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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.

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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.

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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

Echoes, Maeve Binchy

Echoes, Maeve Binchy

 

Genre: | General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

Bah! Women’s Fiction. Its 2020, not 1920 folks, Men write romance, men read romance.
Its years since I read a Binchy book. I’d forgotten how she takes you on a journey through the characters lives. She doesn’t just tell a story, she shows the progression of events and the characters growing along with them. I love that, a story where time is measured in years not just days.
We meet Clare and David when they are just children, living in the same town but with Clare’s family running a small shop and David’s dad being the local gp they are socially well apart. David mum certainly lives up the the Lady of the Manor ideal, she’s a real snob, but his father is wonderful to everyone. David being an only child after numerous miscarriages his mum devotes her life to him, and that creates certain pressures.
Clare is wonderful, fiercely intelligent and determined to get educated to the highest point, she has her life mapped out, and with the help of a wonderful schoolteacher Angela she’s on her way up.
I loved reading about them growing up., Clare and her family, bickering with her big sister Chrissie, working at her lessons, and then as she’s older, taking care of family problems. Angela the schoolteacher, with one face on the surface, and hiding secrets below it. Gerry the town heart throb, he’s one of those folk you can’t help but like, clever, and also opportunistic, he’s got the art of wooing the ladies down pat, but never dates them, its just fun and free with Gerry. He’s got hidden depths too.
I really enjoyed the story, the way things unfolded, the way we see behind the doors, to whats really happening. My heart broke for one person, and I was so angry at the [person who did it. Kidding themselves they weren’t doing any harm. Yes, of course its all OK. We know fine well that if things were the other way round they wouldn’t be. I’m talking in circles here, when you read the story you’ll know what I mean.
As well as the good, the bad and the indifferent characters there’s one bad seed, one person who’d always out for themselves, not matter who gets hurt in the process. I love a character like that, someone who really doesn’t care about the feelings of others, but just takes what they want.
Its a fabulous story, slowly unfolding, revealing hidden secrets, prejudices, ambitions, and of course Love.

Stars: Five, a fabulous slow to unfold novel, letting the characters really shine through, tell the story. Its heartbreaking at times, and a definite reread book.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Love Disregarded, Rachel Blaufeld

Love Disregarded, Rachel Blaufeld

Love Disregarded by [Rachel Blaufeld, Pam Berehulke]

Genre: Romance|R

I’ve mixed feelings about this book. I loved Bex, but when it came to Aston she was a bit of a doormat. I loved Aston too, it was clear how he felt about Bex but…he let money and revenge guide him. That was OK ish when they were young, we all make mistakes, especially when young. We haven’t yet had enough life to assess whats important. When they reconnected though that first time Aston did it again, without the excuse of age. Then after years he decides he wants her and now….and she really just rolls over. Yes, I got that they had a Grand Passion, but the hurts of the past were still there. They had that passion then, this time they’ve both got others to consider, not just themselves. If I was Bex I’d have made him work Much Much harder the third time.
I felt for Seth, he was just there. Used TBH and though Bex came to love him – sort of – it wasn’t the passion she had for Aston. Poor Seth could never live up to that. Never the less he’s a good guy, really steps up even when faced with unwanted surprises. He got a hard time IMO.
Milly and Mike, loved them. Hope things worked out for them.
The kids, all of them, were great. Really well balanced considering all they went through.
Aston’s parents, weak mother, vicious and cruel father. It kind of excuses his actions a little IMO, but only a little and only when he was younger.

Overall its a mixed book for me. I loved the passion, the so strong feelings between Bex and Aston. I loved the angst, I can never get too much of that, and would have liked it to last a bit longer. I hated that she let him get away with so much, and even up to the end he was just steamrollering his way through, expecting everyone to fall in line with his plans. It doesn’t matter if they were good plans, I felt for a solid future Bex needed to make him understand they were a partnership, she had equal say, not just let him carry on as before.

Stars: Three and a half, a good read but I had quite a few reservations about parts.

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Side Trip, Kerry Lonsdale

Side Trip, Kerry Lonsdale

Side Trip by [Kerry Lonsdale]

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

* sign * Women’s fiction again, oh how I hate that outdated category. Its 2020, an outdated category.

Anyway, I love Kerry’s stories, and was keen to see where this would take me. It was incredibly emotional, heartbreaking for both the young Joy and the person she is now. She’s doing her dead sister’s bucket list, mirroring what she thinks her sister wanted in life. Joy has her life planned to Judy’s lists for her future, and they are pretty fixed but Joy feels she needs to follow them. I felt she was so entrenched in Judy’s would-be life she has repressed her own wants and needs, its clear that she isn’t enjoying things in the way she expected. There’s no room for spontaneity in her life, its only whats on one of Judy’s lists that’s allowed. So what on earth happened to let Dylan on the trip with her? Well, blame Judy’s list for that :-), fortunately it has things that push Joy out of her familiar zone and having Dylan along helps her cross things off the list.
Dylan is totally opposite to joy, on his own private trip, he’s all for free spirit, no plans, spontaneity, his views are so opposite to Joys, and yet the two get on so well. I loved Dylan, was intrigued by his reasons for making the journey when it was so clear he hated what he was doing.

Both Joy and Dylan are in a way escaping from their pasts, affected by what happened then, even to the current day. The novel breaks into time periods, the past, the present and the future ( which is of course also the present). I don’t usually like stories set out like this. I find it frustrating, as just as I’m desperate to know more then time zones jump, but here Kerry keeps it short so it works – and works well. I was in tears more than once, and towards the end I was devastated. Gutted. Ugly crying. I really didn’t think that was coming, I almost stopped reading. I’m so glad I continued to the epilogue though – it was perfect. Wonderful. Satisfying. And cleverly done.

Its something I again don’t usually like, have only seen it done as a kind of escape effect when writer seemed desperate to get the H out of a situation that seemed to have no answer. Here though, I should have kept in mind the plots premise of fate v the what if’s.
“ What if Joy and Dylan had exchanged last names? What if he’d told her she made him believe love was worth the risk? And what if they hadn’t made that second deal when they couldn’t say goodbye?”
Its so important to bear that in mind and keep reading. I didn’t and it wasn’t until I re-read the description just before writing my review that I realised how intentional it was, and it made sense. Its a plot device I’m still not a fan of, but it works here. For me though it did mean I dropped half a star, as even though it works I just don’t like that kind of mechanism for a story. Maybe if I’d realised at the time I was reading, rather than next day just prior to review. If I’d not been reviewing I wouldn’t have read the description and realised that it was intentional, part of the “what if” premise that’s integral to the story. That’s my personal issues though, and of course others will feel very differently. A really emotional read.

Stars: four and a half. I’m being picky but I can’t get past how easily I could have missed that a huge part of the story was intentional, and not just the plot device I’ve seen before and disliked.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

One To Watch, Kate Stayman-London

One To Watch, Kate Stayman-London

One To Watch: real love . . . as seen on TV by [Kate Stayman-London]

Genre: Women’s fiction, Romance,

Arghhh, Women’s fiction again. Why? Why assume men won’t read this? Men write romance, men read romance.

This was a real treat to read. Somehow Kate brings in so many minority groups, plus size, black/coloured/LGBT/even asexual, and that rarely crops up. You missed my group though Kate ;-( Disabled. Wheelchair users very rarely crop up in romance, yet we want love too.
Still, it was wonderful to see so many groups here and brought in as part of the story, everyday stuff, not a triumphal “ wow!! look! A minority person!” I so hate the token folk – usually LGBT – that are the stereotyped lip service to inclusion in so many novels.

Anyway, the writing was sharp and funny, very on-point, I loved it. I really felt for Bea. She’s the odd one out in a happily married family, and knows her parents love her but inside she misses what the rest of the family have. She’s successful, loves her work, has good friends and yet still there’s that tiny bit that you can feel she misses, will she get love? Is she doomed to forever reminisce about her lost love?
Why don’t programmes like so many people’s secret addiction reality shows have people like her, minority groups, she wonders. So after her diatribe on exactly that, when the programme wants her to be their next star, she stipulates she does not want 25 of the usual, white, well muscled males but a group that represents reality.

There were some fabulously funny moments, and some emotional ones that made me almost tearful. Surprises? They are there in spades, this was a totally unpredictable novel and I loved that I just didn’t know what would happen next. The clothes she got – I know nothing really about fashion, so the names went over my head but the descriptions sounded so perfect. I want a clock like that first one!
I loved the mix of men, guessing who really meant what they said, who was just there for publicity, who was secretly thinking about Bea’s weight in an unpleasant way. ( Way to go Tim! Bea’s brothers certainly teach an excellent lesson in respecting their sister! )
Then there’s the wonderful dates, so enjoyed reading about them. Balloon trips, museums and art, Marrakesh and camel rides, just wonderful.

The ending? TBH I’m not wholly convinced by how it played out. I want to be, but after all the things she’s been through I’m not entirely certain its a HEA, but its certainly HFN.
I’ve seen some criticism of the way its laid out, tech style, and that made me cautious. I’ve tried – and failed – to enjoy books written in film script style, and was concerned this might be. Its not. There are a lot of email/twitter posts but that was fine. I use those everyday so embraced it, and it gave a way of the story connecting to the outside ( of the tv prog) world easily. I’m 62, its not a book just for the young, tech savvy people.

Stars: Difficult, I’d say five but I’m not entirely happy about the ending. So four and a half, the rest is just perfect and well done for all that inclusivity but fitting the characters in so naturally. Real world.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Just Saying, Sophie Ranald

Just Saying, Sophie Ranald

Just Saying: An absolutely perfect and feel-good romantic comedy by [Sophie Ranald]

Genre: Humour, Romance,

My first Sophie Ranald read, and what fun it was. I really enjoyed this, laughed at parts and had tears at others. Its a very apt book with the #metoo still causing notice, and of course stories from the Windrush generation. .

I loved Alice, she was like so many people I know, internalising hurts, showing one face to the world while feeling very different inside. I think what I found so, so sad was her reaction to what happened, to blaming herself for not doing anything to stop it. That doesn’t make her complicit, its a natural reaction to shock, and yet still something used as a defence far too often. Victim blaming – despicable defence.

When Alice met Joe it was a perfect match. Joe is wonderful, solid, dependable, a true support to Alice, and when she loses her job and starts at the pub he’s very supportive. It means though that their work hours conflict and they see little of each other, just at the time their new, gorgeous lodger, Zoe, Joe’s ex, the girl he says he loved and broke his heart, has moved in. Zoe is stunningly attractive, a great chef, and Joe loves to cook. Alice enjoys eating but cooking isn’t her thing. Slowly it feels like its Joe and Zoe, rather than Joe and Alice, she’s always there, laughing with Joe over their shared past, reminiscing over old mates, singing along as they cook, and of course enjoying the garden. The one Joe and Alice had such plans for but never found the time to do so. Poor Alice, Joe assures her they’re just friends when she moves in, but its hard seeing that toned body parading around in sexy, skimpy nightwear. Does she want Joe back ? That’s what Alice fears, and feels “less” in comparison to the gorgeous, talented Zoe.

Then there’s the pub ( and that picture – I could just visualise it!! I loved Shirley’s poem too, Princess Diana has that reaction for some people…). There’s Alice’s brother Drew, her best friend Heather, landlady Shirley and the locals, and of course handsome Archie, who owns the craft brew shop next door to the pub. They all form a tale that’s is cleverly woven together, along with a secret burden poor Alice has been carrying for far too long. Its a fabulous read, well written, paced out just right and

Stars: Five. A great read. Has a perfect blend of romance and jealousy, topical issues, things that affect real people, us with our imperfect lives. And of course a HEA, a romance isn’t right without that for me.

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Something Like Perfect, S.C. Stephens

Something Like Perfect, S.C. Stephens

Something Like Perfect by [S.C. Stephens]

Genre: | General Fiction (Adult), Romance

Well, Thoughtless, S.C.Stephens debut book was one of my earliest kindle reads, and I loved it. Even then though the cheating aspect made me a little uncomfortable, I know its fiction, but I’m pretty strong on cheating – don’t do it. In real life that is 😉 In a novel I can excuse it if the characters at least try to avoid it, make some real effort. So, seeing this book included it made me pause, but I decided she’s such a great writer it was worth trying. After all I loved Thoughtless and the other stories that followed.
Its a quick easy read, sweeping the reader along with a host of emotions. I could feel the connection between Valerie and Jake from that first coffee shop meeting, and could imagine her shock at that family dinner. What a nightmare.
It puts them both in a difficult position but wisely they both decide to do the right thing and really do make a solid effort. And then….something huge happens that changes things. I wasn’t expecting that, and I can see that its got its lovers and haters. Yes, it is a little far fetched, but things like this do happen in reality, life can be far fetched at times and I just went with the flow and enjoyed it. I understood what happened and why, I think in those circumstances most folk would have acted the same.
Then of course comes the later part of the story where they’re both struggling in their lives, Val loves her sister, Jake feels guilty and doesn’t want to hurt his girlfriend and it looks like a story where no-one will be happy. I feel this was one of the best parts of the novel, drama abounds, emotions and tensions are high and I felt for all three of them. They were all heartbroken, and it looked like none would get a happy ending. I liked that this took some time to resolve, I hate reads where characters are heartbroken one page and all over it by the next page. I want the characters to hit bottom, I want to wallow in their pain….and then when it comes right I am so happy.

Stars: Five, its a quick, light read, a wash of emotion. Its not one I’m likely to re-read but I really enjoyed it.

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

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

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

Genre: Romance,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arc via netgalley and publishers

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