration for her songs, the people she was influenced by, but the rest wasn’t really a book I would have chosen if I’d taken the time to read properly. I’m not really interested in taking apart songs, analysing them, just in listening to them and a brief look at what inspired them.

For those who love that side of things, the technical dissection of her music then its perfect. Just not me. Another one of those reader taste issues, not a book writing issue.

Stars: Three, a good book for the right reader, but for me it was just OK.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade

Spoiler Alert: a delightfully fun romantic comedy by [Olivia Dade]

Genre: Romance

Well, I love to read but…I’ve never read any Fanfic, so that part of the novel, the way it was set in particular format, was a bit beyond me. I suspect if I was a fan fic fan ( ha!) I’d have enjoyed this novel more.

I liked both April and Marcus, but felt both got way too deep in analysing every moment, every slight, mishap, constantly looking for slights almost. It came over as almost Therapy speak, and didn’t feel very natural.
They both had difficult pasts, parental issues, and as a larger lady myself now I did understand Aprils feelings. Somehow you do feel judged. I haven’t always been big so I get a look from both sides of the coin, and I suspect others pay less attention to size than we think.
I felt for Marcus, we have the same problems within our family, and its difficult to get proper help, everyone seems to develop coping strategies, and I loved Marcus’ Well Behaved Golden Retriever act. I could see that playing out really well.
As a couple, Marcus being so famous I was surprised he didn’t need security, that they weren’t papped more, attracted more groups of fans while out, and of course April being a larger lady, I thought there would have been thousands of comments online about her. Sadly we’re unkind and use social media as a platform to vent all kinds of hate.
I could see that things were going to come to a head, secrets always come out at the worst time, and that part was excellent. I did feel April didn’t give enough weight to Marcus problems, how difficult it was for him. She felt it showed lack of trust but there was so much hanging on it from his side I understood why he’d kept quiet.

Stars: 3, a fun read but not one that kept me gripped, and I did feel a lack of reality about Marcus fame.

Arc via Netgalley

People of Abandoned Character, Clare Whitfield

People of Abandoned Character by [Clare Whitfield]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Mystery & Thrillers.

Well, my reading recently, in the midst of Covid19, has been patchy, with usual favourites genres unable to hold my attention. Talking to friends I’m not alone. This one though, this story had me gripped, took me away from 2020 and back into the late 1800s. I know little of the history of the murders, only what I’ve read in fiction, and what we all pick up from the news when something harks back to those times and events, so I can’t comment on how accurate the story is, but its feels very genuine.

At first it seems Susannah has fallen on her feet, a nurse in training, now married to a young and wealthy surgeon. As was the edict of the time she had to leave her employment, but marriage turns out to be anything but the wonderful paradise her adoring husband promised. Once back from honeymoon a very different man emerges, cold, cruel, mocking.
Bored, Susannah takes up following the recent murders, keeping clippings, puzzled at who it could be. Then her research has her worried that she might actually be married to the murderer. There are strange things afoot, he comes home scratched and bloodied, other times she doesn’t see him for days, and together with his housekeeper Mrs Wiggs they form a tight unit that has no space for Susannah.

There are fascinating side tales, little plots that seem unrelated but which all tie in to the ending. The time period, the description of life for those unfortunate enough to have been born in the lower classes of the time, was very well depicted. From birth, when many died anyway, most of these poor folk faced an uncertain future, risking lives every day in the struggle to survive, while those of the upper classes looked down on them, regarding them as barely human.

Its a story full of secrets, ones that pose unlimited questions. Would things have been different if? And as the title suggests, were these folk of that character because of being abandoned in life, is life really nature v nurture, or would they be that way anyway? What turns people to killers, what makes us do things that others find immoral, unbelievable? Would we make the same decisions faced with the same circumstances? Its easy to be moral when we have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and safety for our families. If things were different though, if we faced those hard choices what would we do?

I really enjoyed this, didn’t see those extra twists coming at the end. Its a book I doubt I’ll reread, but which held my attention in this time when little else does. I’d certainly love to read more from this author.

Stars: Five, a really engaging story that was full of un-predicable surprises

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Earth Almanac, Ted Williams

amazin link Earth Almanac: A Year of Witnessing the Wild, from the Call of the Loon to the Journey of the Gray Whale by [Ted Williams, Verlyn Klinkenborg]

Genre: non fiction, outdoors and nature

I love books like this and even though its about US nature and I’m in UK, it doesn’t matter, there are parallels and I found it easy to enjoy Ted’s wonderful way of telling about what he sees. There are quirky little illustrations that added to the story, and I loved the way it followed the seasons, each leading naturally to the next.
I’ve loved nature and outdoors all my life, my early years would see me taking solitary walks in the woods and commons close to where I lived. Thinking back how far I wandered at under ten years old its quite scary, but my friends weren’t as nature minded and often I was left to explore alone.
Reading Ted’s book brought back some of that joy, the fun in tracking snowy footprints, of finding the first primrose, of watching catkins turn to hazel nuts, seeing the horse chestnuts sticky burst burst into leaf. Careful and observant nature lovers see the day to day changes and enjoy the gradual transition of seasons. Spring was always my favourite, and still is but autumn fruits and winter melancholy, the call of passing geese on a cold frosty morning, the dead looking branches that are really just in deep winter slumber, have their own magic.
Its easy to see Ted’s love of nature from the way he writes, showing the reader little things often not noticed, that only nature lovers would see.
Books like this are ones best in hardback physical form I feel where the illustrations can be properly appreciated. I love my kindle but most non fiction reads doesn’t really transition so well I think, and seeing and flipping through these books to certain parts works best in real life, not ebook.

Stars: Five, glorious book charting the transition of US seasons but which can be appreciated worldwide by true nature lovers.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Subversive, Colleen Cowley

Amazon link. Subversive (Clandestine Magic Book 1) by [Colleen Cowley]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and fantasy

I loved Colleen’s first novel, the Opposite of Magic, which I read some years ago ( and have just reread ) so was pleased to be offered the chance to read this one. I really enjoyed it, a fun, magical story but with a strong storyline.
Some years ago I had an ARC of Charlie Homburg’s first book in the Magician series, and in many ways this has that same feel. Suitable for new adults but appealing to older readers too. The Magician books were also suitable for the teens and YA group, but IMO this book has a little more sensuality and a slightly darker element towards the end, and is suited to slightly older readers.

So, poor Beatrix, she’s given so much for her sister, put her through college after the death of their parents, sacrificing her own chance. Now Lydia has ambitions to make bigger changes for women, by climbing up the rungs of the the Women’s League for the Prohibition of Magic. As ever, Beatrix is there behind, supporting her sister.
Beatrix works in a local store, until omnimancer Peter Blackwell commandeers her services for himself. He’s got plans and needs Beatrix co-operation, but through necessity he sets about it in an underhand way. It leads to a distrust of him, even as she starts to see more than her memories of him, starts to understand him in some ways. He’s up to something, she’s unsure of what, of if its dangerous, she thinks its almost certainly illegal, but she’s stuck, she can’t tell anyone, she can’t trust him even though she starts to want to, and she’s got her own issues. Lydia’s climb up the WLPM has attracted attention. Things keep going wrong for their branch, and the more they overcome the problems that crop up the more dangerous it seems to be getting. It seemed to me that the heart of the WLPM is that only boys who pass a test can be trained as magicians, and only magicians seem to run the country, putting women in a very inferior secondary position.

Its a good story, seemingly unconnected events come together neatly, trusted people are not to be trusted, the Powers That Be, the Wizards running the country, are taking an interest in Lydia, the WLPM and in Peter Blackwell, and poor Beatrix is stuck right in the middle.

I really enjoyed this, a fun read but with some spice to liven up the relationships aspect, and Peter’s secret turned out to be quite a shock, I really, really didn’t expect that, but it fitted the book, the Wizards and the usual Power struggle that always dominates politics everywhere. I look forward to reading more of these people, this town and the groups within.

Stars: Four, a fun read with a serious thread running through. If magic was real, and worked the way the book sets out, I could see some of the more serious parts of this happening.

Arc via author

A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik

link to amazon

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

I loved Naomi’s Uprooted, and was so hoping this book would be along those lines. It sounded fun and exciting but….from the start I really disliked El, she’s rude, arrogant, stand offish. When we know more about her I understood much of why she was that way, but I never really got to like her.
The school is just weird and I didn’t understand why parents were so desperate to send kids there, given so many of them died. I’m not sure what they gained from being in all that constant danger that they couldn’t have been taught in safety.
I just found it hard to connect, with the story or the participants and eventually gave up halfway through. A shame as I so loved Uprooted and was certain I’d enjoy this. Still, it won’t put me off trying Naomi’s next book.

Stars: Two, One to miss for me, a shame as I love a fantasy series and this sounded so promising. As always though it works for others, that’s the subjective side of reading.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

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