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Laurel’s Choices, Exie Wilde Henson

Laurel’s Choices, Exie Wilde Henson

Laurel's Choices by [Henson, Exie Wilde]

Genre:, Women’s fiction, General fiction
* sigh..* Once more women’s fiction. Why? Men read books like this too.

Every now and then I like to dip into a historical read, especially ones like this where folk are living with nature. I really thought I’d enjoy this, and I did, but with reservations.

I loved the contrast of Laurel and Justin, two people in love who wanted such different things for their family, saw their futures in different ways. Laurel was an amazing woman for the time, very forward thinking, not content to let life just evolve around her, but wanting to fight for not just women’s rights, but for what was morally right every time. She wanted a stable home base, Justin wants travel and adventure, but he respected her in a way many men of the time wouldn’t, and together they do an amazing amount of good for so many people.

Laurel’s faith is very strong and often bring god into a story irritates me, depends how its done. Here’s its necessary, part of Laurels character, and of course back then people faith often was stronger than today, life was tough and they needed to believe in some form of higher power I think. I felt in that context, even though the religious parts got stronger as the novel continued it was necessary as its was so much a part of Laurel.

Where the book fell down for me was that it lagged in parts. I know it can’t be adventure and suspense all the while, and I do love day to day minutiae, but there were times here when I just felt disconnected and put the book aside.
I’m not really sure why, there were plenty of events that brought the “what now?” questions to the fore, the dangers of living in a rural situation, the differences of opinion in folk living so closely together, the medical catastrophes when there’s no hospital nearby…I liked the characters too, it just seemed to be a little flat for me. Still, as ever its perfect for others and its a well written novel that certainly brings forward all the dangers and hardship of living in those times.

Stars: Three and a half, parts I really enjoyed, the roughness of rural life, the difficulties they faced but its a one off read for me.

ARC supplied by netgalley and publishers

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River of Shame, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 3), Susan Clayton-Goldner 

River of Shame, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 3), Susan Clayton-Goldner 

River of Shame: A Winston Radhauser Mystery: #4 by [Clayton-Goldner, Susan]

Genre:, suspense, General fiction (adult)

My third book from Susan, and its as fabulous as the other two. I missed the first Radhauser mystery, but feel as if I know him now. He’s the kind of policeman all should aspire to be, won’t give up, seeks the truth, not the convenient answer and is such a genuine caring man.

When we meet him at the start of this book I understood why his wife was angry, and yet like her I understood that he’s the kind of man he Had to go in to work, couldn’t just leave justice when he knew he was needed to help pursue it. Yet his wife has just given birth to their son, and is also undergoing chemotherapy. Such a hard decision, and he’s trying to do both, do what’s right for Grace and their family and also try to stop more crime and hatred being spread.
I love Radhauser, he’s a great man. He’s been through such a lot with the death of his first wife and son in a tragic accident, and been given another chance at happiness, which is is so pleased about, but Grace knows he wouldn’t be the man she loves if he just ignored something when he could help.
Of course what seems a simple case expands to include others, to include murder and to show up an evil thread of bigotry running through the locality.

Its at times a harrowing read, not because its overly graphic but because its so real. Sadly I could imagine this happening, not just in US but here in UK too. We too have our share of bigots and hatred 😦 I had to put it aside a couple of times because the characters feel so real that I was really upset when certain things happened. That’s a testament to good writing, not a book I put aside because I’d lost interest, I just needed to take time to read something lighter, give my mind a break.

Its a gripping, suspensful story, and so easy to believe in the reality of it. I so felt for the characters, was so angry at the bigots, felt for the kids, brought up by such narrow minded folk, they’re almost bound to follow their thinking and actions. It takes a brave child to break away from such strong minded parents.
Radhauser is his usual thorough self, and I love the way Susan explains his thinking, why he takes certain actions, that allowed me to come to my own conclusions. The ending though – that came as a shock, really didn’t expect that and yet looking back I can see how the threads were seeded out, but so carefully that I missed them.

Stars: five, a scarily real novel, written with very genuine feeling characters. Its a story I could very well see played out in real life.

ARC supplied by author

Wolf Unleashed, Jessica Meats

Wolf Unleashed, Jessica Meats

Wolf Unleashed by [Meats, Jessica]

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

I really wanted to love this book, it sounded so interesting, a unique take on the genre.

It has some excellent characters too, and an interesting plot-line that I can see developing further within future books.

And yet….it was interesting, it was well written, paced to keep the reader engaged and yet somehow I kept putting it to one side.

Possibly it was the sheer unpleasantness of the idea of keep werewolves as pets/slaves, and of breeding them for that purpose, taking away the children and selling them. Its all too reminiscent for me of the human trade in slaves where non whites were considered sub-humans and we used and abused them.

Although it made for a great main plot it did make me feel incredibly uncomfortable and guilty as a human for the past atrocities white people forced onto non-whites.

If you can set that aside and enjoy the story for what it is, fiction and well written, then this is a series you’ll enjoy. I might try later books as they come out, I know once the imbalance starts to get addressed I’ll be happier reading about these people.

Its an excellent look at human nature, how ready we are to believe what “the authorities” tell us, which of course is what benefits a few powerful people the most, but gets dressed as if its helping everyone. Cynic? Me? There’s a quote from Edmund Burke that suits this book really well, it goes something like this… “all that is needed for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing”. Here we’ve a handful of good people, starting with Crystal, doing something which hopefully will grow, but it isn’t going to be easy.

Even then if Crystal’s brother hadn’t been bitten she would still have gone along with the official line that this treatment of werewolves is essential for them and us.
It mirrors what happens so often, as humans we mostly ignore or turn a blind eye to distasteful practices and injustices until we’re forced to confront them personally.

Stars: Three, a really well written story, but which made me feel so guilty for similar human past practices it affected my enjoyment of the story

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.

 

True Colours, Elly Redding

True Colours,  Elly Redding

True Colours by [Redding, Elly]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Romance

I liked the sound of this, I love a second chance romance so dived in eagerly but it wasn’t a great fit for me. Amazon describes it as 224 pages but its just under 2600K kindle locations and felt far shorter than 224 pages. Those usually come out about 4K+. I think that brevity is one reason it didn’t work for me, it seemed as if they were enemies one moment lovers the next with no real build up. It felt quite disjointed in that one moment I was reading about the present and then we were back in the past and it wasn’t always obvious which was which. I’m a fan of past and present sides to a story, but they need clear definition.
I didn’t understand why Kate wouldn’t listen to Saul either time, why she just looked at ran. That’s always (almost) going to be most folks’ reaction but once emotions cool we usually want to know the how and the why. It seemed weird that Kate didn’t. Then there’s the long gap, and why is Saul still in love. Why not try harder earlier to get her to listen. Of course this story wouldn’t exist then but for me I needed some kind of explanation, some reasons for these gaps.
As ever though this is just how I feel and of course its a perfect read for others, and may be exactly what you want. Reading taste is very subjective.

Stars:Two, one of those that looked a great fit for me but proved not to be 😦

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Home to McCarron’s Corner, Lily’s Story,  Sharon K. Middleton

Home to McCarron’s Corner, Lily’s Story,  Sharon K. Middleton

Home to McCarron's Corner: Lily's Story by [Middleton, Sharon K.]

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Romance

I love this kind of novel, one which has day to day minutiae of life in times long past and was eager to get started.
I found a number of things that bothered me though. Lily takes going back in time in her stride, to the point where she acts as if its perfectly normal, and those back in the past act as if her appearance is an everyday thing. I know they’ve the advantage of superstition and a prophecy but it felt kind of wrong somehow that everyone was so open and accepting. Then there’s the stuff she just happens to ave on her that play such an important part in the story. Does she really always carry stuff like that around with her. The blood cards in particular, just how many of them did she have? The way people in the past just happily let her test them in a time when anything out of the ordinary was viewed with suspicion was a little weird too for me.
Then there are the many parallels with the Diana Gabaldon Outlander stories. Having read those books several times over I noticed a number of themes that crop up in both…..nothing in fiction is every really unique, but sometimes there were parts that for me felt a little too close. The language and idioms used, I accept Lily would use 21st century speech but the way so often no one queried it? And even used expressions themselves felt a bit wrong.
The story itself was interesting, but I wished there was more from the McCarron’s Corner and the prophecy in it. The first part of the story is there but it seemed to move on to town very quickly.
If you can get past these barriers then its a story you may love, there are some inviting parts but for me the quirks were more than just a minor irritation and the story fell short because of it.

Stars: Two and a half, a story with great potential but which was let down for me by the things I’ve mentioned.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp, Sarra Manning

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp, Sarra Manning

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp: ‘A razor-sharp retelling of Vanity Fair’ Louise O’Neill by [Manning, Sarra]

Genre: Romance.

I hadn’t read Vanity Fair, but I’m a sucker for romance and this sounded a fun read – plus I’ve loved some of Sarra’s past stories.
I’d not class it as romance though…there is some romance via secondary characters but that’s just a tiny fraction of the story, and for me sitting it in the romance genre was wrong, and I was disappointed at that part of the story.

I struggled at first, maybe if I’d read Vanity Fair I’d have found the start easier. I almost gave up at one point, the characters all seemed irredeemably dislike-able, but persevered and once into the story found myself hooked on Becky’s actions.
Was she right in what she did? Was she fair? Was she treated fairly by others? So many questions this book threw up and its easy to judge Becky as amoral and avaricious, but with a past that gave her nothing was she just making her way in the world as best she knew? Would be have felt better about her if she accepted her lot and lived on the street begging? Pretty much sure that’s a No from what gets said in current news. Or maybe if she took a zero hours contract and lived day to day on min wage sharing a room with someone else. Why should she just accept that as the best she can hope for though?
Some of the other characters didn’t act any better but their actions – as happens so often in the real world – get excused under work pressures, family issues, social obligations etc. Its only accident of birth that placed George, Amelia, Dobbin etc where they were and not where Becky was in life.

I didn’t like Becky but in way by the end I did admire her. She was tough, grabbed life’s opportunities when they came and worked the to her best advantage. Its would be easy to say she took advantage of others and yet weren’t they doing that to her? Did Amelia and her family treat Becky fairly? What about the Pitts? What about George’s actions, the way he treated Amelia? I think the only person I liked was Dobbin…and Amelia by the end. The section with the news magnate had me thinking “News of the World anyone? Murdoch and the scandals there…”

Its easy to sit in judgment if you’ve never known homelessness, never gone hungry, never had to shop in jumble sales and charity shops. I have. Would I act like Becky if the chance arose? I’d really, really like to think my moral compass points in a different direction but until it happens who knows what we’d do.
Marie Antoinette’s apocryphal “quote” of “Let them eat cake” when told the peasants had no bread sums up so many governing figures attitude to those in need now. They genuinely have no idea of the issues facing so many people, and yet sit in positions making judgments that affect the lives of those people.

Stars: Four, a slow start for me, that may have been better had I read VF, an annoyance that its not what I’d call romance, but a story that was a fun read.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.

 

The Artisan Heart, Dean Mayes

The Artisan Heart, Dean Mayes

The Artisan Heart by [Mayes, Dean]

Genre:Woman’s fiction, romance

First a quick rant – why “women’s” fiction? Why exclude 50% or readers….this categorisation makes me so cross. Who’s to say sex determines what we enjoy reading?

Its a great story, written so intelligently, not dumbed down as so many are now. No grunting heroes here, no page after page of repetitive sex, but a romance in the truest sense for me, where the characters really spend time getting to know each other. Having said all that there were times when I floundered a bit within the story, where I got a bit bored with the pacing – but that’s my issue, my problem not the book.
There are some terrific characters here, Hayden and Isabelle, and Isabelle’s little daughter whose a real star. Max and Annette, friends of Hayden’s parents, Chas, one of those characters that makes a village, eccentric,at times careless but so full of life, so joyful he brightens others day. I had hoped for a bit more unpleasantness from Bernadette, she’s pretty ambitious and will stop at nothing to get ahead, and her plans and Hayden’s don’t necessarily match. All the things I love from a “nasty” character but she really wasn’t in the story that much, enough to throw a few spanners but nothing more.
Its an interesting read, Hayden’s initial issues really felt so genuine, its something I could see playing out all too easily and as he says, that could end his career. All that hard work, years of study, gone in a moment. I loved Isabelle and her determination, adored little Genie, so irrepressible and entertaining, loved the way the village rallied round its inhabitants. I really wanted to give this book five stars and yet…I kept putting it aside, losing interest and I’m really not sure why. It had everything I love, intelligent writing, real characters, excellent plots, not just a sweet, simple romance but a more involved one but for whatever reason it didn’t pull me in to a cant-stop-reading mood.

Stars: Four, a good story, well written with terrific characters, but not quite the magic five for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Necessary Marriage, Elisa Lodato

The Necessary Marriage,  Elisa Lodato

 

The Necessary Marriage by [Lodato, Elisa]

Genre:,General fiction (adult)

Its kind of hard to rate this book. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but it was gripping reading and I could see how easily the situations could have happened in real life.
I felt pretty uncomfortable over the relationship between Jane and Leonard, he is so much older, and I’d have though both parents and school would have put a stop to it. Still, they didn’t and it leads Jane into a situation that she later realises she may have been too young for.
Marion and Andrew, there are couples similar to this on every street and I could see how Jane got sucked into their lives and the problems that brought her.
I felt for her eldest daughter – can’t recall her name now, some kids so have issues that follow them into adulthood, and the situations she found herself in as an adult were very hard for her. I really was sad for her, could see how upset she was over the art exhibition, and think I’d have felt the same.
I didn’t expect the ending, that came as a bit of a surprise, but looking back was a culmination of events going back years.

Stars:three, a well written book, with some gripping situations but one I didn’t really enjoy, and won’t re-read.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Last of the Summer Moët, Wendy Holden

Last of the Summer Moët, Wendy Holden

Last of the Summer Moët: A sparkling rom-com that will make you laugh out loud (A Laura Lake Novel) by [Holden, Wendy]

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

Women’s Fiction? Once more – why? Why alienate a good section of possible readers.

My bad, I missed that this was a part two, and that I’d read the previous book about Laura. That was a three star for me, and I noted that though I enjoyed Wendy’s stories years ago either her writing or my tastes have changed.
This story is if possible even more OTT, frenetic and at times plain silly. There’s a point when poking fun at a selection of folk in humorous, and then there’s trying to ram fun down readers throats( you Will laugh!! Everyone else has… ) that’s the vibe which came across here, I like subtle humour, what this book delivers is a thin story peppered with not just oddball eccentrics, but totally off the wall unreal characters, and situations that are so extreme as to be impossible to believe. If that’s what you like in a story good for you, you’ll love this book. I don’t. I gave up at about 40%, skimming through to see if there was any change but not finding enough to hold my interest and continue.

Stars: Two, a DNF for me. If you like overdone humour and situations that are really OTT you may love this story, I can see others already do. My taste doesn’t run that way though so it was a fail for me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Martinis and Memories, A.L. Michael

Martinis and Memories, A.L. Michael

Martinis and Memories: A fun, feisty novel of love and chasing your dreams (Martini Club Book 3) by [Michael, A. L.]

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

I didn’t realise this was part of a series of connected books, though each are stand alone. I think maybe if I’d read the first two maybe I’d have got more from this. As it was its a sweet story, made me wonder a bit about life, coincidences, the six degrees of separation thing, and what I would do in the same situation.
Its got some great characters, I loved how we see Bel’s mum from her thoughts and memories and then seeing her differently, passage of time, through Sam’s eyes etc its like two sides of the same person. I loved Bel, slightly brittle with all her “darlings” and insistence on sweetness and light and sparkle and glitter ( I’m with her on the sparkle and glitter – always makes life brighter). I was heartbroken for her when it looked like everything was going to fail….and yet Practical Me was saying “ where’d she get the money for all this revamp when she was wondering if she had enough to even continue as it was?” I don’t like things like that, even if we knew she was getting a loan or something, but to believe that someone struggling with a business can just revamp like that without telling me where funding comes from feels somewhat unreal. And it was the Realness of the book that I loved so that let it down.
On that Realness, that was what gave the book an edge for me, those characters with their problems were like friends to me, we all have issues, have to struggle with life and I enjoy reading how people make it through those struggles. Apart from the financing, the rest of the changes were perfect, where Bel let the others put forward ideas, and the way they were a little cautious at first, as if past Bel would have just dismissed their ideas as not on-brand or something.
There was lots to like in this story, but it wasn’t a tale that grabbed me, made me devour the book. More one of those where I read a few chapters, put aside, and come back to when I want something real but light to read.

Stars: Three, a good book, and enjoyable story but not one I’d re-read

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

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