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Back to You, Chris Scully

Back to You, Chris Scully

Back to You by [Scully, Chris]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I loved this story. a beautiful slowly unfolding romance, a tantalising mystery, and a look at just how much childhood influences our lives.

Alex seemed pretty selfish when we first met him and I didn’t really like him. It seemed pretty straightforward, alcoholic father loses job, or could have been jobless father becomes alcoholic….depends on your view, and then parents separate and mum moves away with kids and remarries.
Alex loves his mum and stepfather but carries a real resentment that his own father didn’t make more effort to see him and sister Janet, didn’t even phone them.
Janet’s older so her view of the past is not the same, she recalls more of their parents being happy. She leaves home and ends up back in the same town as their dad, and now Alex is back as their father is dying he can see that she’s got issues too, another alcoholic, though a functioning one who covers it well.

We only see things from Alex POV which is a shame, as I’d have loved in insight into Ben’s mind.
He’s stayed in the same town, made a life for himself quietly, and clearly the event that had impact on him back then is still affecting him. His sister Misty, Janet’s best friend, went missing while Alex and his family were still living there. In fact he and Ben were the last people to see her.
Her mum, Angela, was like many parents, wrapped up in day to day stuff, the slog and grind of working, running a home, looking after teens, didn’t really make time for the kids, let them roam freely without much checking. Now she’s thrown the last 20 years into finding out what happened to Misty, as if she blames herself for not being there so much of the while.
She’s turned Misty into some kind of a saint, and rewritten the past to give them a close, devoted almost, relationship when it simply wasn’t that way, and Misty was a pretty mean, malicious individual.
She’s really no time for Ben, kind of dismisses him as doing OK, and just doesn’t appreciate that she still has one child, albeit grown now, living near her.
Ben looks after her, helping out when she’s in trouble yet again in her search for answers. She’s very single  minded.

Somehow Alex gets caught up in her search, partly because he feels there’s a good story in it, partly because he wants something, anything, to give him an excuse to spend as little time as he can with his dying dad…

This book is a really close look at families, childhood, mistakes, the things that happen, that we can’t evade but which have so much impact on us as adults.
Its clear that Alex thinks he’s left the past behind but inside he’s still seeking his dad’s approval, but knowing its never coming, so everything he does is tinged with that sense of failure in his view of dad’s eyes even before he starts it. My view of him changed as the story unfolded and I grew to really like him.

I love Ben, so quiet, so internal, and so helpful in an unobtrusive way to others in the town. He sees people for what they are, what they need, what he can do to help, not what problems they have.
He’s always loved Alex, that’s clear, even though they were only 13 when he left, and I get the feeling his life without Alex, with his mum there but in a way absent from his life in her search, means he’s kind of lonely. Its a small town, everyone knows everything, or thinks they do – or so it seems, and towns like that aren’t likely to have too many openly gay people.
Still, he’s made himself a quietly successful life as an artist, and in his unique way gives so much back to helping others.
I just couldn’t help wanting things to work out, was really worried he’d get his heart broken again. I could understand why he wasn’t overjoyed to see Alex again.

Alex changes a lot over the course of the story. Forced to look at himself he finally learns he doesn’t like what he sees, what he’s been doing, kidding himself he’s happy, but knowing and ignoring that his childhood issues were still driving him.
Was his attempt to find Misty altruistic, an attempt at atonement or a cynical plot for the next big news story?
For me it starts as one and ends as the other, he and I learned a lot about him over the course of the book.

Its not an overly sexual read, the parts where they do come together are very erotic and sensual but not frequent, and it takes a long while before they even touch each other, let alone do more. That was perfect for this story though, there was so much to tell, so much to learn that too much sex, them getting together quickly despite their pasts would have felt wrong. This way the balance felt perfect for me.
I used to read a lot of thrillers/suspense, but found their focus on thriller action first and romance second didn’t really work for me, I need the romance to be quite a strong, solid part of the story even if kept in the background.
This book, putting the suspense angle into a mystery, a story to be worked out that involves so many characters we’ve already met works better for me than an out and out thriller type read, bringing in lost of external characters.

Stars: five, a great read, perfect blend of romance ans suspense for me, and one I simply devoured in one sitting.
Riptide novels tend to be like that for me, stories that engross me, seduce me into another world, and let me escape from this one for a few hours. I was there with Ben, Alex, Janet and Angela, wondering just what was coming out next.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

An Unnatural Vice, KJ Charles

An Unnatural Vice, KJ Charles

An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities) by [Charles, KJ]

Genre:  Romance,

I love KJC’s stories and this is another perfect read. She uses language that fits the time period, and which the kindle look up function proves useful for me when its words I haven’t met before!
I love the English language to be used to the fullest in novels, far too often its kind of dumbed down, almost as if authors feel readers won’t understand their writing. I don’t want a story that’s so literate the plots get lost in flowery overdone prose, but ones that like this give a richness of language to the story really lifts the work.

Its another gentle mystery, very real feeling of the time period, bringing in the feeling of spookiness and damp that the London fogs of the time had.
We meet characters from book one and that was enjoyable, i love it when we see those from earlier books moving on with their stories.
It’s a time when homosexuality was a crime punishable by prison, so these characters have to be very careful in their actions.

Nathaniel and Justin, fiercely on opposing sides, Nathaniel is determined to expose Justin as a fraud, and Justin sees in him all the things he hates, rich privileged upbringing, a person who’s quick to judge, condemn, look down on others less fortunate than themselves.
Neither are quite correct, but its such fun seeing how KJC is going to move them from that adversarial point to lovers. It creeps in carefully, sliding unseen into each others psyche almost the way the London Fog creeps into corners clouding vision.

The description of the seances and how Justin ran them was fascinating, and considering the time and limitations of things that could be used its really believable. I can see how he got the tag of Seer of London, he was very accomplished at what he did.
Its easy like Nathaniel to sneer at how he earned a living, but looking at what else he could do its much harder to judge him. He made many people happy, kept himself, Frankie, Emma and Sukey off the streets, warm, fed and clothed so was it really so bad, did he really deserve Nathaniel’s condemnation?
Its very easy to look down on others from the high road, not so easy if you spend time in their shoes, or even looking at their actions from their POV.

There’s some real danger for them here, the story from book one continues, the murders rack up once more, bringing Justin and Nathaniel into genuine peril, fearing for their lives. And by now they fear as much for each others lives as for their own. It leads them further into the romance, reveals parts of each other so far hidden, and its the perfect story for escape from real time issues for a while.

I loved this book, and like other series from KJC its going into my keeper files for rereading when series is complete. The Magpie/Jackdaw series of hers has been read again a couple of times, and I find things I missed first time round when I’m doing a back-to-back read of the novels.

 

Stars: five, a fabulous dive back into a time when men who liked men had to be incredibly careful, when the police were overstretched and murders abounded, and when Spiritualism was at a peak.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket, Linda MacDonald. The Moon Shines Red, Heart of Darkness 1, Pamela Sparkman

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket, Linda MacDonald

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by [MacDonald, Linda]

Genre:  Romance, General Fiction,(adult).
Well. I love romance, saw this and was intrigued but…..to me this Isn’t Romance. Romance for me is lovers, twists, dramas, upheavals, and this book has all that but it doesn’t have a HEA, or even a HFN and to me one of those is essential for a book classed as a romance read.
That said it’s a story I very much enjoyed, made me do a lot of that “what if” thinking, look at things from the position of each character.

I hadn’t read the author’s other books which feature characters from this one, and maybe if I had I’d feel differently about Marianne, Ted and Felicity.
I may have been more sympathetic to Felicity, when we first met her. As it is I found her strange, very out for herself. She’d left Ted to be with her lover, and yet she’s irritated that he’s found someone to replace her, disparaging about Marianne, irritated that she’s spending time with Ted in the family home, cross when they both spend time in Marianne’s London home.

Then she meets Coll, and its as if she likes the attention, is flattered and is using him as a place warmer, waiting to see if she can displace Marianne and get her position back with Ted.

She seemed to me very shallow, expected everything to go back as before she left to move abroad with her lover, she left without caring about them, now she’s back she wants it all to carry on as if she hadn’t gone, as if those months had just been a kind of limbo for everyone else.. We do see her lighter side though, and maybe her attitude is one shaped by recent events and not a true look at her.
I did warm to her over time, did come to understand her better, and at the end I respected her and what she did.

Sarah, I felt she really drew the short straw. Ten years “with” Coll, each having separate homes and their relationship revolving solely around what he wants.
Her first husband died, when they were still deeply in love and she really wants to find that again, seemed like she had when she first met Coll. However he’s slowly eroded her confidence to the position when she seems to think its OK for him to have other women, (OW she calls them) as she knows its all flirting on Coll’s part, and nothing serious would come of it. Then he meets Felicity, and everything changes.

Coll, I hated that man and yet I could see what he was so attractive to women. He’s decent looking and cultivates an air of mystery, the Bohemian artist type, and is very careful what he says about himself and his life. What he does do so well is encourage the OWs to talk about themselves, leaving it open for him to listen carefully, to flatter, to encourage, to sympathise until they hang on his every word.
He made me so angry the way he was so careful not to tell Felicity about Sarah…..I wanted to shout at Sarah “Follow him, Check his phone, ask him outright.” To Felicity i wanted to say “ask more, questions why he hasn’t/doesn’t seem to have has a relationship since his divorce over a decade ago.” But of course they don’t and the story rolls on to its climax.
I so felt for Sarah, she knew but was kidding herself. She realised Felicity was more than the usual Ow, a real threat this time. And Coll, he just wouldn’t see what he was doing was wrong, belittled Sarah in subtle ways, didn’t stop to think of how hurt she would be about what he says. All the way through he only ever looks at how events affect him, and some of the things he says to Sarah I could strangle him, choke him, I was so angry.  Dammit he’s a book character! How can I get so angry about one of those 😉 but I do. Testament of good writing the the world and characters that are fictional feel so real.

The ending kind of soft, subdued, unfinished to me, there’s not real conclusion and overall from everything I think Sarah is the one who lose most, I really felt for her. She’d done nothing but fall in love with a charismatic but shallow, selfish man.

Stars: five,not a romance, but an interesting and absorbing read none-the-less. Not a rereader but a full 5* story despite that.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Moon Shines Red, Heart of Darkness 1, Pamela Sparkman

The Moon Shines Red: A Fantasy Romance Novel (Heart of Darkness Book 1) by [Sparkman, Pamela]

Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, some you win, some you lose. Sadly this was a lose for me. Its garnered a whole slew of 4 and 5 star reviews so clearly its spot on for many readers, but I’m not among them.

I thought I’d like it, it sounded intriguing but I just felt disassociated from the plots and the characters. I just couldn’t connect with them in any way, didn’t really feel anything for them, didn’t care if things worked out. I did skim read the last 60% just to finish as it was clear when I got to 40% that it wasn’t going to work for me 😦
That happens, reading is subjective, not liking it doesn’t mean it’s a bad book any more than liking a book doesn’t mean it’s good. Its just My View of it, and if you share my taste in reads you may feel the same.

Its perfectly well set out, doesn’t leave plot lines hanging, is easy to follow and has a proper ending where everything is clear and story-line for later book emerges, but it felt almost YA in the way the plots played out and the characters acted. Though I’ve enjoyed some YA in the past its not my preferred reading type and this just didn’t work for me. I won’t continue with the series.

Stars: Two, a great book for many readers, but wasn’t one for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Commonwealth, Ann Patchett

Commonwealth, Ann Patchett

Genre:  General Fiction (adult), Literary fiction

Well, lots of rave reviews, an author who I’ve never read and a book that sounded interesting.
So loads of people love this book but for me? It just didn’t work.

I found the constant time changing choppy and confusing. One moment I felt the kids were small then we were reminiscing and they were adults. Then back to them as kids again…
I didn’t like the characters, didn’t understand what they did, why the did things and just felt I was reading day to day appalling parenting, reading about neglectful, selfish adults, bad decisions and after getting to 60% with a struggle I finally gave up.

I can see others love it, really adore it and that’s great. Its just isn’t one for me. That’s how reading is, what one likes another hates so make your own judgment, you could be among those who love this kind of read, or like me who don’t.
Its not a reflection of how good or bad a story is, just on how the reader enjoys it. I’ve loved books others have rated one and two stars, what they didn’t like is what made them perfect for me. this could be that book for you. Or not 😉

Stars: Two, I didn’t hate it so no one star from me but there wasn’t enough interest to keep me reading.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Just for the Holidays, Sue Moorcroft

Just for the Holidays, Sue Moorcroft

Just for the Holidays by [Moorcroft, Sue]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

I wanted something light, after a few dark, heavy reads and this was perfect, letting me relax while reading, lifting my mind up to bright and happy. Its not all smiles though, there’s some pretty sad moments, very real issues that will face many of us at some point in our lives.

So we start on holiday with Leah, and her sister’s family. It ought to be wonderful, relaxing, lazy days by the beach followed by nights spent with good food, wine and conversations. Well, that’s what * should * have happened. Instead poor Leah finds herself being a temporary parent to teens Jordan and Natasha, while her sister makes sporadic, desultory attempts to sort her life out, and her brother in law is mending a badly broken ankle….
Thankfully next door provides a distraction in the shape of hunky Ronan and his teen son Curtis.

Michele, Leah’s sister is a selfish woman. She’s two lovely teens – well, lovely as teens can be ;-), a husband who’s a kind, caring, responsible man and yet like many she’s discontented, has thrown herself into an affair with a younger man. Now she’s pregnant with her formerly happy, easy life strewn around her in ruins, blaming everyone but herself. I was so angry with her.
I haven’t patience with the “we just fell in love” mantra. There’s always a point when the harmless glances and occasional flirty chat moves forward, and its at that point a spouse should stop. Its not hard. just do the right thing.
Of course that’s not what they want, and Michele moves forward telling herself they can’t help it, ignores the heartbreak she’s going to rain down on her lovely family.
Sort your family issues out first is my solution, then once you’re separated there’s time for someone new.

And that’s my rant over, but you can see why I was so angry at Michele.
Right from the start she’s leaving Leah to do everything; shopping, cleaning, cooking, looking after the kids, citing morning sickness and feeling unwell as an excuse to stay away from anything resembling work/responsibility.
She’s actively jealous of Leah’s career, her child free life, but as Leah reminds her, she chose a different route, she shouldn’t be expecting Leah to take over her life now she doesn’t like it.
Her husband Alister is a lovely man, adores his kids and is trying hard to be civil, but his world has crashed and Michele isn’t making things any easier.
The kids were great, typical teens, ever hungry, full of energy – until they’re asked to do something of course, and they adore Leah. Until now she’s been cool auntie but now she’s a mum substitute, and after Alister’s injury a dad one too…
Teens are a mix, grown and wanting to be adults one moment but still kids inside and Michele’s actions have a huge impact on them.

Then there’s the family next door, Ronan and his son Curtis.
Curtis soon throws in with Jordan and Natasha, and the three are together having fun most days – and evenings.
Leah’s cooking is fantastic, she’s a trained chef, and soon they’re spending mealtimes with the family.
Ronan and Leah are attracted but the course of true love and all that…hasn’t hardly time to run smooth here with all the things being thrown up against it.

Its a fabulous read, heady warm summer days abroad, fabulous food – and lots of decadent chocolate desserts. The characters are a real mix of families, ones we all know, issues many of us have faced one way or another, and throughout I was rooting for Ronan and Leah, they’re two great guys and deserve each other. They’ve both been let down badly by others in the past, Leah especially is affected still by a past relationship that went bad, so though I wanted them to be together I kind of sympathised when I could feel her drawing barriers up.

A story that was fun, felt very summery, with real characters, ones we know, can feel have genuine issues and problems that face many of us at some points in out lives.

Stars: five, a fabulous summery read, with real people and genuine scenes.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Obsession, A shocking psychological thriller where love affairs turn deadly, Amanda Robson

Obsession, A shocking psychological thriller where love affairs turn deadly, Amanda Robson
Obsession: A shocking psychological thriller where love affairs turn deadly by [Robson, Amanda]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult) , Mystery & Thrillers

This is an amazing debut book but a very, very uncomfortable read. The characters are not exactly likable, yet at the start they could be any of us, they’re fairly ordinary types, there’s nothing to suggest just what is going to unfold, how dark their lives are going to turn.
Its not a happy ever after read, so take note! It is a rivetting read though, I found myself saying internally “just one more chapter” as I just had to see how things would progress. And of course that led to one more and then one more chapter after that 🙂

We meet Carly and Rob on holiday, he’s a GP, she works on the practice part time and looks after their kids with her mother Heather’s help. They seem innocuous, though its clear Carly doesn’t feel motherhood particularly satisfying. there’s lots of parents like that though, its not all Johnson’s baby powder and sweet kisses in real life, and not everyone is cut out to be a full time parent.

She’s an odd woman is Carly, feels a bit…brittle and insecure though pushes this outward appearance of being very confident and capable. Then she asks Rob That Question, and the answer has repercussions you just can’t imagine. Would things have turned out differently if he’d answered another way? Would something else have been the catalyst, and events happen regardless?
There’s any number of points where looking back one of them could have said “if only I’d done/hadn’t done… ” Hindsight is a wonderful thing as the saying goes.

I didn’t really like Carly but I did feel for her unhappiness. Rob was just a typical busy parent and didn’t look far into what was going on underneath. Like most people he was satisfied by the surface appearance of everything and assumed they were all happy.

Then there’s the second couple, Jenni and Craig. Jenni, she seemed such a gentle, quiet soul and deeply adored her family. Is that love or smothering? Was she as she seemed, content, happy to be a parent, basking in husband Craig’s adoration?
They were two very different people – Jenni was quiet, shy, strongly religious, while Craig was handsome, outgoing and a real play -the-field guy. What brought them together? And could they have stayed in that same happy state they seemed to be when we first met them or were threads already unraveling?

Its a tough look at human nature and behaviours, depression, family life, how we’re all tightly knit in groups and one thread unwinding affects the whole group. Like I said its really uncomfortable reading. I kept thinking “no, she/he wouldn’t do that” and if we’d been plunged right into those dramas I could believe it, but we’re led carefully and slowly down a path of destruction, til almost without realising everything we thought we knew about the characters had changed, and I really couldn’t predict how things would pan out.
Stars: five, a fabulous debut, but its dark and definitely not a HEA! Its not one I’d reread, tending to only read again the lighter, happier ones. there’s enough dark in my life without reading it too often!

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The First Year, Genevieve Gannon

The First Year, Genevieve Gannon

The First Year by [Gannon, Genevieve]

Genre:  General fiction (adult), women’s fiction

I really enjoyed this read. Marriage is hard work to make it successfully, just being “in love” isn’t always enough to overcome all the issues thrown at couples. And when they’re from such diverse backgrounds as Saskia and Andy its even harder. Both have baggage too in the way if Exes that are still around….

Its clear they adore each other, came together very suddenly after each had split from a serious relationship. Its been a whirlwind meeting, engaged and married within months of meeting, they vow on their honeymoon to show each other how much they love them every day- in an ingenuous way. They “contract” to make love each day, to carve out time to remind themsleves how precious their relationship is.
Well, on honeymoon that’s perfect, but back home the work pressures are high, families aren’t as supportive as they could be and slowly cracks appear.

Its kind of bittersweet, seeing it from both POV, and knowing how much they love and respect each other. Or do they? Does Andy really understand how important her art is to Saskia? Does she really follow how important this job is to him? There are rippling undercurrents of resentment, when first Andy and then Saskia spend time on work that they think should be relationship time, Andy-and-Saskia time.
Of course we can see it from outside, whereas they only have their own view, don’t know what else is going on, and as we all do, seethe resentfully when we feel we’re in the right….be honest, we’ve all done it. Justified a stance where maybe, just maybe we aren’t quite as right as we want to be.

Then there’s some huge pressures hit the couple and …they need to pull together quickly or fall apart. Its wonderfully played out, letting me understand both of them, see how easily one day becomes a week, becomes several weeks…so realistic when each struggles to make a move.

The copyright issue that affected Saskia and was a big part of the latter half of the book was so very true to life. As an artist I know people who’ve had work copied, not just by firms printing tea towels, mugs, place-mats of artworks etc but from factory style foreign artist companies who see a popular image, and copy it faithfully, using inferior materials and paying the artists next to nothing. Thus they can knock out an exact copy of a work at a fraction of the price. And the artist is pretty much helpless, all that time spent planning, painting, altering, studying before finally deciding this is the perfect work, all that is lost. Authors have the same issue when others try to copy their books, or – horrors- put them online on free-to-download sites. Makes me furious, and some series I’ve been following authors have stopped writing as there are more free downloads than sales.
Yes we do own copyright to our works but enforcing it takes time and money and sucess isn’t ensured.  As we see in this book, its very difficult to prove even when it looks on the surface very obvious, and for most its a risk to time and money they just don’t have. Bills need to be paid, people need to work, so finding time to deal with court legalities isn’t easy. I loved the way Saskia and co did it here, and the end result was very realistic, and perfect for the story.
Copying original work of any sort, evading paying an artist/author for their time is wrong, just plain wrong! Hurts everyone eventually when there’s no original stuff left. Why should people bother when all their time is wasted, when Ikea or some such store sell copies at a fraction, when their books aren’t selling because of free copies….We’ll get the bland, high street, chain store stuff we deserve if not careful. And that’s my rant over, promise 😉

Like I said its a very real look at life, marriage and how two individuals need to adapt to make a successful marriage. Its not one bending to the other, but both working equally, trusting each other, sharing problems as well as sucess. Looking at Saskia and Andy you can’t pinpoint where issues actually started, when  tiny problems became a huge ones and that’s what its like for most of us, its the tiny things that left untended grow to have the potential to destroy.

Stars: five, a fabulous look at life, realities of two individuals living as one while retaining separate identities. Looking at the pitfalls facing those couples who want to stay together, showing how love isn’t enough, successful co-habitation and respect takes a bit more.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Dark Moon Wolf, Calling the Moon, Sarah E. Stevens. Once Bitten, Heather McCorkle

Once Bitten, Heather McCorkle

Once Bitten (The Wolves of Hemlock Hollow) by [McCorkle, Heather]

Genre:  Romance,

My first read of Heather’s novels, but I love the werewolf genre and this sounded fun.
I found it a little – well – bland I guess? It was well written, the characters were all clearly set out and the take of the werewolf genre had some fresh additions. Sounds good doesn’t it?
However I just found the story dragged, with nothing much happening until the last 20% or so. Even then I found that for a group so set in rules and hierarchy the story-line went well off track.

I couldn’t see how all these things, all these anarchist actions wouldn’t have been seen coming, if those in charge had been taking note. Its hard to see a rigid, supposedly strong and well run system fall down so badly by the actions of such inept characters.
There didn’t seem to have been much thought or planning of what would happen,  and the ones creating the mayhem were strangely lacking in intelligence and strategy.
The story-line is sound, and things like this do happen but it needed to have characters that were capable of planning and executing such a strategy for me to believe it.

Its kind of a one plot book too, in that Sonya’s transforming was a part of that overall plot. I liked Ty, apart from his manner of speaking which proved irritating after a time, but he was so laid back he was almost horizontal, which didn’t fit so well with his thoughts on throwing everything, disregarding all the rules, because he was so attracted to Sonya. I anted to say “get a grip man, its only for a couple of weeks!!” The man I thought he was would have done just that, not been mulling constantly about giving in to temptation.
Its one of those reads that feels very simplistic, not complex drama but a quick easy read. Depends what you want – and its different for everyone, for me its more often the complex drama that does it.

First books in a series have a hard task and for me this one doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the description. I’m undecided as to whether I want to continue with it. I’ll see nearer the time I guess, how much other things I’ve got on and whether I’m pulled in by the description. I’m not saying I would read more, not saying its a no go for me but I am on the fence over it.

Stars: two and a half, a good premise but it needs a bit more action and drama, a little more speed for me. Maybe in the later books?

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Dark Moon Wolf, Calling the Moon, Sarah E. Stevens

Dark Moon Wolf (Calling the Moon Book 1) by [Stevens, Sarah E.]

Genre:  General Fiction, Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, I love paranormal/Fantasy, and wolf shifters in particular appeal to me. I was keen to read this, a first in what hopefully would turn out to be a new and fun series.
I’d made the mistake of thinking this was romance, isn’t not classed as that, simply my error and not looking carefully enough. That’s not a game-changer though, I read books other than romance too 🙂 Just that it came as a surprise to find out some things early in the story.

Its an interesting read, Sarah has put a slightly different slant on shifter practicalities and categories which was good, kept that part fresh.
The story though didn’t really work totally for me. There was just so much in it, the search for Carson’s dad, meeting the new people, finding out about werewolves and witches…Julie was incredibly blase about all the new things she was learning.
Then the murders. there was a lot of action, lots going on and I just had a hard time believing things would play out as easily as they did.
Don’t get me wrong – there was struggle, lots of it but given Julie is human and new to all this supernatural stuff she did really well. the other werewolves too has a very hard task solving the murders, they’d been cleverly done by someone who was clever and had lots of backing, and I just couldn’t see things playing out quite the way they did without Huge, Massive repercussions.
I didn’t guess who was involved til quite far on when there’s a really – to the reader- obvious clue but Julie completely misses it.

It looks like a debut novel, I can’t find any more books. Its well written but I just felt there was a little too much packed tightly into a novel that was just a bit too short for it. If the story was a bit longer so the action could have been made more realistic, and not have “Clue, and wow – here’s the Perpetrator” plots that these shorter novels need I think its one I’d love.

A first in series has a hard ask too, setting the scene, introducing new characters, and in the case of fantasy/paranormal, other types of people, and all the while leading a story to keep the readers interest. This one does OK for me, but of course will be perfect for others. That’s how it goes, we don’t all want the same thing thankfully!

Stars: Three, a good start to fiction writing, and a new series, but for me needed a little more reality and practicalities.

BTW Full/Lily: does she remind anyone else of Dolly Parton? For some reason she’s all I see each time Full comes into the story

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Beyond the Wild River, Sarah Maine

Beyond the Wild River, Sarah Maine

Beyond the Wild River by [Maine, Sarah]

Genre:  Historical fiction

I was intrigued by this tale, a young lady didn’t often get the chance for adventure that Evelyn has with the Canada journey.

I really enjoyed the story, its beautifully written, felt very evocative of the time period and the wilderness of the lands. The philosophy that creeps in too, the unfairness of UK laws, where Ballantyre gets taken to task by a poacher of “his” salmon, the dichotomy of whether people can actually own salmon and other creatures just because they’re passing through their land. that could be taken further – who says land belongs to them….interesting points and fitted very well within the story as it unfolds.

I liked the mix of people included, and the descriptions of the journey and the camps.
I felt for James, from a child he’d been placed in an unfair situation, and life then was very much dependent on who you were when you were born.
Corruption, bribery, turning a blind eye all played a part if the perpetrators of a crime were wealthy, titled whereas everyone else caught the full throw of the law for tiny offences.

I loved Evelyn, and poor Clemmy, caught up in a journey she really wasn’t suited for. Evelyn has a spirit of adventure, Clemmy really belongs in a place where she can be indulged, surrounded by luxuries and cosseted hand and foot!
Evelyn chafed against the restrictions placed on a young lady of the time and fell into the adventure whole-heartedly, happy to rough it and live so very differently.

What I did find hard to take though was that the story was very slow, lacked any real drama in the first 2/3 rds.
We’re gradually learning about the mystery of Jacko’s death and the repercussions but the story itself, though so beautifully written didn’t keep me engaged and i did put it aside several times which is unusual for me. I like to read a book in two or preferably one sitting(s).

Stars: four, a lovely read for the time and descriptions of the wilderness but the story itself lacked pace at times for me

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Good Gracie, Inés Saint

Good Gracie,  Inés Saint

Good Gracie (The Piper Sisters) by [Saint, Inés]

Genre:  romance,

I’ve not read any of Ines works before, and this one is set in the same place as the Spinning Hills books, but features three sisters.
I enjoyed it, a romance with a side of gentle-ish mystery and suspense. By that I mean that the romance is centre but the mystery and what evolves is very connected to it. Its not heart stopping drama type suspense, though brings the characters into very real danger when it comes to a head.

So, Gracie – poor girl, she’s been through what is a horrible reality for too many kids in this age of technology, when a private picture or video can get shared and seen by thousands, millions even, so easily when that trust is betrayed.
That happened to her at 17, she stood up for herself but at great personal cost. Nine years on and she still bears the scars of it in her behaviour. No longer is she the happy, outgoing “goof” as her family describe her, but someone determined to blend in at all times, to go unnoticed.
She’s worked hard on her career and its brought her back to Spinning Hills for a job that is the biggest she’s had and very important to her. Someone seems determined to stir up the past though, to cause trouble for her.

Josh was her defender at the time, early in his career, and went against his very wealthy and influential family in taking her case. He’s still in the town, and now campaigning for the position of County Prosecutor. Those old rumours and misconceptions are muddying the waters for his campaign, and he doesn’t need the scandal.
He’s always admired Gracie though, and when he sees her now something about her really pulls to him. Its an attraction that Gracie feels too though neither will admit it for a long while.
With rumours and inferences of the past having been more than was revealed the anonymous person seems set to ruin their careers. Who is the target though ? Gracie or Josh? And why?

I enjoyed the pull between them, the way they were both so careful, so guarded. The family too, Gracie’s sisters, grand her her friends are a scatty bunch, and provided so levity to the story.
I didn’t work out who dunnit – though once its revealed there’s that “ah! Of course” moment. Its a story I enjoyed but not one I’d reread. I would like to see more when the other sisters stories come out.

Stars: Four, fun read with some light suspense.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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