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Versions of her. Andrea Lochen 

Versions of Her by [Lochen, Andrea]

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

I was intrigued by this, who wouldn’t want to find a portal to the past in their home? Of course there’s the danger of seeing and hearing things we really don’t want to see, so its kind of a mixed bag. The ethics too – is it really spying? Can it be compared to reading someones diary?

Melanie and Kelsey are sisters, but very different in nature from each other. On the surface Melanie is Mrs Successful, with her job, husband, and perfect home, but underneath she’s grieving a miscarriage after she and Ben have been struggling to become parents for a while. Kelsey knows none of this, just feels that Melanie is always critical of the way her life runs, her love life sucks, her job isn’t exactly going places and she feels fiercely that her life and Melanie’s are very different.

Then out of the blue Kelsey gets a call from Melanie about selling the lakeside home they inherited, now the tenants have moved out. They both visit the house, find it needs work, and Melanie decides to stay and oversee it, needing a break after the miscarriage, just wanting to get away from her lovely husband. She just can’t take his well meaning ideas any more…Emotions can be like that, we all take a loss, disappointments differently, and though she loves Ben and he loves her, they could so easily drift apart after their loss. It happens to many couples, the constant stress of timing, ovulation charts, sex at prescribed times, somehow among all that the love gets lost, and I feel that Ben sees that as potentially happening to them, and that’s why he wants a break of a few months before trying again. To Melanie though it feels like giving up, she feels a failure as a woman, and though of course we can see another side, when you’re in the thick of a problem its all you can see.

Kelsey loves her sister but they’re not exactly close, Melanie is more careful, measured in her actions, thinks things through, while Kelsey just blunders in regardless and that’s how she’s found herself in her early thirties trapped, no great career, no loving partner, its just her and Sprocket her rescue dog. And I loved Sprocket, he was a great addition to the story. Its little touches like that which make a story feel real.
Then Melanie finds the hidden door, and, well, at first its fun, but then it becomes such that they both want to see more and yet don’t always like what they see. It does make them think about their family, see themselves, from another angle, lets them see different sides to some problems, helps them cope with events they hadn’t realised had such an impact on their lives. Sometimes though secrets are just that for a reason, and there comes a time when the two are divided about what to do next.

Would I like to see into my past? See my mum again? Part of me says yes, but part of me knows it wouldn’t change the fact she’s long gone, and the person I’d be seeing isn’t the one I know as mum. Still, there are always two sides to a story and it would be interesting to see how she viewed certain events from my childhood, and perhaps know more about hers.

Its a fun read, interesting and made me think about what I would do in the same circumstances, ( I guess I’m overly curious, I’d have to take a peek at least). Kelsey and Melanie and the problems from past and present felt very real, and even knowing the doorway into the past can’t exist the story made me feel it was genuine, that I could believe in it. Its not a story I’d reread, but one I’m glad I did read, made me think about myself and my life too.

Stars: Three, a fun read, fantasy and yet believable fantasy, with some questions that made me wonder, what would I do?

ARC via author

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To Pet a Rose, Marie Penn

To Pet a Rose, Marie Penn

To Pet A Rose by [Penn, Marie]
Genre: General Fiction, Romance

Well, I read it. All of it. Yet TBH I still don’t really know what its about, or where the story is going and won’t be continuing with it.
The characters feel a little odd, a bit flat, one dimensional, and I’m not sure I like any of them. The writing throws in a lot of vocabulary that was overdone and felt weird I had to look up, I’m pretty well read and its usually only historical words or specialist ones that have me stumped, but here they were not just used within the fencing/festival setting but thrown into everyday speech, and it just felt odd and a bit out of place.
What I did think I wouldn’t be so keen on, the fencing and the world of Faires and Festivals ended up being one of the best parts of the book for me. I found that really interesting but not enough to actually enjoy this story.
It could well be just me, this is my view and that doesn’t mean others won’t love it. Its not a bad book, a few oddities in the language, but just not one for me. It seems to be a first novel, and ?I hate writing low stars for any book, but especially debut ones but honesty is important and this story isn’t for me.

Stars: Two, one of those where the story and I just don’t gel.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Wolf’s Bane (Moon Marked Book 1) Aimee Easterling

Wolf’s Bane (Moon Marked Book 1) Aimee Easterling

Wolf's Bane (Moon Marked Book 1) by [Easterling, Aimee]

Genre:Sci-fi and Fantasy, Romance.

I love fantasy/romance reads, but so may of these seem to be all grunting, monosyllabic alphas, reverse harems or ones where the romance is all the book, no side/sub plots, no overall story line. Still, it means when I do find a read I enjoy then its like a sweet victory!

I added this one last week, it was free at the time, so nothing to lose and I’d enjoyed the sample. I’ve just bought books two and three, as it was an intriguing read, and I’ll be looking at what else Aimee has written.
Mai is great, she’s a Kitsune, Japanese fox shifter. I’ve come across these occasionally – I think the last one was in a Hailey Edwards read as a secondary character, and the Kitsune premise fascinates me. They’re not just shape shifters, but have a kind of fox nature in the way they think and behave, and usually they have some form of magic. Aimee has added a touch here where that magic is connected closely to Mai, and allows her to create real items, her sword for example, within a split second, but it needs to stay physically connected to her or she weakens. I’m still getting my head around the star ball that Kitsunes in this book have, that allows the magic.
Mai is guardian to her younger sister, and struggling. She doesn’t know any other Kitsunes, they live in a city controlled by werewolves, and she needs to tread carefully, as they see Kitsunes as something to be killed.
Its an interesting story, full of some very real characters, sub plots that add up to the whole, the star ball connection to magic, and of course poor Mai doesn’t have anyone she can ask for help to learn more about what they are. She’s never met another Kitsune. Her dead mother offers some cryptic comments at times in Mai’s head, but they’re beyond my understanding, and mostly Mai doesn’t see the logic til too late either. I do like that connection though, and trying to puzzle out what the heck she means by her strange phrases.

There’s a developing romance but its still early days, and apart from a couple of stolen kisses hasn’t gone further. So many fantasy romance reads make the romance all the story, held up by the tiniest of plots, and for me I want all the mystery, the magic, the struggles, with the romance being there but as part of the story, not all of it.

Stars: Four, a fun read, and a good start to the trilogy.

Book purchase – I do buy books in addition to receiving ARCs and having KU!

Heart of Stone, (Alice Worth Book 4), Lisa Edmonds

Heart of Stone, (Alice Worth Book 4), Lisa Edmonds 

Heart of Stone (Alice Worth Book 4) by [Edmonds, Lisa]

Genre:Sci-fi and Fantasy, Romance.

Another terrific installment to the series. Its my favourite sort, where there’s an overall story arc, but each episode is complete and wraps up this story neatly, not leaving great cliffhanger endings, but just hints of things to come.
Review of books one and three below
https://jeanniezelos.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/heart-of-malice-alice-worth-book-1-lisa-edmonds/

https://jeanniezelos.wordpress.com/2018/11/30/heart-of-ice-alice-worth-book-3-kindle-edition-by-lisa-edmond/

I love Alice, she’s come such a long way from the solitary woman we first met. She’s strongly independent and yet happy to make allies now, trusting in a few friends, Sean and Malcolm having the most trust. They’re’ two great characters too.
Malcolm works so well with Alice, his issues mean he’s a real asset to Alice, and she respects him, does everything she can to keep him safe.
Sean, Pack alpha whose Pack aren’t all happy about Alice, and in the past a couple of people have brought serious danger to them both with their actions to replace alice with someone they feel more suitable.
Then there’s the vampires, some of whom Alice has reluctantly accepted as allies, helped and accepted help. Charles seems to have some kind of feelings for Alice, that’s been clear since day one. Its not so much a kind of romantic interest, as he sees her as a challenge, a puzzle, and for a centuries old vampire things like that are important. Life must get a little bland after so many years, an intellectual challenge of working out who and what she is, keeps life interesting for him. Like all vampires though, that doesn’t mean he’s trustworthy. They’ve got a kind of understanding currently, where both have helped the other and feel…well…a sort of friendship even if on Alice’ side, that’s kind of guarded.

Once more we’ve a tightly woven adventure, bringing in issues from the past and setting up more for the future.
Alice is hired to find a missing child, an unregistered one, with rare talents that would make him a target for unscrupulous cabals. She can’t just abandon a child, even though finding and rescuing him once more puts her life in danger, and this time maybe her long hidden secrets too.
If they come out how will those around her react? What will it mean for her relationship with Sean? And will it make her an even bigger target to the supernatural world than she currently is?

Stars: Five, another cracking read, and i’m keen for more. Some series tire as they continue, I can see Alice has lots of adventures to go before that happens 😉 hurrah. If you like fantasy with a side of romance that doesn’t dominate, just supports the story this read is one for you.
Book via KU. The whole series is currently available on KU and its one worth reading

The Echo Trilogy Collection: The Complete Series  Lindsey Fairleigh 

The Echo Trilogy Collection: The Complete Series  Lindsey Fairleigh 

The Echo Trilogy Collection: The Complete Series (Echo World Book 1) by [Fairleigh, Lindsey]

 

I read this series as individual books as they came out, but it’s now available as a complete set, a massive 1143 pages for just £9.99 or free on KU.
I’ve just borrowed this on KU and reread them ( easier than digging them out individually on my kindle, I’ve almost 7K books there…. ) Each book has been renamed, maybe has been updated, from memory i didn’t notice anything different but it is several years since I’ve read them. Knowing the backstory and some of what would happen meant i feel I got more from the story this time round – that’s something i often find with complex reads such as this.
It’s set in modern times, but also there are periods when the story reverts to the past, from Ancient Egypt to current day and between. It’s a great read, totally absorbing, great characters that felt real to me, and some unusual world building. I love it, definitely a five star read, thought I can’t recall how I originally rated the stories individually.

I’ve added links to past reviews.
https://wp.me/p3gAhS-rQ

https://wp.me/p3gAhS-Q9

https://wp.me/p3gAhS-VZ

I’m about to read the fabulous Ink Witch series next, same world, a few years on and with secondary characters from this book playing the leads. Kat Dubois Chronicles (6 Book Series) by  Lindsey Fairleigh

Storm Cursed, A Mercy Thompson novel, Patricia Briggs

Storm Cursed, A Mercy Thompson novel, Patricia Briggs

Storm Cursed: A Mercy Thompson novel by [Briggs, Patricia]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

My all time favourite fantasy author, others come close but she’s still Queen of Fantasy for me, so when I saw this I just had to request it.
I’ve read and reread all the books multiple times and even now find things I’ve missed on previous readings. Its a fabulous series, and unlike some that go on to become long running but tired, its still as fresh as the first one.
Each story is complete but part of a long term story arc.

What I love about good authors is the way they bring in what I think of as story seeds, the little hints that are easy to miss, that become part of bigger plots further down the line, sometimes books later.
Sherwood Post is one of those, we met him a few books back, he’s grown in person as we meet him more and he plays a big part in this book. Being a fellow leg amputee I have a real soft spot for him, and it was great to slowly see more of him in this story.
He’s had a tangled history with witches, can’t recall his past but retains an awful lot of instinctive fear about witchcraft, so its probably a psychiatric issue more than physical one but who knows? The brain is a curious organ. Where usually werewolves can regrow body parts, his leg presumably was spelled in some way and hasn’t regrown. I feel for his struggles, and although he has a below knee amputation and mine is most of my leg his struggles are real. Patricia clearly either knows someone like this or has done research because unlike in so many books ( Horse Whisperer anyone?) Sherwood’s physical issues with his missing limb and prosthesis are genuine. I know, having struggled over the same things. In fact when he talks about his socket for his prosthetic I knew exactly what he meant, it was suggested as possibly suitable for me by a doctor in the early days, and though my prosthesist disagreed he made one anyway, so I could try and he was right. It was incredibly comfortable and perfect for those only missing below knee, but for people like me the weight of a whole limb was too much, and it just wouldn’t stay on 😦 I love that Patricia didn’t just give Sherwood a false limb, but made it the right sort for him. Small touches but those are what make her books so incredible to read for me. I can believe in them, can believe in the weird and wonderful types of folk she dreams up.

Once more its am amazing story, full of suspense and yet lightened with touches of humour ( nudge!!). I love that she brings in so many parts of past stories, and weaves them seamlessly with the current one. So here we’ve Mercy and the wolves still dealing with her perhaps rash proclamation, but the right thing to do, offering protection to the inhabitants of the Tri-cities. That brings in everyone in this story, the Pack, Elizaveta and her family, the vampires, and of course the Fae, including my much admired Zee and Tad. Zee’s actions here reminded me very much of his earth affinity that allowed Mercy and the others into Underhill several books back. I enjoy that kind of continuity.

Wulfe is in this story a lot towards the end and I’m kind of confused about how I feel over him. He’s a real mix, we’ve seen his seemingly uncaring, blase attitude to his menagerie, and to humans in general, his lack of loyalty to the seethe possibly in the Frost book, or maybe he was playing a long game, his strange abilities as the Wizard, and yet he seems to have a thread of doing the right thing running through. Is it because of morals ( unlikely) or just that it appeals to his sense of fun, his fondness for causing change, stirring things up? A bit like Coyote you never quite know whats behind their mechanisms. I guess its part of that long, hundreds- maybe thousands- of years of life, they like entertainment to relieve the ennui that affects some.

Mercy, well, I’ve loved her character right from the start, overlooked so, so often by Wolves, Witches, Fae and humans, yet she’s incredibly intelligent, with the strong sense of morals that guides her, and somehow gets others doing whats right. Adam ( swoon) has always seen her value though, and respects her even while he’s terrified for her as she veers into life changing difficulties. He knows that while he’s love to keep her wrapped up safely away from danger that’s not who she is, and their relationship would suffer so he respects her decisions and always has her back.
I hope she and the others have got lots more stories to come, this world Patricia has created and its evolution can take much more yet before the story gets old.

Stars: five of course. Another riveting read, taking me on a wonderful journey into another world. A book to get lost in, to leave reality for a few hours and immense myslef in the Tri-cities and its inhabitants.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

The Talon & the Blade, Grace Bloods: Book 3, Jasmine Silvera

The Talon & the Blade, Grace Bloods: Book 3, Jasmine Silvera

The Talon & the Blade (Grace Bloods Book 3) by [Silvera, Jasmine]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Sci-fi and Fantasy

I loved the first book in this series, but found it a little harder to connect with the second, and again with this one. That’s not to say its not an excellent read though, just one of those where I think I’ll get more from it on second ( or more ) readings. I love to go back to back through a series when all books are complete, really immerse myself and this series is one that will work well for that.
Gregor, he’s been an enigma since the first book, and I really enjoyed seeing his backstory, and seeing the attraction between him and Ana. It was interesting too being in another necromancers realm, Raymond is very different to Azreal, seems very distant from his Aegis, where Azreal and his people feel like there are respectful but friends, that he supports them in their actions. Raymond sends Ana off to deal with issues in this book with the minimum of information, which brings her into great danger. Gregor knows Azreal would never do that, and its interesting comparing two such distinct styles of rule.
I love that Jasmine has created such a fabulously different world, but it does take a bit of understanding. Fortunately the books have been released fairly close so the stories, settings and characters are still pretty fresh in my head.

Stars: Four. I enjoyed this story very much, just not as much as the first tow books. At times I was a little lost about what was actually happening, the story behind the story so to speak. I think re-reading will sort that though.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

American Witch, American Witch: Book 1, Thea Harrison

American Witch, American Witch: Book 1, Thea Harrison

American Witch by [Harrison, Thea]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

I love Thea’s writing, have read many ( but not all) of the Elder Races series, and I loved the tie in here. Its very subtle, not a direct link, more a reference to the world setting.
I enjoyed the story, had me hooked very quickly and loved Molly and Josiah separately, but I wasn’t so convinced about them as a couple. There was certainly intense lust, but they seemed to flow from that to a full fledged relationship very quickly, and it just didn’t feel right. I felt cheated of the relationship growth, especially as for much of the time they were separated, for Molly’s safety.
The dangers facing Molly were twofold, first externally via her cheating husband and his machinations and secondly from her newly emerged and totally unexpected witch power. I loved Molly as a person, and cheered her on when she announced at the party just what Austin had been doing. He really was a typical selfish cheating husband. I had my thoughts early on about who the other party ( this time) was, and really felt for Molly when she discovered who it was.
Josiah seemed pretty cold, single minded about his quest when we first meet him, and he doesn’t realise Molly is unaware of her Powers. There are some terrific scenes between them, and TBH he was a character I thought I’d dislike. Sometimes its more interesting that way, than having the main leads be wonderful, likable characters right from the start. When I discovered his history, the reasons behind his quest I understood it. Its bring him and those around him into danger though, and I was full of respect for Molly when she said – for specific reasons) that she couldn’t be around that danger, and removed herself temporarily until he’d sorted it, even though it was heartbreaking for both of them. That brings me back to the turnaround in feelings though, where they’ve gone from 0-60, from disliking each other intensely to full on togetherness. It was just too quick, and I felt a bit cheated.
Its an interesting story, with some great characters. I couldn’t recall if it was a standalone or the start of new series as I was reading, but am so pleased it is a series. This book ends completely but leaves lots of threads open for more stories, and I’ll be lining up to read them.

Stars: four, a great start, just a few small reservations that stopped it from being a five.

Arc via Netgalley

The Last Loyalty, Bernadette Lyons.

The Last Loyalty, Bernadette Lyons.

The Last Loyalty

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

What an incredible debut read! I was blown away by this story, moved to tears by the ending, but satisfied by the way it was done even so. It was the perfect finale for this book (even if it did make me cry).

I wasn’t sure when I read synopsis if it would be a story for me, but it sounded a bit like Jean M Auel series, of which I read and loved the first book years ago. ( I might have to search the rest out now!) It does share a few characteristics via The People and the way they live, very primitively, but I feel they share more with historical Native Indians in their outlook, reverence for nature, the way they follow the horse herd, as the Native Indians followed the bison etc at different times of year.

Jessa, a classic under-dog, talented and respected as a healer, and yet ridiculed at times for her eye colour, brown, unlike the rest of the People who have blue eyes.
Hers is a lonely life, not for her the popularity among the men of the other ladies, and she’s kind of apart from the rest, few real friends, always on the fringes.
Then she gets a new patient and although he’s a stranger, a potential danger to The People, she is fierce in her defence of him. Malcolm’s uniform bears marks the People associate with Gods, and when he does open his eyes they are gray – another sign from the Gods.
Malcolm finds it hard to believe his situation, is desperate to escape and get back to his duty with the army. It’s when he looks out at night though, early on, and sees two moons and many more stars than on Earth that he realises its not going to be easy. He has no idea where he is or if its possible to return.
As time goes on and he becomes accepted among The People his desire to get back, his duty to return vies with his situation of a life he’s come to enjoy, a woman he loves, a people he respects.
And then come The Others…..and Malcolm realises that maybe he is here for a reason, that the People need him and his command of tactics to survive the upcoming battle.

Its a fabulous read, I really enjoyed seeing the day to day life of how the People live, the way the horses are so important, the way the tribe is run, the respect for nature. When Malcolm goes on his first hunt and the prayer of thanks to the Gods is said over the animal that dies, the prayer respecting and venerating its sacrifice of life, it reminded me very much of the Native Indians who did the same, and of the Scots who had their own prayers of thanks when hunting. I’ve no doubt other groups that live off the land have similar rituals, and this made the hunt feel very real.
I liked too that they didn’t just slay at random, but chose older, weaker targets, never a pregnant or nursing animal, and when the leader decided they had enough meat for survival they stopped.
All that made the People feel real to me, I loved their rituals, the way nothing was wasted, their whole way of life, tough but fair in the main. There’s a hierarchy that works, where everyone knows their place.

Malcolm slowly finds his place, and he was a man I adored, he saw in Jessa what her eye colour blinded the others to. Once he treated her with respect, as a desired woman, other men of the People saw her differently too. I was so happy at what transpired between them, at the way she and Malcolm became one unit, that he didn’t follow the Peoples custom of sleeping with any woman that invited them, but stayed true to Jessa only.
I felt I knew many of the tribe, knew them as people, as real individuals and understood their reactions. I liked that not all were good, that sometimes behind a pretty or handsome face lay an unpleasant nature. There’s a slow build up of tension between some of the characters, things that all come to a climax towards the end.
And the end- oh I really wanted a different ending, but TBH it wouldn’t have been near as good done my way. The way it happened broke my heart, made me cry but was so perfect, and among the sadness there is also happiness, not just for Jessa but for others of the People.

Stars: five, its an incredible, amazing, riveting first novel and I’m so looking forward to more from this author.

Arc via Netgalley

Touch of Smoke, Karissa Laurel

Touch of Smoke, Karissa Laurel

Touch of Smoke by [Laurel, Karissa]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy.

I loved Karissa’s Norse Chronicles, a really unusual supernatural series in a genre that’s dominated by vampires and werewolves. I was hoping she’d put that same unique spin on this book, and wasn’t disappointed.

This story is told in a past/present format, with a three year gap between the two time periods. I really enjoyed the way the tension is built, that we know something supernatural is happening, but not what or why.
I could see how Rikki felt that events were strange and yet like most of us, she dismissed her feelings as wrong. Well, who really believes in a supernatural answer, we’re creatures who believe in the obvious answer, and not the spooky one that we can’t really believe in.
I loved the characters, from Rikki and Mina, Owen and Luke, diner owner Rose, and Rikki’s mum who’s the town sheriff. Rikki wasn’t expecting to fall for Owen, being focused on escaping the town, but her friend Luke returns bringing Owen with him and they both seem set to settle in the town. That poses a problem for Rikki, who wants to do her training in a place four hours away….
And then the big mystery, huge events, Mina dies, Rikki can’t quite believe what she saw, what terrified her, what gives her nightmares still. She finds it hard to believe Owen could do what she remembers, but now three years later she’s ready – maybe – to face up to what she ran from, to seek answers.

I love the way it all slowly falls into place, how once more Karissa has turned to a more unusual form of supernatural entity for her story.
I loved Owen from the start, but could see how the secrets were wearing on Rikki, how she was struggling to convince herself about what she’d seen, whether it was real or her imagination, but those nightmares and Mina’s death were certainly real. And scary!
I enjoyed the way it wrapped up, it was a very satisfying ending. I hate when there are unanswered questions or solutions that come too easily and with supernatural stories I feel too often a slip of magic is used as answer and it feels too slick. I want my solutions to be hard won, to require energy, effort, sacrifice, not just a metaphorical wave of a hand. This ending was perfect.

Stars: Five, another fabulous read from Karissa.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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