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Exquisitely Broken, A Sin City Tale 1, M. Jay Granberry

Exquisitely Broken, A Sin City Tale 1, M. Jay Granberry

Exquisitely Broken (A Sin City Tale Book 1) by [Granberry, M. Jay ]

Genre: Romance, multi-cultural interest

The story is told in three parts; today, four years in the past and ten years in the past. At times that was irritating, frustrating, there’d be something climatic happen then next page we’d be in a different time period. I don’t really see another way of telling the story though, other than giving it all away at once, and that wouldn’t make good reading 😉

I wanted to know what happened to split them up, after all six years together is a long time. I know he cheated, Sin tells us that, but I wanted to know exactly what happened, why, how long etc. When I did find out what went down I was a bit confused. Why? Was it a one off or ongoing? Was that the only time? There had to be a reason, was Jake just getting cold feet? Was he just arrogant thinking he could do it just because? I feel that part of the book needed more work, more fleshing out.
It was such a huge part of them and the story but kind of glossed over. “oh, he cheated, right, on to next plot.” It wasn’t treated with the awfulness cheating is, and Jake didn’t seem to appreciate just how his actions affected Sin, it was as if he felt it was in the past, she should forget it. I’d always worry though, if he could do it once, he could do it a second time. It made Jake into a person I didn’t really like, and it took a while for that to change.
Sin is so loyal to her friends, has worked hard for her success but her heart is still with Jake, she hasn’t really got over their break-up, and now she’s within his sphere again he wants her back. I was a bit undecided though, was her really worthy of her? I guess without knowing what went wrong I wasn’t convinced it wouldn’t happen again. Sin though is stronger now, and not just going to roll over.

We meet Jake’s family too, his dad isn’t so bad but his mum, what a piece of work she is. That’s fine by me though, I just love a nasty character on a book, makes the story so much more interesting 😉 I did feel though that Jake needed to stand up to her more, to stand by Sin, to tackle his mum about her past actions and her current attitude.

There’s lots going on in this story, some terrific characters and its a great debut read, but for me it needed a bit more – I needed to feel that Jake really regretted what he’d done. I felt he was sorry for it only in that he lost Sin because of it, not that he actually saw anything wrong in his cheating. There’s an important difference there, and its the one that makes me certain it won’t happen again.
I needed him to stand up to his mum too, to tell her to not interfere in his life, for him to stand up for Sin, rather than just let things play out and – kind of – apologise foe his mum after she’s been her usual unpleasant self.
Stars: Four, a great debut read. A few parts that didn’t work so well for me but I’ll be looking out for M Jay’s next book.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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More Than Anything, The Broken Pieces Book 1, Natasha Anders

More Than Anything, The Broken Pieces Book 1, Natasha Anders

More Than Anything (The Broken Pieces Book 1) by [Anders, Natasha]

Genre: Romance, General Fiction (Adult)

I’ve enjoyed a few of Natasha’s stories now. Sometimes I just want an easy, non taxing romance with a HEA and her books usually fit the bill. I didn’t enjoy this one much though, it wasn’t a bad book, I just found I couldn’t really relate to the characters or their problems.

I love an under-dog, and Tina seemed just that. She had an awful experience at 18, but unless she was incredibly naive I find part of that plot hard to believe. Likewise staying celibate for next ten years? Why? Still hating Harris for what happened even though as a close family friend they seem to be in constant contact some way? Then there’s the crux of that issue, her weight, but she doesn’t seem to be anything more than an attractive, curvy lady.
Though I like the underdog character I want them to have some spirit and Tina just came over as whiny at times, no backbone, just constantly blaming everything on Harris, when they guy didn’t know half the story.
Harris, I didn’t understand why he didn’t ask why Tina was so cold to him after The Event. He knows what happened, its not hard to guess why Tina was friends before and blanked him after. Why didn’t he just apologise, ask her why she was so different? I just found the idea of adults holding a ten year grudge hard. I’d just move totally away if I felt that strongly, but Tina seems to have had contact via family but kept on silently with the recriminations.
Then after a ten years of holding in that grudge its over quickly, and that didn’t feel right. Her friend Libby and Greyson too, their issues being the secondary plot-line, was kind of over and done without any real justification of the resolution. If I was Libby I’d have been gutted at what happened, it would take a lot of hard work to forgive and I’m not sure that kind of accusation could be got past.
I didn’t understand why her family were so harsh on her, it seems to have been almost since birth, and the failed businesses were just an anomaly in the book IMO. They didn’t add anything to the story, just filled pages and gave her supposed close family something to beat her with.

There’s another part of the story that did make me feel really sad for her, and having experienced something very similar I could understand a bit of her reaction. Again though, she has the money, she’s been to counseling, and when its affecting her friendship with Libby it needs dealing with.

Stars: Two and a half. I liked the premise, usually enjoy Natasha’s stories but this one just didn’t cut it.

Arc via Netgalley

The Things I Know, Amanda Prowse

The Things I Know, Amanda Prowse

The Things I Know by [Prowse, Amanda]

Genre: general fiction (Adult), women’s fiction

Ah no….usual moan 😦 Why, why do we have women’s fiction as a category? Why assume men won’t/don’t read romance – they do, they write it and read it.

With that off my chest, on to the book. I loved it. I’ve read several by Amanda now and she creates characters that feel incredibly real, and scenes that are like snippets for everyday life. That means the plots too feel genuine, and that’s what I want in a story. Something I can believe in.

I adored Hitch, hated that name that epitomizes her disability. She’s adored by her parents, but as often happens when children have disabilities, they are so scared for her they restrict her, smother her almost, and treat her like a child, always soothing and not really listening to what she wants now she’s older. It must be hard seeing your child upset and the natural temptation is to keep them close, keep them away from harm. Hitch though is feeling a bit lost by life, its a wash, rinse, repeat kind of time for her and she wants a future of her own, a family, her own cake tins. That looks like its not on for her until Grayson Potts comes to stay, and he and Hitch see something in each other that completes them, makes them feel whole. Grayson too has issues, ones that make it difficult for him to relate to others but give him a talent in the finance industry.

They become close, even though its just a couple of days, and gradually both spread their wings a bit and look to a future. I loved when hitch became Thomasina. Its not without traumas though, problems, pitfalls and unpleasant people.
I loved that Amanda showed that disabled folk want – and should have – more than just a safe life, that its OK to want more, that they are the same as anyone else and should be treated that way. The older I get the more I see “normal” as mythical, really we’re all someone along a sliding scale of normal, not one fixed point that denotes it and anyone away from that magic mark is not normal, and shouldn’t expect to have the same rights, realities, life expectations as those who fit that narrow criteria.

Stars: Five, another great read from Amanda, and one to keep for re-reading. Such a wonderful story, no deep dark dramas, but a gentle spreading of wings from two wonderful characters.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Summer Season on the Seafront, Katie Ginger

Summer Season on the Seafront, Katie Ginger

Summer Season on the Seafront: The perfect feel-good romance for summer! by [Ginger, Katie]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Ah no….usual moan 😦 Why, why do we have women’s fiction as a category? Why assume men won’t/don’t read romance – they do, they write it and read it.

With that off my chest, on to the book. I hadn’t realised there was an earlier book, I think if you read that first the relationships in this one will be clearer, but if like me you haven’t it doesn’t matter, its still a very easy to follow story.

I really didn’t like Nate when we first met him but as we learned more of his backstory I understood his actions more and loved him. Sarah of course, is attracted but the media are full of salacious stories and poor Nate is in a situation where he cant defend himself from the, I really hate that situation, and its one repeated time and again in British media who seem to want the story at any cost, and aren’t too worried about the truth. Caught out they’ll print some tiny retraction tucked behind other stories. They just want the name, the headline and the sales.
Sarah is lovely, been through a tough time but is gaining her confidence and then her past comes along to throw a spanner in the works. She’s attracted top Nate – who isn’t? She’s also had a long time crush on colleague Finn though, and he seems to reciprocate her feelings. I loved Lottie and Sid, and of course Gregory and Cecil, and could imagine the story unfolding ss if it was really happening.
The romance here is very understated, a secondary story almost, with the main plots being about the characters, their friendships and of course the Theatre and the play they are doing. With it being classed as a romance read I did expect that part to be stronger, but I guess that’s down to my expectations, not the book. I was just a bit disappointed to not get more romance in the story. The main cast of characters show just how a disparate group can form close friendships, can work together even if there is friction at times.

Stars: Four, an enjoyable holiday type read. One to relax with and just imagine you’re there with the cast.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Rough Magic, Riding the world’s wildest horse race, Lara Prior-Palmer

Rough Magic, Riding the world’s wildest horse race, Lara Prior-Palmer

Rough Magic: Riding the world’s wildest horse race by [Prior-Palmer, Lara]

Genre: Biography and memoirs.

I so wanted to love this book, I’d adore to have taken part in a ride like that. To the astonishment of my totally non horsey family I grew up with an adoration for all things equine as soon as I could walk.
It took me until I was over 30 to have my own horse but there is a real magic between a horse and rider when both are willing, a real feeling of oneness, rightness. This kind of race takes that and pulls it to its furthermost.

Sadly my hopes for the book fell flat. I felt Lara treated it as a bit of a joke really, something to pass the time, and that makes a mockery of all those who trained, who organised, did the hard slog of setting it up.
She enters on a whim, doesn’t train, hasn’t time to train now having entered at the very last minute. Doesn’t have the money but gets the entrance fee halved, drums up some sponsors, and yet still doesn’t treat it with the respect it deserves. She doesn’t take the required jabs, doesn’t pack spare clothes, ignores all the things race advisers suggest taking, gets bored while waiting pre-race for things to set up, so has fun merrily taking all her antibiotics, anti sickness, painkillers etc out of the packets and decanting into a plastic bag. Then takes them ad hoc on the journey hoping for miracles….she tells us proudly several times about this – its why it sticks in my mind. It feels at times as if she’s an adult, playing at being a child pretending to be adult…
She lets go of one of the horses while tacking up, takes off head collar before bridling allowing it to charge off. Then waits for one of the race guys to fetch it, with an air of “oh dear, how did that happen? Never mind” It’s basic stuff for any rider, strange horse, unenclosed area you NEVER let the animal lose, simply looping the collar around the horse neck would have sufficed but no, Lara knows better.
It wasn’t a problem but could have been, these are horses borrowed ( probably for a decentish fee but…) from the locals, who need them for their existence in that harsh place. She’s there a couple of weeks, they live there, need their animals in good health to survive. If the horse damaged itself they can’t simply call up local vet and have it transported to a nice modern surgery for treatment. Its bullet time. The loan of horses needs respect.

I did enjoy the bits about the race, the horses of course, the people that live there, the incredible scenery, but for me Lara herself came over as an indulged child rather than the gutsy young lady I expected.
What others love about the writing style too just didn’t resonate with me, they enjoyed her “verbal acuity” – for me it read more like self indulgent ramblings apropos of nothing. I love to read about people’s history, families, the personal touch but Lara’s came out in such a strange way I felt they were all really strange folk, and I’m sure that’s not what they are or what she intended.

I admire her hugely for doing the race, but found her lack of planning, lack of respect for the race, for the horses, for all the hard work others have done to let her have this week or so of racing really difficult to let go. I just couldn’t get past the fact that it felt as if she treated it all as a bit of a joke really. Others can get past the things that grated on me and adored the book for what it is, a retelling of an amazing race from one of the participants, so you may feel like them and love this novel. I didn’t.
I enjoyed parts of the story, wanted to give her five stars just for taking part, and yet even that achievement gets tarnished for me by her way of treating the whole things so casually.
She’s not sure even as she starts, that she actually wants to win, mulls over what happens if she just gives up on day one…and that non commitment feels like a slap in the face to all those who’ve worked so hard.
I guess its like someone talking their way into a place in the UK Grand National at last minute, getting one of the best horses to ride, but not bothering with training, protective clothing or learning the course route, and then just as race is starting announcing to news media they’re not really sure if they’ll try to win, maybe a fall at the first might be whats best, maybe they’ll just try to finish, or get half way or….See? It denigrates all those who have put in the work to me.
That she finally won feels like good luck more than actually hard work, and that doesn’t feel right in a race of such epic uniqueness.

Stars: Two and a half. Others love it, what I didn’t like they clearly got past, so may you. Each to their own. Its not a bad book, just one that wasn’t for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Summer at the Art Cafe, Sue McDonagh

Summer at the Art Cafe, Sue McDonagh

Summer at the Art Cafe (Choc Lit): A wonderful happy-ever after romance! by [McDonagh, Sue]

Genre: Romance , Women’s Fiction

Ah no….usual moan 😦 Why, why do we have women’s fiction as a category? Why assume men won’t/don’t read romance – they do, they write it and read it.
Anyway, other than that moan I loved this book. I find that Choc-Lit books almost always work well for me, fun and easy to read but not a dumbed down romance. Sometimes I want a simple romance, not a deep, dark, heavy one but I still want some solid characters, believable plots and choc-lit delivers that.
As an artist myself I loved reading about Lucy’s artwork, and the lovely finds she brought into the cafe. The idea of cakes and art sounded wonderful, and the beach-side setting just perfect. Of course on a rainy November day its not so good but 😉 Its fiction, and in romance land its always sunny summer or crisp snowy winter, no grim and gloomy days allowed!
I loved Lucy, so talented, so kind and warmhearted but married to an absolute pratt of a man. It makes me wonder – and Lucy – how did things change, was he always like this and she blinded by love. Sometimes we’re just too much in the thick of things to see the real truth and that’s what seemed to happen to Lucy, it wasn’t until it was thrown in her face she realised how cruel and awful Gerry had become. Still, I like a character I can hate on so all’s good 😉 and of course when she masters all the things he belittles her for and makes a huge success of life without him, that’s just so, so satisfying.
Speaking of people to hate, Sarah was perfect too, one face to Ash and a very different one to Lucy. I love manipulative characters like that, bring in a real challenge to the story, and of course she was determined not to let things work between Ash and Lucy.
There’s some great humour in this story, a lovely plot encompassing not just romance, but growth, Ash growing to trust in love and Lucy learning to trust in herself and her talent, lots of new friends all round, Nic and Richard from the cafe, TV Tom, the Biker Girls, Ed and co from the bike shop, even the pupils Lucy first learned her CBT with.
I adored Daisy too, she made a fabulous character in the story, a wonderful young lady, and of course she ( and I) loved all the rescue animals. I’ve seen ex battery hens in jumpers too while their feathers grow in 😉 and Ash was so open hearted taking in all those animals.
What makes a romance perfect for me though isn’t just the build up, but the crash down, the angst and its really well done here, lasts a while not just over in a couple of pages, and that’s just what I need. Real life is like that, and when things go right again it feels so much more satisfying. Love, real love, needs that challenge to last IMO.

Stars: Five, a gorgeous read, perfect for holidays and beach, or when you just want an escape to a happy place for a few hours.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue: A Novel by [McQuiston, Casey]

Genre: LGBTQIA, romance

Note: I’m reading an ARC so possibly the issues about UK/USA differences will be corrected before publication. As a UK reader things like this are very noticeable.

The first issue that bothered me came very early, UK Prince Henry’s brother’s wedding cake. We have £ not $ so the cake would be £75,000 not $75,000 ( or whatever the exchange rate equivalent is ). Then there’s Alex’ comments on the beans on toast breakfast. Well, we do eat that, but in a royal palace the fare would be far wider, they’d be pushing the traditional full English, with maybe kippers, smoked haddock etc and a Continental option. Poor Alex wouldn’t have been forced to eat something he so disliked.
Anyway, got that off my chest 😉 now to the book.

I hadn’t realised it was a YA/NA and to start with Alex especially felt even younger than his 21, and that irritated me. You can’t help liking him though, he’s got that irrepressible good nature, except when it comes to Henry…
Of course thrown together as they are, they start to see a different side to each other, and I really enjoyed how they developed a strong friendship before getting into deeper feelings. There’s quite a lot of artistic license given in how they manage to meet surreptitiously so often, in reality a Prince is incredibly closely guarded, and I expect its the same for the President’s son. Still, fiction 🙂 and it makes for a fun story.

I’d jumped in after reading the blurb, but when beginning it I really thought this wouldn’t be one for me with that shaky, YS feel start. I’ve read some YA books and enjoyed them, but YA romance isn’t really my thing. However once I got to know Alex better and see that despite my first impressions he really wasn’t a 21 going on 16 kid, that actually he was more mature I started to enjoy the story.
I don’t know whether its a UK/US thing but I’ve noticed often that characters in the 18-21 age group in US novels tend to be very immature, mentally like a UK 15 – 18 age group, whereas in UK ones at that age they act and are regarded as adults. Maybe its that they are treated that way in UK, and in US adulthood doesn’t seem to clock in till about 24 or 25?

I think what I liked best was getting to know the real characters, the people they were behind the front they show in public. I enjoyed the secondary characters too. They played a solid part in the story, backing up Alex and Henry, providing advice and working hard to keep the romance on track. I was surprised ( pleasantly) at how in depth some of the issues were treated, bringing in topically important plots, ones that affect folk in real life. I love that bit of reality in fiction, and it plays an important part in helping to effect change sometimes by raising issues folk may be unaware of.
There was the whole LBGTQIA issue, especially in a very traditional Royal family, the way it can affect voters in the US system, the issues of others making political capital out of others problems, and of course a very topical issue about sexual abuse in the workplace.

Stars: Four, a book that started badly for me but which had a lot more depth and topicality than I expected. And a great romance of course 😉

Arc via Netgalley and Publishers

Happiness for Beginners, One broken family. Two hearts meeting. Dozens of naughty animals! Carole Matthews

Happiness for Beginners, One broken family. Two hearts meeting. Dozens of naughty animals! Carole Matthews

Happiness for Beginners: One broken family. Two hearts meeting. Dozens of naughty animals! by [Matthews, Carole]

Genre: romance
Hmnn, I liked the sound of this, could relate to Molly – I too love animals, often find them easier to get along with than people. I just found the MC, Shelby, to be shallow, putting himself way ahead of his son, supposedly grieving for his wife who died a year back and yet out on the town, deep in a romance with someone who his son dislikes, who’s really only interested in her own image. I found that hard to take, and it coloured my view of him. I didn’t really feel this was a romance, given most of the book little happens between the two MCs and he’s with Scarlett. I felt so, so sorry for his son, poor Lucas. I was so glad he ended up with Molly and crew.
I loved the animals, the idea of the students, though the way it was run was pretty ad hoc, I did feel that in real life it would need to be more formalised, look more at the actual safety of the students around the animals, and the actual education they were receiving.
I did get irritated at the constant harping of Ringo’s ( I think it was him) skin issues. We keep hearing he’s got sweet itch, an allergy to his own hair. I’ve had horses for many years, one was an Icelandic, a breed prevalent to sweet itch so I’ve read a lot about it. Its caused by a sensitivity to midge bites, not an allergy to own hair, and is best treated by rugs covering tender areas. Cutting his hair short would make it easier for them to bite, though easier to clean the broken skin caused by rubbing as it’s intensely itchy. If you’re going to use specifics like this authors, please check you have it right.
Its a story I enjoyed but it was incredibly slow to start and I kind of felt there was a lot going on but not much happening, if you understand that 😉 It meant I got bored and skim read the last third of the story.

Stars: three, an ok read. Its a pleasant story, but I guess feeling Shelby was arrogant and selfish kind of coloured it for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Smitten by the Brit, Melonie Johnson

Smitten by the Brit, Melonie Johnson

Smitten by the Brit: A Sometimes in Love Novel by [Johnson, Melonie]

Genre: Romance

I really thought this sounded perfect for me, but I feel conflicted, ambivalent about it. It was well written, just didn’t wow me, didn’t make me feel I couldn’t put it down.

I wasn’t really gripped by either character, they were Nice. That’s it. No real character to either of them. Bonnie was a sweet girl, but I’d have thought she’d be more upset over her breakup considering how long they’d been together. Years, years after being childhood friends. That’s not something you can move from even though he was an ar- se, even though it was clear they’d actually drifted apart some while back. Yet within days she’s got the hots for Theo.
I think she’s the sort of person who would grieve losing the idea of the relationship you thought she had even if she didn’t grieve the man.

Theo, he made me so cross, a real mummy’s boy. I could see the issue with his family, understand the problems but really? The solution his mother proposed wasn’t something you’d pull from a hat, the issues weren’t something that sudden;ly cropped up and the solution – if hers wasn’t what he wanted – should have been worked out years ago.

Its that lack of practicality, the reaching for quick and easy solutions combined with the blandness of the characters that let this story down for me. You may feel differently, I can see others love it so clearly the issues I struggle with don’t affect other readers. Melonie is a new to me author, I will try another book before deciding she’s not for me, I like her writing style, just not the plot and characters in this book. Could be a one off and I’ll love others. Won’t be the first time that’s happened, and I’m always looking for some well written romance.

Stars: Two and a half, I enjoyed Melonie’s style of writing but sadly not this book.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Summer at the Lakeside Resort,(Lakeside Resort Book 2), Susan Schild.

Summer at the Lakeside Resort,(Lakeside Resort Book 2), Susan Schild.

Genre: romance

I loved the previous book, and enjoyed this. I’ve had a couple of follow-on books recently, and I guess I’m coming round to the idea that actually what I want, what I enjoy best is the pre-romance, the story and struggles that gets folk together. Once they are together, sometimes I enjoy a sneak into what comes next but more often I just don’t seem to get so engaged in the story.
I enjoyed seeing The Boys, Jenny feels her boys are family, exactly the way I’ve always thought about my pets. ( My dog, Roxy, is now shrieking “A Pet!! You think I’m a pet??” I swear she thinks she’s human. ) The resort is progressing, not without problems of course, and that made it so lifelike. Things do go wrong, I know, I’m still in temp accommodation because the 8-10 week renovation is now into about week 14 with another three or four to go. Uncover one issue, and three more pop up. I so felt for Jenny in the first book when this seemed to happen to her all the time. Now she’s laid out all that money she needs to get the bookings in, but to do that she needs to spend more cash on attractions….cash she doesn’t have.
I didn’t really feel the Luke issue, he’s a good guy at heart and the commitment worry felt a bit forced, though of course there is his workaholic dad for history. People do often follow the role model set by parents rather than learn from it.
It was a fun read, a light one but cemented my opinion that for me follow on books aren’t really what I like best.

Stars: three, I enjoyed reading about Jenny and co, and seeing the resort progressing and for those who like reading follow on stories it will be a five, just a case of its me not the book. Reading tastes are so subjective.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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