More Than Just Mum, Rebecca Smith
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
This is classic chic lit style, humour, pathos and a good dollop of real life. I so identified with Hannah at times. I too have been wife, mother, auntie, daughter and somewhere in the middle of that Jeannie, Me, was submerged. You have to fight to keep that, and Hannah’s trying hard, but life has the habit of throwing spanners just when you think you’re getting somewhere.
Having said that I struggled with this at times. The beginning almost had me giving up, it felt too much like forced humour and I just hate that. Certain parts had me thinking of a mental visual from the old TV game shows “Clap Now!!” It seemed to be written for the purpose of humour, rather than the humour falling naturally from the content. I stuck with it though and that side of things certainly improved for me, I had tears from laughing at some parts, having been through very similar. Bringing up teens is one of life’s Big Experiences, and its laugh or cry many days. Laughing is better….aided by wine of course.
What really brought this down though was for me it lacked focus. I felt there were lots of little side issues that cropped up but went nowhere, and there wasn’t really an overarching plot that ran the course of the novel. It seemed more a series of little ones that sometimes were completed, but more often just left hanging. I wasn’t really sure where the story was going, and TBH it just felt like I was reading a few months from a typical family life. Works for some of course, but for me I needed that main plot, needed to know what was the point of the novel, where was the story going. As it didn’t have that, the ending felt a little flat. Yes, one biggish plot gets wrapped up but so much was just left unfinished.
Stars: Three, a fun read, and some parts really made me smile, snigger, reminded me of my time with teen and preteen kids, but overall for me it felt a little lacking in direction.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
A Madness of Sunshine, Nalini Singh
I love Nalini’s Guild Hunter series and her contemporary romances. I so wish I could enjoy the psy-changling series, so many books I haven’t read. Maybe I’ll give them another go 😉
This time the story is as much, maybe more, suspense as romance. Its a slow burn relationship, it’s more getting to know each other tentatively and maybe starting something, than a full on romance. I enjoyed it even though I was expecting more romance from the tag.
The background of Golden Cove, and the issues of past and present was excellent. When Nalini writes there’s always that extra touch, scenery is always so descriptive I can mentally see it, characters that I feel I know, understand, even things like the coffee, I can smell and taste it from her words.
The suspense was cleverly done, a couple of main possible suspects stand out, and yet there are things thrown in that made me wonder “ but what about? Could they? ”
Its cleverly wrapped up, proper ending. I hate it when I finish a story and am left wondering what happened after, wondering about certain characters.
The reason both Will and Anhara were in Golden Cove were believable, I really felt for them both. There were other characters already there too that had some nasty shocks, life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, sometimes its just damn windy and stormy. Life’s like that for us all sometimes, throws in unwelcome surprises, things happen beyond our control, someone does whats right yet still ends up poorer for it. It made the story feel very realistic for me.
Stars: Five. I was pleased at the way things worked out in the ending. I like that kind of finishing the story and giving a hint of what happens to them in the future.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Unexpected Lessons in Love, Lucy Dillon
Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction
Oh Dear, Women’s fiction again – why on earth do we still use this outdated genre category. Men read romance, men write romance, why exclude them?
Anyway, the book. I was sure I’d read and enjoyed some of Lucy’s previous novels but when I checked just before writing this I haven’t – yay, more books to enjoy from a new to me author!
This is classed as romance and…well… it is but its kind of a tenuous connection, and is more the possibility of romance than an actual one.
I love the characters, Jeannie of course and her lovely parents, Andrea, Dan’s mum, Owen, his best friend and then there’s the dogs and the connections they bring. Its a serious problem here in the UK, only yesterday I read of yet another recently shut down in our local paper, where three people had made around £300,000 in two years, and the dogs that were rescued were in much the same state as the ones Rachel takes in. Makes me furious. Always ask to see parents, check that dogs seem happy and secure in the environment, that they haven’t just been placed in a house to appear to have come from there. There’s lots more advice online but the crux is if we’re more careful, demand and profits go and that’s the best way to stop the trade.
The story is so horribly real, I could imagine it happening just the way it was written. Poor Jeannie, so happy and then that last minute concern. Was it bride’s nerves or more, should she go with her head or her gut feelings. Then that crushing feeling of guilt. Then That happens, but while Dan is recovering things come out that don’t quite add up.
The dogs, they were real showstoppers, and of course the Brides Dress Revisited, ( what a fabulous name) added so much extra to the story, that while I’m a romance lover through and through, this was one of the stories I love that has little actual romance, but so much more to the story that I am totally engrossed. Its a fabulous read, I loved it and will look at Lucy’s other stories now.
Stars: Five, a wonderful, all round story it’s a promise of future romance.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
The Captain and the Best Man Catherine Curzon, Eleanor Harkstead
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
I haven’t read the earlier books in this series, but that’s fine, each are stand alone. Its one of those series connected by character type rather than the characters themselves.
Its was a fun story, very easy to read, with some fun characters.
I liked Guy and Josh, Guy seems universally liked by his flight crew and the islanders. He seems one of those genuinely naive guys who somehow glide through life untroubled. Yet as we learn more about him we find its not been quite that easy for him. Then there’s Josh, one moment he seemed very young, and the next it was like he had an old head on young shoulders. There’s a real attraction between the two that came through the story quickly.
The story itself hinges on Josh’ best friends wedding, a tropical island and of course a storm, and not just with the weather….it was kind of easy to see where the story was going, see what was going to happen from about halfway, but maybe that’s me, maybe I’ve just read too much….
I guess my big issue with the story is that the main thrust takes place over a couple of days with the whole mostly complete in a week, and I just found that insta love too much. That’s my personal issue, I need to be convinced characters are in love, not just lust and when every interaction is so new, so coloured by sex then I’m not persuaded that its actually True Love and worth all the sacrifice. Though this wraps up so well that actually there’s very little sacrifice 😉
Stars: Three, a fun, easy read, but its just too time condensed for me to really get mentally involved with the characters, and invested in what happens.
Arc via authors
Izzy’s Christmas Star, Berni Stevens
Well, this was a fun read, one of my favourite genres, the rock star trope and of course choc-lit always deliver for me so I was looking forward to this.
Its an easy read, nothing too dramatic, a simple story. I really liked the characters, and the Santas added a quirky touch, but the lack of real drama made it a four star for me, not the magic five.
I was reading through, hooked onto what would happen next and about the three-quarter mark I was waiting for something to go wrong, as it usually does. Sadly for me its one of those reads where it doesn’t, it just charts the track of a sweet romance.
Izzy is a sweet character, felt like someone I could know and like. Seth too was past the rock star bit, and finds Izzy refreshing, not the shallow type he’s so used to. I loved the Christmas gifts too and the little touches like the impromptu Christmas concert. I love books set around this time of year, there’s something special and its easier to believe in a little supernatural help from Santa 😉
There was the potential for some fireworks with an ex that won’t let go, but rather than any huge whizz-bangs its more of a wet sparkler effect. That could have developed into some real dramatics, and I was hoping, but doesn’t 😦
Still, that’s me, I do love some drama and heartbreak in my happy stories, though of course they need to end well or I feel cheated 😉 It has the perfect happy ending.
Stars: Four, a read I enjoyed,perfect to curl up by the fire and read on a wintry day. I’d need a bit of extra drama and heartbreak for a five, but four is well deserved.
ARC supplied by publisher
The Light in the Hallway, Amanda Prowse
Genre: Women’s fiction, General Fiction (adult)
Gah, I hate Women’s Fiction as a genre heading, so outdated. Men and women can read the same books….its 2019, not 1919.
Anyway, that’s just my personal gripe so…the book. Wonderful. One more Amanda delivers a story that’s thought provoking, gripping, realistic and with gentle touches of humour when parts get too dark.
Nick, oh poor Nick. I’ve been there, had those days when you look around at the empty house and wonder “is it really worth carrying on? What’s the point of it without your love beside you?” Yet he finds the strength to continue, mostly for his beloved son Oliver, who’s also struggling, not just from having lost his mum to cancer, but with his first few weeks at university.
Nick talks to Kerry in his mind, seeking her advice, and I still do that with my husband nearly four years later. He pretends she’s just in another room, and that’s so real, I know I did that too, taking comfort from the fact that maybe, just maybe, they really could be there. Even now some nights I reach out in bed and pretend my arm is resting on his body. Logic tells you they aren’t there of course, but comfort lets you believe the lie for a bit longer.
Its seems like it would be a heavy, sad story but its not. As in real life things happen that tug at the heartstrings whilst making you smile. The three boys, Nick, Eric and Alex and of course Half Bike. That’s was such fun to read even while I shared their struggles. The story veers between Nick, Eric and Alex now and as young lads, when everything can be an adventure. I adored Eric, as a lad and a man. He had such a wonderful sense of humour, his constantly calling the others female names “ You OK Shirley?” stuff like that, he managed to make me smile even when I veered on tears.
Its not just a snippet of time, a vignette of life story, but one where the characters go through the tragedy of Kerry’s death, and try to move forward. Such is the way of life that it moves on whether we are ready or not, so we see Olly’s struggles at uni in his first days, Nick’s return to work, trying to pick up his life, and of course his sister in law who’s determined no-one will replace her sister.
Nick going to the shop the day after her death to be told by his mum he couldn’t, it Wasn’t Done. He’s so right when he says its like wading through a minefield of unwritten rules, never knowing when you’re about to break one. When he’s talking about it only being x months since Kerry died, and yet for him he’d been grieving ever since they knew she wasn’t going to recover, more than a year ealier. That’s so true, that last year they went through she was alive, but not really living, and I can see how Nick’s grieving started much earlier than people would suppose.
Slowly Nick starts to pick up his life and move forward, helped by his childhood friends, mostly the wonderful Eric. I adore that man, he made me laugh so many times with his phrases, and also made me tearful at what happened to him as a young lad.
Amanda really can write characters well, both as adults and as kids. I really believed in those boys, was there alongside them shouting sh it-sticks on the camping trips, searching for bits for the bike, heartbroken at the idea of Eric moving away. I keep thinking of little bits that made me laugh, other than Eric’s wonderful name calling, and one that just sprung in my mind was the baby, when the boys wonder how long are women pregnant. “ They take at least a year to bake” says Eric knowledgeably, shocking Nick and Alex. I could just imagine the three of them mulling over the weird ways of adults.
Its a wonderful story, and one I really enjoyed once more. Amanda delivers the kind of story I love to read, real people, real scenes, stories that I can easily imagine happening, and of course always with an ending that neatly wraps things up. This time she really did bring things full circle, showing a path of happiness for these characters that had been through so much.
Stars: Five, another wonderful read. full of heartbreak and happiness, tears and triumphs.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Moonlight Kisses at Willow Tree Hall, Alison Sherlock
Genre: Women’s fiction, Romance
Gah, I hate Women’s Fiction as a genre heading, so outdated. Men and women can read the same books….its 2019, not 1919.
Anyway, after having read the first three books this one was like meeting old friends again, with new ones in Jack and Lily. Although all the stories are connected you don’t have to have read them, each are stand alone romances, but if you have read them it adds a bit extra to the stories, seeing how couples are doing some time on from when we left them.
So many things about this book resonated with me, I share Lily’s List addiction, I have lists for everything. I don’t have Lily’s control issues though, I understand why she does but it makes things hard for those around her and in the early days at the Hall it makes it hard for the family and for Lily. She means well but its simply not working out.
I loved how all the characters pulled together, how the villagers rallied round, how Hazy Memory and the wonderful Alex were included in this story, not family but almost family by adoption.
Rose – I want to be here when I’m older! I adore her. When she’s talking about her Tinder dates and her sex life and grandnephew Sam makes an abrupt turn for fear of hearing more….Arthur, still the benevolent patient Earl, who sees beyond the obvious, who’s at much at home in Bert’s shed as he is in the stately grounds of the Hall.
Jack and Lily, a couple who are perfect but have past issues to get over first. Their backstory affected how they were today, the needed to look at that, understand it, before moving on.
Its a lovely story, full of little side plots and issues, of everyone pulling together for a common cause, of mishaps and mayhem, of the struggle to make the Hall profitable, or at least self supporting, of such wonderful characters, I felt as if I knew them personally.
Its chic-lit at its best, an easy read, some gentle romance, and a story to just sit and relax with. Of course normal things like Health and Safety, Food legislation, insurance etc have to be forgotten…. There’s no way today’s Red Tape would let half the things happen that do in this book. No selling cakes without inspections of kitchens, certificates, data sheets on every ingredient and traceability of it. No running a fete or launch without endless risk and safety assessments, signs everywhere warning of xyz, insurance to cover every possible event. I’m in favour of H&S, it has saved lives but somehow I feel we’ve gone too far the other way and where events like this were common when I was a kid everything get stacked against them now. The traditional British country fair is getting certificated out of existence, and as we see here it can benefit so many folk. It was wonderful to read things that I recall actually happening. I need to mention the apples though, 20-30 per tree is a pretty poor harvest. We used to get around 12-1500 from my four apple trees…
Lily’s family are struggling, all of them in a tiny cottage, her, mum, dad and granddad, and her dad has just given up on life, after his amputation. I found that a bit sad, life isn’t necessarily like that, most folk pick up and forge a new life as he is beginning to at the end of the book, but it was annoying to read at first, everyone mollycoddling round him, not expecting more. If that happens to you or yours don’t be like Lily’s family, don’t just assume for them life is over. I’ve been there, it isn’t!
Overall its a lovely relaxing read, full of country air ( I’m a country girl at heart), terrific characters, some slightly manic times, its a book perfect for a holiday read, or to escape real life for a few hours.
Stars: Four. Great relaxing read. Meeting the family again was like coming home.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Exquisitely Hidden, M. Jay Granberry
I enjoyed this read, liked catching up with the characters and seeing some of book one’s events from a different angle. There’s lots of drama for the band here at times, at others it just kind of plods along. I did find myself skipping a little then which is why its four, not five stars.
I love this kind of read where one person is out and proud and the other…well, not. That’s Seth and Adam, Seth had been out for ages and doesn’t like being kept hidden like a shameful secret, but Adam doesn’t want to be the Poster Boy for Gays.
I can understand that, somehow its typical that we see folk who are different from the average person in terms of what they are, rather than who they are. I’m an amputee, I also paint. I want to be remembered for my art, not my disability, but whenever there’s been any media publicity about art shows I’ve been involved in guess which gets the focus? 😦 yep, the missing leg, and I’m more than that, just as Adam is more too. Gay is a part of him, what he is, but not all he is.
He’s got lots of other issues too from his past, some of which Sin is aware, but even his best friend doesn’t know everything. They’ve an uphill task if ever they’re to find grounds for a relationship.
I enjoyed the will they won’t they, on and off nature of their connection. Its hard, I so understood how Seth felt, and at times I dd get irritated with Adam, but such is the course of love, and I do like the downsides in my reading to cover a decent part. None of this its all off and heart break, then two pages later its all good stuff for me!
I did get confused over how the foster carer he had could be in her eighties? A bit extreme, it would make her in sixties when she had the kids in her care, I can’t see that happening. Likewise the issues over Tori, one moment its all in the air, then next he’s off on tour and we don’t know where she is. There were quite a few typos and grammar errors too that niggled, but I’m hoping that’s because I had an ARC and they’ll have been corrected for final edition.
Stars: Four, a read I enjoyed, and I especially like Adam’s Big Gesture at the end. Seth deserved that, he’d put up with a lot from Adam.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
To the Stars and Back, A Glittering Romantic Comedy, Camilla Isley
Well, this is book four in the First comes Love series, but each book is a stand alone although part of an interconnected series via the characters. I’d not read any of the others, but really enjoyed this as it was so don’t worry if like me you’ve just dived in and not realised there are earlier books.
I love this type of read and enjoyed this novel, but there wasn’t any gut wrenching emotion or drama from the nasty characters that I do love to find in this trope. Everybody is so nice, and while that’s good to read, I’m the sort of person who wants a few of the mean girls in. Not everyone does though, we all want different things.
I loved Christian, so unassuming, so genuine, and yet he’s been famous and wealthy for so long he has lost touch a bit with everyday life. ( The handbag, perfect example). Lana is a bit the other way, very in touch with day to day issues, a fervent environmentalist, she sees Christians spending as frivolous excess. At times that meant he’d tried to be thoughtful, but his actions were misunderstood, not always appreciated. There’s a balance, and though I agree with her on so much, at times she did come over a bit self righteous and judgmental.
I liked that she was unaware of who he was, so blasé about fame. Like her I don’t have a TV, I read, not watched TV for years now so fame and famous people only comes to my knowledge via online news, and TBH I don’t bother reading most of it.
I wasn’t entirely convinced they fell in love quite so quickly, she’s just come out of a long term relationship which had admittedly run its course, and he was decrying Love as a fantasy at the start of the book. Its a fun story, very real at times, with great characters, including the secondary ones, and I did enjoy it.
Stars: Four. Not heart-stopping drama but an entertaining afternoons read.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Dirty Letters, Vi Keeland, Penelope Ward
Genre: General Fiction (Adult) , Romance
I love the ***** trope, but was wary as I’ve only read one other from this duo and it wasn’t a great fit for me but…. I loved this! So now I need to check more of their works. ( stars because I found this bit out from another review but its not in the description, don’t want to spoil it for those who’d rather not know)
What can I say about this? Well, it made me laugh so much ( Furbys! Happy meals! You’ll never see them in the same way again..) the characters were terrific.
Griffin, he’s just wonderful. Sensitive and caring, but life has changed him and he’s always been resentful of how Luca just stopped writing to him out of the blue, didn’t answer his letters, just dropped him like a brick. In a drunken rant he writes once more, eight years after his last letter, and what he gets back guts him.
Luca didn’t just drop him like a hot potato but went through a really bad trauma. He feels bad now about his drunken rant, writes back apologising, and the letters start again. But they are older now, each are curious about the other and the letters become decidedly sexy – and funny – see Furbys!!
Luca is curious about what Griffin looks like now, wants to exchange photos but he wants to keep the secrecy for a bit longer. Knowing more about Luca and her issues now he knows them, he’s scared she’ll find it hard to accept him as he is now….but curiosity eh? Gets them both…..
The there’s Doc, Luca’s friend-therapist-honorary granddad. He’s retired but sees Luca and has really helped her. Now its taking all of his skills and knowledge to push her that bit further, he knows she’s ready, she needs this if she’s to really get the most from her life. Its tough though, her fears are very real, the panic attacks crippling, and the journey through them to her future takes in the countryside, birds (Doc is a real bird-watching fan) and Griffin. He needs to adapt too, his life and Luca’s are at opposite ends, not just of the country but of life, and they both need to compromise.
Its a wonderful story, in tears one moment from laughing and the next from sadness. Luca’s issues were handled with sensitivity and explained really well, and Griffin, I understood exactly why he was tired of the life he was leading. I loved the story and will happily reread sometime.
Stars: Five, fabulous read full of emotion
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
As childhood pen pals, Griffin Quinn and Luca Vinetti couldn’t have been more different. Over the years, through hundreds of letters, they became best friends, sharing their deepest, darkest secrets.
Until one day it ended.
Griffin never understood why Luca disappeared. She was special. She knew the real him like no one else. He writes her a drunken letter, an angry one, never expecting her to write back.
Before they know it, they’re right where they left off. This time with heat.
But as playing catch-up goes from fun to flirty to downright dirty, Luca wants more. She wants Griffin in the flesh. That’s where it gets risky. Because when they meet, the mystery will be over. And once they really get to know each other, there’ll be no going back.
EXCERPT: Dirty Letters by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
The small dining room table had a pile of mail. I’d had Dad’s mail forwarded to my house, so mostly it was just catalogs and junk. Once a month, Mrs. Cascio sent me everything that arrived, even though I’d told her it wasn’t necessary. I mindlessly fingered through the pile, not expecting to see anything worth keeping. But I stopped at an envelope addressed to me—well, not me, but Luca Ryan. That was a name I hadn’t heard in a long time. In second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Ryan, started a pen pal writing program with a small town in England. We weren’t allowed to use our real last names for safety reasons, so the entire class used her last name—hence I was Luca Ryan. I checked out the return address for the sender’s name.
Wow, really? It couldn’t be.
I squinted at the postmark. It was from a PO box in California, not England, but I didn’t know any other Quinn other than Griffin. And the handwriting did look pretty familiar. But it had been close to eight years since we’d exchanged letters. Why would he write now? Curious, I ripped it open and scanned right to the bottom of the letter for the name. Sure enough, it was from Griffin. I started at the beginning.
Do you like scotch? I remember you said you didn’t like the taste of beer. But we never did get around to comparing our taste in hard liquor. Why is that, you might ask? Let me remind you—because you stopped answering my letters eight damn years ago. I wanted to let you know, I’m still pissed off about that. My mum used to say I hold grudges. But I prefer to think of it as I remember the facts. And the fact of the matter is, you suck. There, I’ve said it. I’ve been holding that shit in for a long time. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not obsessive or anything. I don’t sit in my house thinking about you all day long. In fact, there have been months that go by when thoughts of you don’t even enter my brain. But then some random thing will pop into my head out of the blue. Like I’ll see some kid in a pram eating black licorice, and I’ll think of you. Side note—I’ve tried it again as an adult, and I still think it tastes like the bottom of my shoe, so perhaps it’s that you just have no taste. You probably don’t even like scotch. Anyway, I’m sure this letter won’t find its way to you. Or if by some miracle it does, you won’t answer. But if you’re reading this, you should know two things.
1. The Macallan 1926 is worth the extra cash. Goes down smooth.
2. You SUCK.
Later, traitor, Griffin
What in the hell?
Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared on more than one hundred bestseller lists and are currently translated into twenty-six languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children, where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.
Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today, and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of more than twenty novels. A former television news anchor, Penelope has sold more than two million books and has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list twenty-one times. She resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism.
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