Archive by Author | jeanniezelos

Commonwealth, Ann Patchett

Commonwealth, Ann Patchett

Genre:  General Fiction (adult), Literary fiction

Well, lots of rave reviews, an author who I’ve never read and a book that sounded interesting.
So loads of people love this book but for me? It just didn’t work.

I found the constant time changing choppy and confusing. One moment I felt the kids were small then we were reminiscing and they were adults. Then back to them as kids again…
I didn’t like the characters, didn’t understand what they did, why the did things and just felt I was reading day to day appalling parenting, reading about neglectful, selfish adults, bad decisions and after getting to 60% with a struggle I finally gave up.

I can see others love it, really adore it and that’s great. Its just isn’t one for me. That’s how reading is, what one likes another hates so make your own judgment, you could be among those who love this kind of read, or like me who don’t.
Its not a reflection of how good or bad a story is, just on how the reader enjoys it. I’ve loved books others have rated one and two stars, what they didn’t like is what made them perfect for me. this could be that book for you. Or not 😉

Stars: Two, I didn’t hate it so no one star from me but there wasn’t enough interest to keep me reading.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Aqua Follies, Liv Rancourt

Aqua Follies,  Liv Rancourt

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I loved this story, a great read, bringing in a very real feel of life in the fifties.
I was born at the very tail end of the fifties, but from my parents conversations about what they’d done this tale felt perfectly suited to the era.
Even in the sixties there was an emphasis on going out for entertainment. TV was limited, we didn’t have one like many families until i was maybe 9 or 10, and even then it was limited- no 24 hr TV, only two channels, definitely no daytime TV so we had to do things, not sit indoors. Carnivals, festivals etc all took place in the tiniest of villages even, with everyone turning out for what was a break from the usual work, home, sleep routine. As kids we were involved too so a festival like Aqua Follies which wouldn’t get off the ground now would have been high profile for many people. Liv does a terrific job or bringing that era to light.

Of course that makes it all sound like utopia, sunbeams and rainbows when it was anything but. Some of us lurked outside events, lacking the entry fee, trying to soak up a bit of atmosphere from the distance. There wasn’t parental leave, childcare etc in jobs so we were bundled off to others or left to roam when parents were working. It was work or starve, pay the rent or out, and Human Rights Act was a far off dream…
Life was tough if you were ordinary, toed the line, conformed, but if you dared to want a same sex relationship – woe is you….Still illegal back then. ( I’m not really sure when that changed, need to have a look at that) It was awful and guys like Russel didn’t even want to admit to themsleves they liked other men.
Its so sad, that pressure to conform, to stay safe and legal led to many marrying when there was no way they’d be fully happy. Russel certainly wouldn’t be and poor Susie, having a husband that doesn’t really love her. Sooner or later she’d realise that, and that’s what happened to so many couples, marrying to hide they really wanted a same sex relationship, but brought up to think it was perverted, against the Church, and risking prison if caught.
We’re a weird, judgmental group us humans.

I loved Russel and Skip. Skip’s sure in his desires for men, has found a group and places where he’s reasonably safe, but of course the police were given a pretty free rein then and he’s got one that keeps a close eye on him, never missing a chance to nip, berate, harass him.
Police brutality and harassment wasn’t recognised then so Skip had to just try to keep out of his way.
I loved Skip’s mum, in a sanitorium with TB, as happened to many then. The Fresh Air stance is very true, there was one near where I live and the huts were left open on one side all year round believing that it helped the lungs. Must have been pretty cold in winter!
When Skip is worried about being convicted, even if its a fine and caution he rightly says he’ll find it hard to get work. Who wants someone with a sex caution teaching music to their kids, joining their orchestra, working in their firm and of course without income he wouldn’t have anywhere to live, even if he could get a landlord to rent to someone with that on their record.
The world was a different place then, though some things seem good, there were things like this that made it a hard place for so many.

Russel, he sort of thinks he’s happy with Susie, there’s no grand passion but he has nothing to contrast with how he feels so he think that’s normal.
He knows his mum has been withdrawn after his brother died in Service, and he thinks it will make her happy if he gets married,so he’s planning to ask Susie to marry him – til he sees Skip. One look and he’s hooked, one word and he knows what he has with Susie isn’t Love.

What happens now though? What will they do, can they do living so far apart, when men cannot live openly with, be in a relationship with other men.
Is there a way through or are they a doomed, never to be together couple. And can he settle for Susie if that’s so?

Reading through the blurb I saw this was edited by KJ Charles, one of my favourite M/M authors – actually The favourite, she’s my number one for that genre, and it made me wonder if she had much influence over this book.
At the end reading through Liv’s explanations of how this book came to be she’s had the input of many people and it reminded me of the “it takes a village to raise a child” phrase. Maybe it takes a Team to raise a successful book.
Certainly its worked well this time, and its a great author who listens to critics, and shapes the story while still keeping it essentially the one they had in mind. You can please some readers some of the time and all that….

Stars: five, an enjoyable read, taking me back to a time when homosexuality was still illegal, still seen as perverted.

ARC supplied for review purposes by author

Owl and the Electric Samurai, Kristi Charish

Owl and the Electric Samurai, Kristi Charish

Owl and the Electric Samurai (The Owl Series) by [Charish, Kristi]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

I loved the first two novels but this one was, to be honest, a bit of a slog 😦
I’ve loved Owl, her kind of skewed world views, and yet underneath you know she cares deeply for her friends, that she’s moral, will always do the right thing, for people anyway even if artifacts are a bit of a grey area….but in this book she came over as a bit self centred, kind of blowing off issues that her best friend Nadya was dealing with, acting pretty cold towards Rynn at times.

I love Rynn, but in this book they felt more like two people working together who didn’t really like or respect each other, and though its clear Rynn cares deeply for Owl, would do almost anything to keep her safe she really wasn’t looking out for what was going on in his life, seeing his POV, seeing what he was worried about, didn’t really take Nadya’s issues seriously, only as far as they affected her.
This book seemed to be Only Worry About What Concerns Owl…and I didn’t like that, that wasn’t the person I knew from book one.
Then too there’s the whole Electric Samurai…its not Owl V the ES, its Owl searches for the ES. The Electric Samurai itself doesn’t really come into play til the end.

I had issues with Owl and Rynn jumping form one hot-spot to another, escaping by the skin of their teeth, jumping from country to country, and the non stop action that was hit, done and over just in time for the next issue got dull.
I wanted more in depth detail, to know exactly how they did things, how they escaped, not toss in a few whiz bangs and they’re out, but that’s how each drama began to feel to me. Just more of the same, another place where everyone wants a piece of Owl and she escape barely to fall into the next drama.
I’d have liked a bit more day to day details, more conversations that didn’t just involve “how are we getting out of this mess” type of thing. Less skin of teeth and bombs, less Carpe doing some amazing tech stuff, characters suddenly dropping in unexpectedly and a little more reality.
Back to one of my bugbears, the This just couldn’t happen problem. There’s an IT Acronym IFTTT (If this then that) where if one thing happens its the trigger for another action, and when I’m reading I want to believe that if this one thing/action/event is real it could trigger a defined reaction, but too often in this story I didn’t feel the first issue could be real, it lacked that believability factor, which meant that the action that followed felt wrong to me.

There were parts I enjoyed, and the whole story is so unique that it was really refreshing to read when the series started, but now its seems to have moved away from that and I just need a little less action a little more conversation….A bit more reality even though its fantasy.
How does Owl get from country to country without getting stopped at usual channels ect, without ever having any luggage? She never seems to eat or drink, need to shower, sleep, feed Captain, you know, all the everyday dross that makes a story feel real.
I don’t need loads, just a little to ground her, make things feel real.
She just flips from one country at the end of a chapter and on first page of next chapter she’s where she needs to be, and I’m thinking “but how??” Especially given Captain is with her. Travelling with a huge cat isn’t easy…and where does she keep getting cat carriers?
It is a very complex world blending real world with the fantasy game playing base Shangri-La, but it felt increasing detached to me from the characters and settings we started out with in book one.

Then the ending…no………How could Kristi leave us like that? I’d almost decided this was it for me, wondering whether I really wanted to continue with the series but I can’t stop at this point, I’ll have to see how it plays out and hope a return to the styles of books one and two are forthcoming.

Stars: Three, a bit hard going this installment. Hopefully book four will bring a return to the style of the first two.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Di Marcello’s Secret Son, Rachael Thomas

Di Marcello’s Secret Son, Rachael Thomas

Di Marcello's Secret Son (Mills & Boon Modern) (The Secret Billionaires, Book 1) by [Thomas, Rachael]

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

So, every now and then I want a dip back to an old fashioned, easy to read romance, usually after reading several intense contemporary romances or a string of fantasy/paranormal.
Its kind of like palate cleansing between courses, something fairly innocuous to clear the taste. This was just too innocuous though, too bland. I felt I was reading the same scenes over and over again.

Sadie would bear a grudge, then give in to Antonio, then something would be said and its grudge time again.
Antonio would be bitter about being kept away from Leo, then they’d get hot and heavy and everything would be wonderful for a short time, sometimes a very short time, just minutes. Something would be said and its Cold Wars all over again.

TBH I didn’t feel any connection between the two, found it hard to believe that undercover persona worked so well, and as for the Secret he’s holding about his first marriage. Yeah, that was pretty easy to guess.
Sadly not one for me, but everyone is different, its could be perfect for you – you chose.

Stars: Two, its me not the story, some will love it, I didn’t.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Just for the Holidays, Sue Moorcroft

Just for the Holidays, Sue Moorcroft

Just for the Holidays by [Moorcroft, Sue]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

I wanted something light, after a few dark, heavy reads and this was perfect, letting me relax while reading, lifting my mind up to bright and happy. Its not all smiles though, there’s some pretty sad moments, very real issues that will face many of us at some point in our lives.

So we start on holiday with Leah, and her sister’s family. It ought to be wonderful, relaxing, lazy days by the beach followed by nights spent with good food, wine and conversations. Well, that’s what * should * have happened. Instead poor Leah finds herself being a temporary parent to teens Jordan and Natasha, while her sister makes sporadic, desultory attempts to sort her life out, and her brother in law is mending a badly broken ankle….
Thankfully next door provides a distraction in the shape of hunky Ronan and his teen son Curtis.

Michele, Leah’s sister is a selfish woman. She’s two lovely teens – well, lovely as teens can be ;-), a husband who’s a kind, caring, responsible man and yet like many she’s discontented, has thrown herself into an affair with a younger man. Now she’s pregnant with her formerly happy, easy life strewn around her in ruins, blaming everyone but herself. I was so angry with her.
I haven’t patience with the “we just fell in love” mantra. There’s always a point when the harmless glances and occasional flirty chat moves forward, and its at that point a spouse should stop. Its not hard. just do the right thing.
Of course that’s not what they want, and Michele moves forward telling herself they can’t help it, ignores the heartbreak she’s going to rain down on her lovely family.
Sort your family issues out first is my solution, then once you’re separated there’s time for someone new.

And that’s my rant over, but you can see why I was so angry at Michele.
Right from the start she’s leaving Leah to do everything; shopping, cleaning, cooking, looking after the kids, citing morning sickness and feeling unwell as an excuse to stay away from anything resembling work/responsibility.
She’s actively jealous of Leah’s career, her child free life, but as Leah reminds her, she chose a different route, she shouldn’t be expecting Leah to take over her life now she doesn’t like it.
Her husband Alister is a lovely man, adores his kids and is trying hard to be civil, but his world has crashed and Michele isn’t making things any easier.
The kids were great, typical teens, ever hungry, full of energy – until they’re asked to do something of course, and they adore Leah. Until now she’s been cool auntie but now she’s a mum substitute, and after Alister’s injury a dad one too…
Teens are a mix, grown and wanting to be adults one moment but still kids inside and Michele’s actions have a huge impact on them.

Then there’s the family next door, Ronan and his son Curtis.
Curtis soon throws in with Jordan and Natasha, and the three are together having fun most days – and evenings.
Leah’s cooking is fantastic, she’s a trained chef, and soon they’re spending mealtimes with the family.
Ronan and Leah are attracted but the course of true love and all that…hasn’t hardly time to run smooth here with all the things being thrown up against it.

Its a fabulous read, heady warm summer days abroad, fabulous food – and lots of decadent chocolate desserts. The characters are a real mix of families, ones we all know, issues many of us have faced one way or another, and throughout I was rooting for Ronan and Leah, they’re two great guys and deserve each other. They’ve both been let down badly by others in the past, Leah especially is affected still by a past relationship that went bad, so though I wanted them to be together I kind of sympathised when I could feel her drawing barriers up.

A story that was fun, felt very summery, with real characters, ones we know, can feel have genuine issues and problems that face many of us at some points in out lives.

Stars: five, a fabulous summery read, with real people and genuine scenes.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Another Postcard, (Stone Butterfly Rockstars 1), Elle Christensen

Another Postcard, (Stone Butterfly Rockstars 1), Elle Christensen

Another Postcard (Stone Butterfly Rockstars Book 1) by [Christensen, Elle]

Genre:  Romance, New Adult

I love rock band romances, so was excited to get this but….somehow I’m at odds with all those five star reviews I can see as for me this just wasn’t a five star read. I hate hate it when that happens 😦   * sigh *

There were parts of the story I enjoyed, that were well put together and fed me into the band aura, that made me feel I was there with them living the dream. That was the actual touring and writing/creating music and lyrics, it felt very realistic.
I love when a book does that, actually incorporates the whole band ethos, rather than just having the lead character be a band member but not actually writing about the scene in a bland, generic way.
I liked the band members, and could feel the sizzle between Levi and Brooklyn right from the start.
I just felt the first half dragged though, that nothing really happened except Brooklynn joined the band, and we met her sister.

The postcards from the title didn’t really play a part until the second half, and I’d a pretty good idea early on who was behind things.
I didn’t really get a sense of danger and suspense from the read, didn’t ever really feel there was any real issues here, and when things did take a turn for the worse it was kind of quickly wrapped up glossed over and tidied up, leaving Brooklynn and Levi free to follow their hearts. That just felt too slick, too easy and I’d have liked a little more reality here.

Sorry, a well written read that many will love,but just an OK, nothing special, read for me.

Stars: Three, well written story which didn’t play out as I’d hoped.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Summer Stock, Vanessa North

Summer Stock,  Vanessa North

Summer Stock by [North, Vanessa]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

I’ve loved several of Vanessa’s stories now so looked forward to this. It was a good read, but for me not a great one. Somehow I just wasn’t as glued to my kindle, transfixed by the tale as I have been with her other reads.

Its a fun read, has a real feeling of Summer, and here in the UK seaside towns like the ones I have either side of the village where I live have Summer theatres just like the one in this book so that felt very real to me.

I liked both Trey and Ryan but didn’t really get a great sense of them as people. Usually I have a kind of mental image, not so much a visual one, but of what kind of people they are and for whatever reason this time I didn’t.
I understood Ryan’s need for a bit of anonymity, but I’m not sure it was going to happen in a public theatre.
I really felt for Trey and what he’d been through, abuse can and does happen in all walks of live and the way he was picking himself back up but sometimes had problems and flashbacks, the way he was with the counsellor and the solutions they spoke about gave a sense of reality to the situation. I’m lucky, never been in that place but so many have and its good to see it treated sensitively and sensibly. Its not something one can shake off overnight or with a few sessions of counselling.
They were terrific characters as individuals, i just wasn’t so convinced by them as a couple.

I loved seeing the other characters here too, Mason and Caroline, theatre owners, the rest of the cast, Trey’s sister and her husband. They’re a good tight knit group, as happens in this kind of situation. Trey’s dog, Ferdinand, was a star too!!

Stars: Three, a good story, great characters but the romance didn’t quite cut it for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Back to Us, Phlox Beauty Series Book 2, Julia Gabriel

Back to Us, Phlox Beauty Series Book 2, Julia Gabriel
Back to Us (The Phlox Beauty Series) by [Julia Gabriel]

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

I loved Julia’s DRawing Lessons and Chiarascuro, but somehow I missed the first book in this series, featuring Jared and Phlox. They appear in this book too as secondary but important characters and I worked out much of their backstory from that but its a book I’d like to read. sometimes. when the TBR list drops a bit….

So even though this is a second in sereis its a stand alone, and it didn’t matter I hadn’t read book one.
I really enjoyed this story, felt so much for both characters and as before Julia doesn’t just stick to a standard romance of man meets woman, they fall in love, have a hiccup and then a HEA. No, Julia adds more and that’s what makes it perfect for me.
Its not just that Colt and Zee were in love four years ago, not that they are perfect for each other, but that they somehow lost their way, had a big breakup but after being captured and tortured Colt had lost huge chunks of his memory, including the fact he doesn’t live with Zee now….

Poor Zee comes home after a busy day, crawls into bed, only to find Colt in it. Colt who she’s not heard from in four years after living with him for a while and he left!
What a huge shock..and then he explains and she feels for him, but won’t open her heart again, it took her too long to recover the first time.
Since then she’s had more issues with her love life, when her lover who worked for the company she and best friend Phlox own sabotaged it, and nearly brought it to collapse. Its taken hard work and money to keep things going, and somehow Zee feels all the blame, has lost confidence in her judgement so has sworn off men.
And then Colt comes back, and she can feel him all over again, feel how right for her he is. Still, the reasons the broke up were solid, she can’t let herself go that route again.

Colt goes to stay with Max, her grandfather and the man who inadvertently brought them together.
He was Max’ writing professor, and there’s still a lot of respect between them. Colt has literally just left hospital and doesn’t know where he lives, doesn’t have access to his bank, which was emptied by his captors, so is in a really hard postition. As well as the memory loss, he’s physically weak from being beaten and starved and having a badly broken leg.
The trauma has left him with nightmares and he keeps losing bits of the present, such as forgetting where he is, right now. Its clear he can’t live alone so Max takes him in, although he’s away for a few days.
The first night he has a terrible nightmare, and in desparation somehow phones Zee, who collects him, takes him home and he ends up staying there for a few days til everything is sorted.
Of course Zee can’t stay in bed when she can hear him screaming in terror – who could, and slowly he works his way back into her heart.

She won’t tell him why they split up though, still trying to keep him at arms length and like Colt I was desperate to know. And when we did find out I was heartbroken for her, even though knowing Colt’s background I can see why he made the decision he did.
We all think time is limitless when we’re young, that there’s another chance, another time. Carpe Diem is a good motto, who knows what’s round the corner?
Trouble is when its two people who have different priorities for right now, different things they want to seize on the day.

Poor Zee, still working long days, trying to assuage her guilt over the sabotage, trying to put things right even though it wasn’t her fault, and now she’s more pressure with Colt back in her orbit.
He’s determined to wear her down, to get her back. he knows that for him she’s it,. and now he’s a better sense of life priorities.
Zee can’t trust he’s changed though, and she’s her own background issues to contend with. her mother is famous, an award winning actress and for much of Zee’s life she was dragged around, tutored privately and following her mother as she worked on yet another film. Her only stability came from her grandparents and after her grandmother died Max is the closest person in her life.

Its a book full of love, full of small and bigger dramas and one I loved. I was so wanting Zee to let Colt in, so understood why she didn’t though and was engrossed in seeing how on earth Julia could resolve things for them. And she did, in a perfect way.

Stars: five,a lovely story, sensual romance, with real issues and characters

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

So Wicked, Melissa Marino

So Wicked, Melissa Marino

So Wicked (Bad Behavior Book 3) by [Marino, Melissa]

Genre: Romance

I was in the mood for something light and flirty so chose this one. Well, it is light and flirty but also has some heat and a solid romance behind it.
What coloured it too much for me though was Alexis’ past. I just couldn’t respect or like someone who could do what she did. I know there were reasons, I know its all explained later in the book, but for me that just didn’t fit, didn’t excuse her actions.

Though I’d have loved her if I’d met her as she’s presented in the novel if I didn’t know her past, I did know and I found that changed all that I thought about her…..Wrong? Maybe but internal issues and bias often affect what we read and how we feel about stories and characters.

I could see easily how she and Marshal disliked each other – or hated on Marshals part! The way they slipped slowly into them having a relationship didn’t feel right though, just felt a little forced to me.
I did love the bar and the cake parings, my mouth was watering at some of the desserts.

If you want a quick sweet romance and can get over Alexis actions then you may love this.
If you’re a surly, judgmental person when it comes to book characters then like me you may find things too difficult to get past.
I can’t help how I feel, a well-written book brings characters to life, and then of course I think and judge them as real people.

Stars:Three, a good read with some gentle humour, a real light chick-lit story for summer on the beach.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Faking It, Christine d’Abo

Faking It, Christine d’Abo

Faking It (Ringside Romance Book 2) by [d'Abo, Christine]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I really enjoyed book one in this series, which was also a first read of Christine’s books. Book two is Max and Grady, Max being involved in Ringside as well as owning a busy nightclub.
I loved that we met Zack and Nolan from book one again too.
Grady kind of stumbles into Max life, escaping from his bullying father, his unwanted fame and now he discovers he’s not escaped.
Dad’s taking advantage of the Gay side of him, hoping to cash in on the Liberalist views, marry Grady off to the son of a wealthy connection and bring even more profit to his investments.
Poor little rich boy….and yet Grady’s likable, we can see that underneath his seeming to despise his father he really just wants his approval. But that’s not been forthcoming for a long while, and Grady isn’t prepared to marry a stranger just to get it.
Max seems like an honest guy, he didn’t try to rip him off when he had the chance, didn’t snap photos or tell stories to the press, and he wonders – would he pretend to be engaged if they agree a suitable recompense? It would only need to be for a few weeks.
Max’s first thought is no, he feels sorry for Grady, is of course strongly attracted and knows that’s reciprocated but no, just no, he can’t do it. Well, until something happens to change his mind on the spur of the moment.

Its a fun story, I liked Grady and Max, loved seeing updates on Zack and Nolan but overall it was a bit ..slow. There was lots going on but it was all very subdued, understated and when it came to the wrap up, I just couldn’t really see it happening that way. It was such a complete turnaround that it didn’t feel real, and that’s a kicker for me, situations need to feel that they could happen. This time I didn’t see how it could roll out that way.
Its still a good read, a well written story with the good sex v story balance that book one had for me. I hate when sex overtakes the story, for me that just doesn’t work, but this read had it just right.

Of course the lack of drama and the ending that didn’t work for me will be perfect for others. Such is life so make your own judgement, if you liked soft and understated romance this could be just right for you. I love drama and an element of realism, and that lack was what brought it down for me.

Stars:Three, a good story but I felt for me it needed more drama and a bit more realism in the ending.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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