Archive by Author | jeanniezelos

A Place to Belong, Abbie Williams

A Place to Belong, Abbie Williams

A Place to Belong: A Novel by [Abbie Williams]

Genre: 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, while reading this it had the feel of one in a series of connected books. The way the characters were intertwined, the places, and I checked – yes, Shore Leave Cafe series has many of these characters. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read any of the books, this story was perfect and complete. I have downloaded the first book though, its on KU and I love Abbie’s writing style.
I adored Wy and Millie. They were so clearly in love with each other though neither were open about it until finally, they told each other how they felt. They had a few short days of happiness before the axe falls. I cold see that one coming, but it was so well done that I didn’t mind.
I so felt for Wy, he was trapped, stuck, didn’t want to disappoint his family, wanted to do what was right, but it brought him heartache all round. He finishes his studies, lives his life as best he can, but never forgets Millie, always wishes it was her in his life. Still, he tries, he tries so hard, but he doesn’t have a happy life. Hannah was a great character, sadly there are people just like her and I do love to see them crop up in a story,. Her actions were so very real, and show how easily lives can be spoiled by a thoughtless action. She wasn’t happy either, even though she had what she wanted.
Millie, she’s devastated when Wy leaves, understands why, but it leaves a hole in her heart. She tries to get past him but he’s always there in her head, won’t leave her.
Its heart breaking, you can feel how much they love each other, how good they would be together, and yet they’re stuck, hundreds of miles apart, and no hope of a future. Millie too tries to move forward but can’t.
Much of the book is about them being apart, always loving each other but with no contact for years, and yet the love in their hearts is so strong no-one else stands a chance. I was heartbroken for them both, this scene gets played out in real life too often, and its not happy for anyone. I so wanted something to happen for them to be together, was almost holding my breath at times, and gutted when they were still apart. I don’t usually like romances where the main characters spend much of the novel apart, but it works here, and I loved this story.
I loved the equine parts too, I’ve also studied Parelli and adore horses, so I understood Millie so well.

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

Arc via Netgalley

Just Like You, Nick Hornby

Just Like You, Nick Hornby

Just Like You by [Nick Hornby]

Genre: Romance, General fiction|R

OK, confession time. I’ve never read Nick Hornby, and as I don’t have a TV I’ve never seen any film adaptations of his books. Yet his name is everywhere and when I saw this I thought maybe it was time….

So, what did I think? Well, sadly I guess Nick is one of those authors who many folk love but who’s work isn’t for me. I found this book really hard going, tedious, if it wasn’t a review I would have stopped at 30% when I was still struggling to get interested in the story. Sadly that first third I struggled with was the best part of the book too.

I liked Joseph, but he was a very typical 22 year old, not ready to settle with one person and apart form being attracted to Lucy I didn’t see why they were together. Likewise Lucy was a lady I felt for, failed marriage, elderly parents, mum of two young boys.
I loved her boys, at times they were the most honest out of all the folk in the novel.
There were times where Nick brought both Joseph and Lucy with others of their own age just to show they tried – that’s how it felt to me, but the people they were with just weren’t right for either regardless of the age issue.
Friends of both were predictable, Joseph’s friends denigrating him being with Lucy because she was white and older, likewise Lucy’s friends trying to be very middle-class polite about the fact Joseph was younger and black.

The book describes Lucy and Joseph’s other relationships as the perfect match, but we didn’t actually see any of that, they were just same age group, same colour, and had one shared interest. You could pull hundreds of perfect matches off a dating site if that’s the only criteria.

I hate that Joseph is portrayed as – well – not too bright. The Brexit issue, where he wavers, feeling he “ought” to vote one way or the other and then….his determination to make it as a DJ, but in fact though music and one song plays a big part I didn’t feel he was that invested in it. He didn’t know what were some common genres of music, when if he was serious he’s have been doing it not just talking about it. He wants to be a DJ but isn’t out there learning, helping another, finding out whats hot right now. The theatre where he doesn’t really know the story etc…it just felt he was a stereotypical black male, when the opportunity could have been to make him so much more.
He was a pleasant kid, and that was it really. He hadn’t grown much from teens, wasn’t ambitious, didn’t know what he wanted from life on a personal or professional level, he was just a typical new adult drifter, waiting to see which direction life takes him. Regardless of race that’s how things are for many early twenties kids.
Lucy, in contrast, was portrayed as very middle class, degree educated, English teacher, mum of kids, and a very “Boden family” type person, from her friends, her interests, her voting habits, everything apart from the divorce and her ex. She’s interminably living in her head, mulling over problems, worrying what her friends a family will think. She had friends she didn’t even like but was too polite to keep away from them. Her friends are very much the same mould – the start to that dinner party, “ oh, obviously you’re not Joseph!” The type who love to see themselves as open minded, liberalists and yet they’re inwardly horrified at Lucy being with a black younger man. Sadly had it been the other way round, older white guy with black younger lady they wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Sexism is still alive and thriving in some areas.

I suppose at the heart this novel didn’t ever give me the feeling there was anything more between Joseph and Lucy but hot sex. The interactions they had were mostly fraught with problems, prickly tensions over age and race. Lucy seems to endlessly mull on the age issue and Joseph having kids, thinking she’ll be gone by then, and Joseph thinks about the future in terms of someone, sometime, but who isn’t Lucy. I just can’t wee two people supposedly in love who would think that way without the demons of jealousy gripping them. The holiday – I found that really odd, there’s no way I could have done that. Invited, or gone, and it just reinforces to me that there was no grand passion, no real love between them.
The ending – well, I felt it was rushed and unsatisfactory. All the issues that plagued them through the book were still there, none were resolved, no action ever taken to deal with them, and yet somehow the last few pages magically make everything OK.

Stars: Two, I guess Nick is an author who’s writing others love but I don’t. I found the story had no real point, drifted along and relied on stereotypes that irritated me. It could have been so much more for me, but as ever its perfect for others.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Chasing the Wild Sparks, Ren Alexander

Chasing the Wild Sparks by [Ren Alexander]

Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction

* Sigh….women’s fiction…this is the 20th century, surely we’re beyond this kind of thing. Men write romance, men read romance, there’s no need for this category!

I was quite irritated as I got to middle of book and it became obvious this wasn’t a stand alone read. Please authors, tell us that upfront, its really irritating to get partway through a story and find out that way. At least with this the next four books are published. Yes, that’s right, this is book one of five. I’m fine with that if its known upfront, in fact I like these longer reads, they let the story and characters be fully explored.
So, Finn doesn’t want to marry but loves Hadley.
Hadley wants to marry and have a family. Tough one. Its clear they both adore each other and are deeply in love, but that’s two very opposite points, one is going to get upset. If Finn gives in will he resent Hadley later, if she accepts what Finn wants will she resent the lack of children later? I feel for them both, there isn’t an easy answer.
I understood Hadley’s distress at appearing to be hidden by Finn, he has reasons but doesn’t explain to her, and she’s beginning to feel like a dirty secret.
I didn’t like Hadley’s friends, Morgan seemed pushy while Rod….well, he’s crude and not funny IMO, and when he and Morgan are together its like listening to toddlers bicker, apart from the language being stronger. They really annoyed me.
I found the book slow to start, the story dragged, but now knowing there are four more books to fill I can see why. It feels like the story has been stretched to fit the size needed rather than the story itself dictating the length. Shorter and tighter would have suited me better. Still, I can see for many readers this is perfect as it is.
I’m undecided if I want to continue. If it was on KU I would…but I’m not sure that I’m intrigued enough to buy the next four books. I might try book tow and see from there, I would like to know what happens, how they resolve this dilemma but do I want it enough to buy four books? Can I stand reading more about Morgan and Rod. The bickering that for me isn’t funny, the language from Rod which is crude and juvenile, through more books? Its a shame that for me their issues overrode the story between Hadley and Finn, and that’s the one I really want to follow.

Stars: Three, a story I have mixed feelings over.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

An Enchantment of Ravens, Margaret Rogerson

An Enchantment of Ravens by [Margaret Rogerson]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

I have a real weakness for books set in the Fae world. I spent my Xmas book tokens on fairy stories when I was about ten. Mum said then I was too old for all that, but the magic of a Fae setting has never left me, I still adore those stories. Sorry Mum 😉
So, even with free review books, even with KU I still buy the odd book, and I splashed out £5.99 on this one. Its one I loved, I know I’ll reread, so its well worth it to me.

Its a fascinating read, the Fae are beings to respect, to be afraid of. They may look a little like humans, with their glamour covering their true appearance, but their nature is very, very much darker, very different. Some of them see humans as mere playthings, they talk about fifty, a hundred years back as if it was last week.
True to many versions of Fae Margaret’s Fae cannot use Craft, they cannot create, and like anyone, what they can’t do, can’t have they crave. That keeps Isobel in work, they love her portraits, and in payment she bargains for protections and other things her family need.

Even though she’s only seventeen Isobel feels much older. She has a maturity beyond her years. This is one of those books that could be aimed at YA market, but which appeals to readers like me, far beyond that demographic. Well written books cross boundaries, IMO, to have universal appeal.
I loved Isobel, her aunt, and of course her two “sisters” March and May. Theirs is a story that illustrates the caprice of the Fae….

There’s a good build up, letting the reader understand the world, while still keeping interest in whats happening. I loved reading about how they managed daily life, how the village of Whimsy was set away from the World Beyond. We saw glimpses of other Fae as they came to buy craft, and of course see how carefully the villagers treat them. Isobel is content, as much as she can be, with her lot in life until it all gets turned upside down when her latest sitter, Rook, takes her back to his estate, the Autumn Lands in a fit of anger. That starts a journey where their lives are under constant threat, where they have to take care in every movement, and where they come to rely on each other to survive, and gradually trust and then love each other. Along the way I fell a bit in love with Rook too…That love between them brings its own dangers though, and there are some very real trials if they want a happy ending, or even if they just want to stay alive.
As the story reaches its conclusion there are many twists and turns, and some surprises I didn’t see coming.
I really enjoyed this story, great characters, interesting plots and just enough of the day to day stuff to be absorbing and not boring.

Stars: Five, a great read. A story that totally engrossed me, and in the midst of Covid19 I’ve found my usual escape in books very difficult. This story did it, took me away from today’s issues and stress into another world for a couple of hours.

A Tainted Marriage, Regency Marriage Laws series, Julie Roberts

A Tainted Marriage, Regency Marriage Laws series, Julie Roberts

A Tainted Marriage: A captivating new Regency romance novel from Julie Roberts (Regency Marriage Laws 3) by [Julie Roberts]

Genre: General Fiction (adult)

I like to dip into historical fiction every now and then, everything seems gentler, less fraught, though of course life was still a real struggle for so many folk. I really enjoyed this read, it took some turns that I didn’t foresee and which were very real. I do like my fiction to have a sense of reality – even if its fantasy I need to think that events could actually happen that way. The things in this book, especially when Grace visits Greensleeves, I could see things happening just as they played out.
I really liked Grace, wasn’t so keen on Alex. I sort of understood his fears, but it was really hard on Grace and I could see how upset by things she was, and how she reached the conclusions she did. Later in the book it was easy to see why Alex, jumped to conclusions and I guess most would see things the way he did given the constraints on women at the time, the conventions of society that she wasn’t adhering to. Earlier in the book when he was so ,,dogmatic, autocratic, I’m not quite sure how to describe it, I had to keep reminding myself his actions were the norm for the time, when ladies were considered property of their husbands, of fathers, and decisions made for them. I guess that shows just how far we’ve come with women’s rights.
I was expecting a simple historical romance, what I got was just that, plus an interesting side story, that lifted the novel from “just” a romance, to a story that really made me think about conventions, about women’s rights, and about how easily some of these events could have turned to disaster for Grace. I even came round to Alex, he redeemed himself by his love for Grace and his willingness to admit where he’d been wrong.

Stars: Five, An enticing story with romance, drama, some fabulous obnoxious characters and a real flavour of the time.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales, by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales, by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

Grimms' Fairy Tales by [Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm]

Genre: General Fiction (adult)

First thing I noticed was the Genre category. Adult! Yet we think of fairy tales as childrens reads.
As a kid I devoured anything like this, many of these tales, the Greek and Roman legends, Aesop’s fables and more. If they were a little gruesome at times I coped, I certainly wasn’t scarred for life. They were my bedtime reading, torch under the covers as I was supposed to be asleep…..
I think we need to give kids more credit for understanding fiction, not pretty up old fairy tales ala Disney versions. Stop mollycoddling them, and let them enjoy fiction that can be a little darker at times.

So, TBH rereading this was a bit of a let down. I remember being absorbed by these tales, fully immersed in another world, but reading them as an adult I found them entertaining, interesting at times but ultimately a bit of a let down. That magic that had me so gripped seems to ave been lost, but I guess that what growing up does for you, throws in life and reality.
There were times with some of the stories when I though “ that wasn’t fair”, when I noticed that yet again the protagonists were young, handsome, beautiful, talented, treated badly by others, while the “bad” guys were always ugly, scarred, not very clever, in a place of power gained by evil means. Stereo-typing clearly started a long time back. Its odd because I don’t remember noticing when reading as a young girl.

If you’ve an interest in the real stories, not the pretty Disney versions then this is a great read, but if like me you loved it as a child, you might want to leave those happy memories untrammeled by the logic of adulthood, the cynicism of age.
Am I glad I read it? Well, a mix, I am disappointed at losing the childhood magic, but set against that it was fun to read the true versions, not the sanitized ones peddled now. And there were several stories I’d forgotten so that was fun, I guess its a 50/50 situation. What I lost in past magic was balanced by finding tales I’d forgotten.

Stars: Three, a good book, but I was disappointed at losing some of that magic surrounding the stories.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

He Owns My Heart, (Owned Heart, Body, & Soul 1), Evie Drae

He Owns My Heart, (Owned Heart, Body, & Soul 1), Evie Drae

He Owns My Heart: A Contemporary MM Romance (Owned Heart, Body, & Soul Book 1) by [Evie Drae]

Genre: M/M romance |M/M romance.

I enjoy a good M/M romance sometimes, I like variety in my reading. I was offered the chance to read this, and as the story extends into a trilogy I thought that hopefully we’d get a romance with some solid dramas. I do love lots of drama in romance 😉

Landon’s a sweet guy, you can just feel how he wants to be loved, for himself, not for his fame, not for what he can do for the other person, just for someone that wants him. Maybe that stems from his background, his family made it clear a gay son was not what they wanted. His dad’s in politics, and I’m thinking maybe in book two, or even three, we might learn more about him, and the conflict he perceives Landon’s sexuality to be.
Then there’s Toby, poor kid, has been brought into prostitution to help his family, and he lives an awful life. Then when they meet its clear that both can offer something to the other. But – sadly – I didn’t really feel the attraction somehow, I felt desperation almost, and of course some hot lust, but I wanted them to get to know each other apart from all the sex.

I think that’s my issue with the story, I like sex in a romance, but there was so much here it almost became all the story, and I found myself skipping yet another sex scene to get to what would happen. There’s so many potential plots, Landon’s family, Toby’s family, Toby’s awful situation and how Landon can get him out. Steffan, Landon’s friend, a sharp guy who feels like if he’s in your corner he takes no prisoners when it comes to defence. And of course Garret and the reality show saga ( why does anyone ever think its a good idea to do one of those?).
Garret had so much potential but he didn’t really get up to much til near the end, and even that bit of drama was over quickly. Its a personal thing, but I want to wallow a bit in the sad parts, and when the drama ends so quickly I don’t get that. I did feel too, after all the PI stuff and questions about how to help Toby, that resolution of that came way to quick. If it was that simple why not do it before? It kind of makes me feel maybe Landon wasn’t as certain of what he wanted do do as he appeared.

It reads well as a stand alone with a HFN, and I’m in two minds about whether I want to read more. There’s the potential of several problems and dramatics that naturally attracts me, but I was put off by the eternal sex scenes. I wasn’t bothered by the content, by the light BDSM, just that it seemed the story couldn’t progress more that a short while without yet more sex…..

Stars: Three, well written and for many readers its perfect. Its just my quirks that make me want a bit more story, a bit less sex.

Arc via author

Keep Her Quiet, Emma Curtis

Keep Her Quiet, Emma Curtis

Keep Her Quiet: The gripping new novel from ‘the queen of the unputdownable thriller’ by [Emma Curtis]

Genre: General Fiction ( Adult), Mystery and Thrillers

Wow, what a read, full of surprises I didn’t see coming. Some stories you can see way ahead whats going to develop but this one threw all the curve-balls….

Leo, what a narcissistic man, concerned only about himself. It made me wonder what Jenny ever saw in him. When she strays that one time she has no idea Leo knows the baby isn’t his and yet I felt it wasn’t so much for love of her he kept quiet but because he didn’t want to lose his cushy life that allowed him to be An Important Author. How much of that was down to his childhood, with a weird mother and a father who felt he’d had to give up his dreams of being an author to teach because of Leo. Who knows what shapes people, or whether they just are that selfish.
Jenny, poor Jenny. I don’t condone cheating but Leo must be a hard husband to live with, she had to do literally everything in their marriage, so the man could focus on his writing. He made that very clear, he was going to be a great Man, make his mark on the literary world and nothing would stop him. She strays just that once and that changes the direction of so many lives. I so felt for her, she had her life changed by things totally out of her control.
Then there’s Hannah, not much more than a child herself, yet abandoned by her family, abused by those she trusted and left to make her own way. She and Leo hatch a plan on the fly, trap each other into long standing events. In a way I understood her actions, and her later ones, though I found it hard to believe she would have acted that way. It proved to me really that however much I felt for her she was in her own way as selfish as Leo. Put herself above everyone else.
Then the later events of the book, well, once more we saw there was no end to Leo’s selfishness. He was callous in his musings about what to do, it was all about what worked best for him. At times it was incredible the way he casually went through possible scenarios, how he felt he’d had no choice, how he portrayed himself, even after these terrible actions, as a good guy, just doing his best in difficult circumstances.

Its a gripping read, stunning the way shock after shock gets delivered, the way that one cataclysmic event had consequences that lasted years, that get wrapped in lies, falsehoods, actions beyond imagining. I really didn’t see so many of the twists, big ones and even up to the end, smaller ones. That letter shocked me.
There’s one true innocent at the heart of this who gets a life she really didn’t deserve. I so felt for her. What long standing consequences could come from her innocent actions.

I think what I always had in the back of my mind too was this is so far fetched and yet…we see over and over it actually does happen. There’s one particular story that sticks in my mind from a few years back that reminded me so much of the events here, how we can do unimaginable things for our own ends, to save face, how we can justify wrongdoings to ourselves, telling ourselves we had no choice.

Stars: Five. A great read, full of surprises. The characters were so perfectly written, I felt as if I was there with them, a voyeur in their lives. A read to treasure, to whip out on a dull day and lose oneself in.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Photography Rules, Essential Dos and Don’ts from Great Photographers, Paul Lowe

Photography Rules, Essential Dos and Don’ts from Great Photographers, Paul Lowe

Genre: Crafts & Hobbies, Arts & Photography

Like many folk I love taking pictures with my phone. I do have a “proper” camera, albeit a few years old, but my phone is always with me for those spontaneous moments. I now have a phone with leica camera, and it has a host of selections that I have no idea how to use. I was kind of hoping there would be more nuts and bolts tips here, but this book really focuses ( hah, clever that!) on the actual subject, timing, framing and how to choose them.
There are pictures from other photographers and an explanation of what made them interesting, how the photographer would have viewed the subject, and I found those interesting. Its curious, what is it in a scene that makes us want to capture it? What I want to know is how to make that scene better, how to capture whatever it was that sparked my interest, and I didn’t really get that from this book. There were also a lot of images of photographers, which I found a bit strange, I can understand showing examples of their work to illustrate a point but not really why we needed a picture of them. I also felt much of the work was not really current. I know good images stand the test of time but I didn’t see much from recent times.

I was reading this on PC, and I feel this is one of those books that is best appreciated “in real life” as a physical book, not an electronic copy.
Maybe I would have been able to grasp more from the book that way, who knows, but though there were some tips I found interesting, overall this was just not what I was looking for.

Stars: Two. Not really what I was expecting or looking for. Maybe I’d have appreciated it more in a physical copy.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Love Scam, MaryJanice Davidson

The Love Scam, MaryJanice Davidson

The Love Scam (Danger, Sweetheart) by [MaryJanice Davidson]

Genre: Romance

I really wanted to like this, sounded like a fun and quirky read but sadly I just couldn’t get on with it, gave up eventually and DNF.
Rake is a barely functioning alcoholic, what Delaney saw in him I’ve no idea. When thwarted he acted like a petulant spoiled child, he rambled incessantly about unimportant things, and seemed to feel the answer to everything was to throw money at it. Not a nice man, and that was a real disappointment for me. Maybe he gets better as the book progresses, I struggled to 30% and gave up.
I’ve no idea what was going on with Delaney other than she had the patience of a saint with Rake, I’d have pushed him back in the lake…and Lilith is 11 ( I think) going on 111 in her speech and actions. Its clear she’s been through a lot and to have this self obsessed, spoilt man child as her possible father gave me shivers, heaven knows how she really felt.
I felt everything was so pushed, so full on, so more, more, more that it became confusing, the more I read the less I understood. I’ve enjoyed MaryJanice books before but this one just didn’t work for me. As always though it’ll be perfect for others, we all want different things and though I don’t like this you may love it.

Stars: Two, an OTT manic read, with a dislikable lead that just didn’t work for me

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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