Archive by Author | jeanniezelos

The Familiars: Stacey Halls

The Familiars: Stacey Halls

The Familiars: The spellbinding Sunday Times Bestseller and Richard & Judy Book Club Pick by [Halls, Stacey]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

I hovered over this, had requested via netgalley some time ago but didn’t get it ๐Ÿ˜ฆ , sometimes they only have limited copies for ARCs. It sounded so intriguing after reading the sample that I bought it anyway. Yep, paid real money for this one ๐Ÿ˜‰

Its a fantastic read, based around the real Pendleton Witches saga, and showing how helpless women were once accused, and how easy to was for grudges, and power hungry individuals to wreck peoples lives. Literally. That magic mix ( for me ) of fiction and reality, which I love to read.

I loved Fleetwood, only 17 but on her fourth pregnancy, hoping against hope that this time her husband gets his much wanted heir. Then she finds That Letter, and is devastated. As was I reading it, I so felt for her.
Richard seems like a really nice guy, shocking to me that at just 17 his wife is on her fourth pregnancy, but in those times marriage at a young age wasn’t uncommon. He’s away a lot on business but seems to adore Fleetwood and certainly allows her a freedom many wives didn’t have at that time. Then we learn something that shocked me. Not so uncommon but I just didn’t expect it and it coloured how I felt about him after.
Alice, poor girl, just caught up in things after trying to innocently help someone, and her involvement brings others into the ever growing web of people seeking the kings favour are weaving, knowing his vendetta against witches. Looking at the accusations and the โ€œproofโ€ from today’s perspective its ludicrous, but back then men were Gods almost when it came to determining who was innocent โ€“ hint, virtually no one. They seemed to see accused as guilty the minute someone laid a charge, and knowing the more โ€œwitchesโ€ they found, the higher the king would regard them was a powerful motive for those with no conscience.

Poor Fleetwood learns some unpleasant lessons about trust in this book. Alice too, helping someone injured ended up risking her life. She’d such a hard life anyway, and then doing something so innocent cost her job and brought her to the witch hunters notice.
The supernatural, the familiars element of the title is kind of elusive, certain animals could perhaps be familiars, and yet it could just be supposition, superstitious imaginings about innocent pets. Who knows, its never really clear but there’s enough co-incidences to make me wonder.

Stars: Five, a fabulous read, that mix of fiction rooted in reality and with a possible supernatural link, made it a riveting read for me. One I know I’ll re-read.

Bought novel!

More Than Just Mum, Rebecca Smith

More Than Just Mum, Rebecca Smith

More Than Just Mum: A laugh out loud novel of family chaos and reinvention by [Smith, Rebecca]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

This is classic chic lit style, humour, pathos and a good dollop of real life. I so identified with Hannah at times. I too have been wife, mother, auntie, daughter and somewhere in the middle of that Jeannie, Me, was submerged. You have to fight to keep that, and Hannah’s trying hard, but life has the habit of throwing spanners just when you think you’re getting somewhere.

Having said that I struggled with this at times. The beginning almost had me giving up, it felt too much like forced humour and I just hate that. Certain parts had me thinking of a mental visual from the old TV game shows โ€œClap Now!!โ€ It seemed to be written for the purpose of humour, rather than the humour falling naturally from the content. I stuck with it though and that side of things certainly improved for me, I had tears from laughing at some parts, having been through very similar. Bringing up teens is one of life’s Big Experiences, and its laugh or cry many days. Laughing is better….aided by wine of course.

What really brought this down though was for me it lacked focus. I felt there were lots of little side issues that cropped up but went nowhere, and there wasn’t really an overarching plot that ran the course of the novel. It seemed more a series of little ones that sometimes were completed, but more often just left hanging. I wasn’t really sure where the story was going, and TBH it just felt like I was reading a few months from a typical family life. Works for some of course, but for me I needed that main plot, needed to know what was the point of the novel, where was the story going. As it didn’t have that, the ending felt a little flat. Yes, one biggish plot gets wrapped up but so much was just left unfinished.

Stars: Three, a fun read, and some parts really made me smile, snigger, reminded me of my time with teen and preteen kids, but overall for me it felt a little lacking in direction.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

A Madness of Sunshine, Nalini Singh

A Madness of Sunshine, Nalini Singh

A Madness of Sunshine by [Singh, Nalini]

Genre: Romance

I love Nalini’s Guild Hunter series and her contemporary romances. I so wish I could enjoy the psy-changling series, so many books I haven’t read. Maybe I’ll give them another go ๐Ÿ˜‰

This time the story is as much, maybe more, suspense as romance. Its a slow burn relationship, it’s more getting to know each other tentatively and maybe starting something, than a full on romance. I enjoyed it even though I was expecting more romance from the tag.

The background of Golden Cove, and the issues of past and present was excellent. When Nalini writes there’s always that extra touch, scenery is always so descriptive I can mentally see it, characters that I feel I know, understand, even things like the coffee, I can smell and taste it from her words.
The suspense was cleverly done, a couple of main possible suspects stand out, and yet there are things thrown in that made me wonder โ€œ but what about? Could they? โ€
Its cleverly wrapped up, proper ending. I hate it when I finish a story and am left wondering what happened after, wondering about certain characters.
The reason both Will and Anhara were in Golden Cove were believable, I really felt for them both. There were other characters already there too that had some nasty shocks, life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, sometimes its just damn windy and stormy. Life’s like that for us all sometimes, throws in unwelcome surprises, things happen beyond our control, someone does whats right yet still ends up poorer for it. It made the story feel very realistic for me.

Stars: Five. I was pleased at the way things worked out in the ending. I like that kind of finishing the story and giving a hint of what happens to them in the future.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Unexpected Lessons in Love, Lucy Dillon

Unexpected Lessons in Love, Lucy Dillon

Unexpected Lessons in Love: What happens when โ€˜I doโ€™ turns into โ€˜I donโ€™t knowโ€™? by [Dillon, Lucy]

Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction

Oh Dear, Women’s fiction again โ€“ why on earth do we still use this outdated genre category. Men read romance, men write romance, why exclude them?
Anyway, the book. I was sure I’d read and enjoyed some of Lucy’s previous novels but when I checked just before writing this I haven’t โ€“ yay, more books to enjoy from a new to me author!
This is classed as romance and…well… it is but its kind of a tenuous connection, and is more the possibility of romance than an actual one.
I love the characters, Jeannie of course and her lovely parents, Andrea, Dan’s mum, Owen, his best friend and then there’s the dogs and the connections they bring. Its a serious problem here in the UK, only yesterday I read of yet another recently shut down in our local paper, where three people had made around ยฃ300,000 in two years, and the dogs that were rescued were in much the same state as the ones Rachel takes in. Makes me furious. Always ask to see parents, check that dogs seem happy and secure in the environment, that they haven’t just been placed in a house to appear to have come from there. There’s lots more advice online but the crux is if we’re more careful, demand and profits go and that’s the best way to stop the trade.

The story is so horribly real, I could imagine it happening just the way it was written. Poor Jeannie, so happy and then that last minute concern. Was it bride’s nerves or more, should she go with her head or her gut feelings. Then that crushing feeling of guilt. Then That happens, but while Dan is recovering things come out that don’t quite add up.
The dogs, they were real showstoppers, and of course the Brides Dress Revisited, ( what a fabulous name) added so much extra to the story, that while I’m a romance lover through and through, this was one of the stories I love that has little actual romance, but so much more to the story that I am totally engrossed. Its a fabulous read, I loved it and will look at Lucy’s other stories now.

Stars: Five, a wonderful, all round story it’s a promise of future romance.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Captain and the Best Man Catherine Curzon, Eleanor Harkstead

The Captain and the Best Man Catherine Curzon, Eleanor Harkstead

The Captain and the Best Man (Captivating Captains Book 4) by [Curzon, Catherine, Harkstead, Eleanor]

Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance

I haven’t read the earlier books in this series, but that’s fine, each are stand alone. Its one of those series connected by character type rather than the characters themselves.
Its was a fun story, very easy to read, with some fun characters.

I liked Guy and Josh, Guy seems universally liked by his flight crew and the islanders. He seems one of those genuinely naive guys who somehow glide through life untroubled. Yet as we learn more about him we find its not been quite that easy for him. Then there’s Josh, one moment he seemed very young, and the next it was like he had an old head on young shoulders. There’s a real attraction between the two that came through the story quickly.
The story itself hinges on Josh’ best friends wedding, a tropical island and of course a storm, and not just with the weather….it was kind of easy to see where the story was going, see what was going to happen from about halfway, but maybe that’s me, maybe I’ve just read too much….
I guess my big issue with the story is that the main thrust takes place over a couple of days with the whole mostly complete in a week, and I just found that insta love too much. That’s my personal issue, I need to be convinced characters are in love, not just lust and when every interaction is so new, so coloured by sex then I’m not persuaded that its actually True Love and worth all the sacrifice. Though this wraps up so well that actually there’s very little sacrifice ๐Ÿ˜‰

Stars: Three, a fun, easy read, but its just too time condensed for me to really get mentally involved with the characters, and invested in what happens.

Arc via authors

City of Pearl, Alys Clare

City of Pearl, Alys Clare

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery and Thrillers

I’ve said before, this series so much reminds me of the Ariana Franklin books I enjoyed years ago, and I’m really enjoying getting to know Lassair and her world. I mistakenly came in late to the series, thinking its was an AF read, so I’ve yet to have the pleasure of reading the books from the beginning. One day โ€“ so many books, so little time…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, we start in the Fens, ( a place not many miles from where I live) but the story moves on a journey to Spain. It amazes me that some folk never traveled further than the next village, which feels usual for the time, while others like Lassair, Gurdyman and his family, and a few others, embarked upon what must have been scary and perilous travails, at a time when so little was known about where they were going, and knowing the journey would be fraught with danger.

Gurdyman has always been a man of few words, Lassair has learned to curb her impatience, knowing he will tell her what she needs to know in time, but even her patience was stretched here. I’d have been climbing the walls.
Clearly the unflappable Gurdyman has been frightened, but by what? Where exactly are they going, and why? Why go now when its the worst time to travail and Gurdyman isn’t in the best of health? Lassair though is feeling her losses, poor Rollo, who died in the last book, and Jack, who so curtly rejected her so she’s ready for a change, and thinks maybe that’s why he chosen now to travel.

Like many historical reads the book is really about the gradual progress to the end, enjoying the journey the book takes us on, rather than racing to the finish. That’s good because I enjoyed that more than the actual revelations at the end.
We find the place where Gurdyman lived as a young boy, and where he furthered his education. There are more hints of some things that are a bit more Magic, than straight Healing, a trait only a few have, and of which Gurdyman has taught Lassair only the briefest history.
There’s an undercurrent of danger running through the book, of mystery, of evil and maybe harm, of things unspoken but feared, and Lassair finds herself puzzling what, why, who, where are they going etc. She has so many questions but Gurdyman reveals very little. I would be so burning with curiosity, Lassair is a better person ( all round) than me.
She learns more about herself, and things about her mentor which are hard to accept, but in contrast to that harsh fact, and the trials that undoubtedly lie ahead for her, she has a moment of happiness when Jack follows her on that perilous journey to ensure she’s safe. He’d only do that if he cares? Right? So thinks she, and I, and I so hope we’re right ๐Ÿ˜‰

Stars: 4.5 I’m hovering between four and five here, the main thrust of the story was fascinating, kept me guessing and engrossed, and felt so very real, I felt I was there in history and I love a story that can do that. Somehow though the answers to those questions Lassair ( and I) has weren’t as satisfying as I’d hoped. Though all was made clear it just didn’t really feel enough for me, and there were of course bits I wasn’t happy to read, disappointments in some people. That was just a fraction of the overall though so its a four and a half for me.

Arc via Netgalley

Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting: Master the meditative art of Japanese brush painting. Virginia Lloyd-Davies

Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting: Master the meditative art of Japanese brush painting.

Virginia Lloyd-Davies

Genre: Arts & Photography, Crafts & Hobbies

I’ve always loved the โ€œless is moreโ€ approach of oriental paintings. I struggle with the concept, and fiddle too much, and that loses the lovely light serenity of these works. This books shows me some of where I’ve been going wrong and has some simple exercises to get started along this way.
I enjoyed too the focus on mindful painting, ensuring you are in the correct way of thinking, relaxed, not rushed, that enables such simple but harmonious works. I can see that’s something I haven’t paid attention to enough in the past. I had noticed in my art that seasons and my mood influences what I paint and the results, but haven’t tried to consciously influence my mood. That’s something worth trying in future.

I quickly learned another reason my attempts have been massive fails. I have good watercolour paints, brushes and paper, but they are not correct for this type of work, and as the basics are inexpensive I’ve ordered a few brushes, a couple of pots of ink and some rice paper to try once more, and of course this time I’ll pay attention to my mood, my consciousness.

Its a beautiful book, simple and effective and one that’s well worth any artist taking a look. I have it as an e-book, but I think as for so much non fiction practical books a physical copy would be better, and of course allow me to really savour those gorgeous illustrations.

Stars: Five a fabulous practical book, for both painting and relaxation techniques. When my supplies arrive I’ll be trying out the exercises here and hopefully improve upon my past attempts at painting in this style.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Edit Dec 3rd. My rice paper arrived a few weeks back, brushes last week and yay, inks yesterday ( just black, couldn’t afford colours yet) so I’ll be playing later today hopefully. Hopefully I’ll have some pics to add to my review soon.

Izzy’s Christmas Star, Berni Stevens

Izzy’s Christmas Star, Berni Stevens

Izzy's Christmas Star: A perfect fun and heart-warming Christmas romance for 2019 by [Stevens, Berni]

Genre: Romance

Well, this was a fun read, one of my favourite genres, the rock star trope and of course choc-lit always deliver for me so I was looking forward to this.

Its an easy read, nothing too dramatic, a simple story. I really liked the characters, and the Santas added a quirky touch, but the lack of real drama made it a four star for me, not the magic five.
I was reading through, hooked onto what would happen next and about the three-quarter mark I was waiting for something to go wrong, as it usually does. Sadly for me its one of those reads where it doesn’t, it just charts the track of a sweet romance.
Izzy is a sweet character, felt like someone I could know and like. Seth too was past the rock star bit, and finds Izzy refreshing, not the shallow type he’s so used to. I loved the Christmas gifts too and the little touches like the impromptu Christmas concert. I love books set around this time of year, there’s something special and its easier to believe in a little supernatural help from Santa ๐Ÿ˜‰
There was the potential for some fireworks with an ex that won’t let go, but rather than any huge whizz-bangs its more of a wet sparkler effect. That could have developed into some real dramatics, and I was hoping, but doesn’t ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
Still, that’s me, I do love some drama and heartbreak in my happy stories, though of course they need to end well or I feel cheated ๐Ÿ˜‰ It has the perfect happy ending.

Stars: Four, a read I enjoyed,perfect to curl up by the fire and read on a wintry day. I’d need a bit of extra drama and heartbreak for a five, but four is well deserved.

ARC supplied by publisher

The Light in the Hallway, Amanda Prowse

The Light in the Hallway, Amanda Prowse

The Light in the Hallway by [Prowse, Amanda]

Genre: Women’s fiction, General Fiction (adult)

Gah, I hate Women’s Fiction as a genre heading, so outdated. Men and women can read the same books….its 2019, not 1919.

Anyway, that’s just my personal gripe so…the book. Wonderful. One more Amanda delivers a story that’s thought provoking, gripping, realistic and with gentle touches of humour when parts get too dark.
Nick, oh poor Nick. I’ve been there, had those days when you look around at the empty house and wonder โ€œis it really worth carrying on? What’s the point of it without your love beside you?โ€ Yet he finds the strength to continue, mostly for his beloved son Oliver, who’s also struggling, not just from having lost his mum to cancer, but with his first few weeks at university.
Nick talks to Kerry in his mind, seeking her advice, and I still do that with my husband nearly four years later. He pretends she’s just in another room, and that’s so real, I know I did that too, taking comfort from the fact that maybe, just maybe, they really could be there. Even now some nights I reach out in bed and pretend my arm is resting on his body. Logic tells you they aren’t there of course, but comfort lets you believe the lie for a bit longer.

Its seems like it would be a heavy, sad story but its not. As in real life things happen that tug at the heartstrings whilst making you smile. The three boys, Nick, Eric and Alex and of course Half Bike. That’s was such fun to read even while I shared their struggles. The story veers between Nick, Eric and Alex now and as young lads, when everything can be an adventure. I adored Eric, as a lad and a man. He had such a wonderful sense of humour, his constantly calling the others female names โ€œ You OK Shirley?โ€ stuff like that, he managed to make me smile even when I veered on tears.

Its not just a snippet of time, a vignette of life story, but one where the characters go through the tragedy of Kerry’s death, and try to move forward. Such is the way of life that it moves on whether we are ready or not, so we see Olly’s struggles at uni in his first days, Nick’s return to work, trying to pick up his life, and of course his sister in law who’s determined no-one will replace her sister.
Nick going to the shop the day after her death to be told by his mum he couldn’t, it Wasn’t Done. He’s so right when he says its like wading through a minefield of unwritten rules, never knowing when you’re about to break one. When he’s talking about it only being x months since Kerry died, and yet for him he’d been grieving ever since they knew she wasn’t going to recover, more than a year ealier. That’s so true, that last year they went through she was alive, but not really living, and I can see how Nick’s grieving started much earlier than people would suppose.

Slowly Nick starts to pick up his life and move forward, helped by his childhood friends, mostly the wonderful Eric. I adore that man, he made me laugh so many times with his phrases, and also made me tearful at what happened to him as a young lad.
Amanda really can write characters well, both as adults and as kids. I really believed in those boys, was there alongside them shouting sh it-sticks on the camping trips, searching for bits for the bike, heartbroken at the idea of Eric moving away. I keep thinking of little bits that made me laugh, other than Eric’s wonderful name calling, and one that just sprung in my mind was the baby, when the boys wonder how long are women pregnant. โ€œ They take at least a year to bakeโ€ says Eric knowledgeably, shocking Nick and Alex. I could just imagine the three of them mulling over the weird ways of adults.

Its a wonderful story, and one I really enjoyed once more. Amanda delivers the kind of story I love to read, real people, real scenes, stories that I can easily imagine happening, and of course always with an ending that neatly wraps things up. This time she really did bring things full circle, showing a path of happiness for these characters that had been through so much.

Stars: Five, another wonderful read. full of heartbreak and happiness, tears and triumphs.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Moonlight Kisses at Willow Tree Hall, Alison Sherlock

Moonlight Kisses at Willow Tree Hall, Alison Sherlock

Moonlight Kisses at Willow Tree Hall (The Willow Tree Hall Series Book 4) by [Sherlock, Alison]

Genre: Women’s fiction, Romance

Gah, I hate Women’s Fiction as a genre heading, so outdated. Men and women can read the same books….its 2019, not 1919.

Anyway, after having read the first three books this one was like meeting old friends again, with new ones in Jack and Lily. Although all the stories are connected you don’t have to have read them, each are stand alone romances, but if you have read them it adds a bit extra to the stories, seeing how couples are doing some time on from when we left them.

So many things about this book resonated with me, I share Lily’s List addiction, I have lists for everything. I don’t have Lily’s control issues though, I understand why she does but it makes things hard for those around her and in the early days at the Hall it makes it hard for the family and for Lily. She means well but its simply not working out.
I loved how all the characters pulled together, how the villagers rallied round, how Hazy Memory and the wonderful Alex were included in this story, not family but almost family by adoption.
Rose โ€“ I want to be here when I’m older! I adore her. When she’s talking about her Tinder dates and her sex life and grandnephew Sam makes an abrupt turn for fear of hearing more….Arthur, still the benevolent patient Earl, who sees beyond the obvious, who’s at much at home in Bert’s shed as he is in the stately grounds of the Hall.
Jack and Lily, a couple who are perfect but have past issues to get over first. Their backstory affected how they were today, the needed to look at that, understand it, before moving on.
Its a lovely story, full of little side plots and issues, of everyone pulling together for a common cause, of mishaps and mayhem, of the struggle to make the Hall profitable, or at least self supporting, of such wonderful characters, I felt as if I knew them personally.
Its chic-lit at its best, an easy read, some gentle romance, and a story to just sit and relax with. Of course normal things like Health and Safety, Food legislation, insurance etc have to be forgotten…. There’s no way today’s Red Tape would let half the things happen that do in this book. No selling cakes without inspections of kitchens, certificates, data sheets on every ingredient and traceability of it. No running a fete or launch without endless risk and safety assessments, signs everywhere warning of xyz, insurance to cover every possible event. I’m in favour of H&S, it has saved lives but somehow I feel we’ve gone too far the other way and where events like this were common when I was a kid everything get stacked against them now. The traditional British country fair is getting certificated out of existence, and as we see here it can benefit so many folk. It was wonderful to read things that I recall actually happening. I need to mention the apples though, 20-30 per tree is a pretty poor harvest. We used to get around 12-1500 from my four apple trees…
Lily’s family are struggling, all of them in a tiny cottage, her, mum, dad and granddad, and her dad has just given up on life, after his amputation. I found that a bit sad, life isn’t necessarily like that, most folk pick up and forge a new life as he is beginning to at the end of the book, but it was annoying to read at first, everyone mollycoddling round him, not expecting more. If that happens to you or yours don’t be like Lily’s family, don’t just assume for them life is over. I’ve been there, it isn’t!

Overall its a lovely relaxing read, full of country air ( I’m a country girl at heart), terrific characters, some slightly manic times, its a book perfect for a holiday read, or to escape real life for a few hours.

Stars: Four. Great relaxing read. Meeting the family again was like coming home.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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