Mona Lisas and Little White Lies, John Herrick
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction.
Well, this is written by a man and Still classified as Women’s Fiction – I just don’t understand why we try to exclude men we should be encouraging readers not discouraging them 😦
Anyway, my first read by this author. It was well written, and the story flowed well but…..maybe In was just over-expecting. I love the fame/non fame romance trope and with the famous lead being an artist, ( such a change from the usual rock/film star leads), and being an artist myself I was hooked. Throw in that Lily isn’t a primped and pampered lady but one that works as a mechanic and I thought I’d love this.
So what went wrong? Well. Its not the writing but the story-line. I didn’t understand why the first 30% Lily and Ryder had barely met, and she was involved with Evan. Unless maybe it was to showcase her insecurity in her looks? Lily is lovely but not bursting with confidence, even though her friends tell her she is beautiful, she just can’t see it. And of course her job isn’t one that springs to mind as feminine even though she’s good at it and loves it.
I loved that Ryder inserted himself and Lily into so many paintings after only meeting her once, though I’m dubious that he could paint her so exactly without and reference pics ;-). still, artistic licence all round! Once his paintings start becoming famous and seen everywhere though the hunt is on, who is the mysterious lady in his work. They meet after Lily sees one of these works….and it doesn’t go too well. Ryder isn’t letting her go though, six years he’s been thinking of her and now he’s found her he’s not letting her disappear again. I guess this is where my expectations and the book parted ways. I expected more of the fame aspect, more of the hounding the media do to people.
The breakup was a shock, it just didn’t seem real even though I suspected it would happen that way. I felt they needed more of a reason to part, and that Ryder was wrong. I did like that it wasn’t one of those break up and two pages later make up books. I like my drama to wallow, to really feel “will they get back, or has too long passed?” A side effect of the break up was a revelation about someone that caught me out, and yet looking back all the clues were there but I missed them. I love that kind of surprise, clever planning.
I’m not sure why its billed as comedy though? That has me mystified, and I had to go back and check the description but yes, comedy is there in the blurb. I didn’t find it though…..
Stars: three a half, a fun read but a one off only for me.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers
Boundary Broken, Boundary Magic Book 4, Melissa F. Olson
Genre: General Fiction (adult) Sci-fi and Fantasy
I found the first book involving Lex and Quinn a couple of years back, and avidly devoured that trilogy, then went on to read everything else Melissa has written about the Old World.
This series and the sister one overlap with characters from each making cameos and being referenced in both. Its one of those series I love to reread, and in fact have recently just done that, working my way through all the books and novellas. I’m not certain if this is the start of a new trilogy, it certainly lays the seeds of a bigger story but this tale is complete in itself.
Its that same gripping writing as all the earlier reads, convincing me that witches and magic could be real, vampires and werewolves could exist.
Even in fantasy I have to be convinced that IF the supernatural world was real this scenario could happen, and Melissa does that for me every time.
There are no magical shortcuts, no solutions pulled from thin air but ones that are hard worn, take their toll on the characters and take me time to work out how things can be resolved. I’m usually struggling to find that answer until I reach it in the story – nothing her is predictable!
I love the mix of characters, Lex and Quin, Lex sister’s voice, chiming in on occasion, silent – constrained by rules – on others. There’s her brother in law John, father to Charlie, who’s had to be brought in to the Old World secrets because of Charlie’s abilities which make her a target.
Maven, vampire leader extraordinaire, she’s an amazing character, I like her even if she is incredibly pragmatic at times. She’s old, she hasn’t got to that age without some hard decisions. In common with many vampires and werewolves she sees humans as unimportant, and Lex balances that and reminds her of how there are better ways than just killing ones who threaten Old World secrecy.
Then of course there’s Simon, Lily and the other witches. They’re the mainstay of this story but there are others from past stories and new ones to meet.
I really enjoyed meeting Tobias again, and seeing how he’d progressed from the sad life Lex – or maybe Scarlet – rescued him. I can remember him clearly, just not which book it was…. 😉
Once more the story races along, events building to an incredible conclusion with little side plots happening and seeds being sown for what I hope are more books, further developments between the witches, werewolves and vampires. This and Melissa’s other books aren’t the usual supernatural light, fluff read, but more fully developed, real stories, events that feel genuine, and solutions that are at times hard to take. I love them.
Stars: five, another cracking read, another for the keeper files and I so hope there’s more to come 😉
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Pieces of You and Me, Rachel Burton
Ah Darn, women’s fiction again – and why assume men don’t want romance 😦
I loved Rachel’s The Things We Need To say, and really expected to love this one too. I didn’t. though its beautifully written and tackles some tough subjects. As someone who has CFS myself I understood how ill Jess felt at times, and how others simply can’t understand that overpowering fatigue.
I loved Jess and Rupert as people, and indeed there were some great secondary characters. It was just the main thrust of the story, the break up and getting together, that didn’t work for me.
I didn’t really understand why they parted, and felt when they resumed their relationship they still didn’t understand themselves what went wrong. I felt like I had all these questions about it, and I was waiting all through for answers but never really got them. In contrast to TTWNTS I felt there wasn’t any real focus for me in this story, that it just didn’t have anything I could grip, any hopes of solutions, just unanswered questions. Without those answers I wasn’t sure if the same thing would happen all over again to them.
Relationships take work, and somehow I felt for these two to have a permanent HEA they needed to do so much more.
Stars: Three, a well written story, but it just didn’t work for me. Could be just what you want though, reading is incredibly subjective.
ARC via netgalley
Never Forget, Pamela Q. Fernandes
Genre: General fiction (adult), Romance.
This is one of those stories I thought I’d like, but which I found a struggle to connect with. It started well, and despite too many irritating grammar/spelling errors I thought it was going to become one I’d love. Sadly it wasn’t, far from it 😦
I love the rich, arrogant hero who discovers another side to himself, love the under dog woman who’s got a core of steel, is able to pull herself up, love books with a supernatural side and this seemed all that.
Sadly Malachus has no redeeming features, I didn’t really understand him, didn’t know why he married Dara. It seems to be a combination of obligation to her brother and his father, and of course her wealth which he seems to have needed. Having married her he dumps her off at his semi derelict country home, and swans back to the city and his mistresses…nice man! Sadly he never really got any better, one moment he wants Dara, next she’s getting the cold shoulder for no apparent reason, and that continues again and again….
Dara, she’s 23 when she’s left at the country house, but somehow with her business degree and no money manages to transform the house, modernising and upgrading it, and make the falling apart business into a thriving profitable one.
Three years on and she needs more money to expand the business, comes to the city and decides she wants to be a proper wife while she’s at it. I cringed for her when she just took all the verbal abuse, the ignoring, the flaunting his infidelity. He says he wants a divorce but she decides she doesn’t so keeps on and on, trying to seduce him, persuade him they should stay married. He gives in and kisses her senseless ( not that she appears to have much) on several occasions then once more starts the verbal flaying, and she takes it. Once, just once, when she’s been drinking does she say a few words back, and fling a drink at him. By now I’d have the ink drying on those divorce papers and be dust.
It just didn’t make sense, why after three years did she want him, why didn’t she speak to him, try to do something before.? Why when she knows he has other lovers, and one consistently does she still hope to change his mind? I just felt she had no self respect, was a complete doormat.
I had such high hopes for this story, but it was just a constant will he won’t he, with a few odd supernatural elements thrown in that didn’t really add anything. The turnaround at the end could just as easily be one of his moments when maybe he does want her and then doesn’t, there was no real reason for the change, and I felt it all happened far to quickly. I felt that there wasn’t any real plot, no characters I could get behind, and for me the whole book was wrong.
It could be what someone else wants, but for me this is clearly an author to miss, her writing style and my tastes just don’t mesh. Sad, I was so hooked by the description 😦 and really disappointed it didn’t work out for me.
Stars: Two. Starts well, but soon fizzles out.
Arc via netgalley and publishers.
Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, Samantha J Wilcoxson
Genre: Historical fiction
Sometimes I want a break from Romance, from Fantasy, and then I take a dip back in history. With these reads, as with most fiction I enjoy, I need to feel that events could have been real,. I hopefully get drawn into the story so I’m almost part of it, instead of a detached observer.
This story did all that and more, I really felt for the characters, wondered about events, even knowing British history so I had an idea of what would happen.
Samantha has stuck broadly to facts well known, but put her own interpretation on them. Thus all UK kids learn about King Richard putting his nephews into the Tower and that they disappeared, but we never really know, even now, if they died, escaped, were murdered, and if so by whom. Samantha has an interesting and plausible take on that.
The Tudors – books generally focus on Henry V111, but we’re a bit earlier here, starting with his mother and her story from childhood. We see firsthand ( well, fictionally first hand) the trials her family went through, princesses in hiding, then out in the open and then frequently back in hiding or in Sanctuary for their safety. It was a tumultuous period, with different factions vying for the throne, each gathering their own support and some pretty bloody battles. Families were never really secure, knowing that through battle they could be deposed at any time…
I enjoyed seeing Elizabeth grow, marry, have children and seeing figures I know as adults in history, Henry and Arthur, it was interesting seeing them as children. I enjoy reading about lesser known figures from history such as Elizabeth, and the childhoods of more well known people.
An excellent read, had me swept up in the story, worrying for the families, and feeling sad for the girls who were married off as political pawns, and the boys who faced imprisonment or execution if there was a change of king. Tough times to be Royals.
Stars: five, a great historical read, that drew me in and made me feel “there” with the characters.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Coming Home to Holly Close Farm, Julie Houston
Genre: general fiction (adult), women’s fiction
Once more, women’s fiction. Why, why alienate men? They read books like this too.
Anyway, I’ve loved all Julie’s past stories, but this one wasn’t a great fit for me. It could well be living circumstances, I’m between homes, living in my daughter’s conservatory so getting “lost” in a book hasn’t been easy. I may reread this at a later day and feel very differently.
Its full of the usual realistic characters and events, and peppered with Julie’s trademark subtle humour. I’m always nervous when a book promises to make me “laugh out loud” as too often I fond that really means the forced, very unfunny humour I hate. Julie’s style isn’t that, is much more soft and clever humour, not pushed-in-your-face stuff .
So, the story, its kind of in two parts, and I found I loved Madge and her backstory more than I enjoyed the current time romance. Madge had such a tragic past, I loved her stoic, never give in mindset, but found it hard to believe no-one knew about Holly Close Farm, how a property so valuable would have no evidence that family would have picked up on linking her to it. No bills from the council? No demands for utilities etc? It’s possible but a bit hard to believe given that now I seem to get bills from the council in numerous duplicates constantly! Her daughter Nancy was a bit weird, and I couldn’t see her missing out on any stray info that would lead to reward for her.
I wanted to like Charlie, felt so much for her over Dominic, sadly things like that happen, and people can be horribly plausible about absences. I just found it hard to really feel for her after that, she’s a little too me, me , me for my taste. Like I said, maybe its my mindset, and I’ll feel differently at a later date.
Stars: Three, a good story, great characters, but fell a bit short for me of Julie’s others five star reads.
Arc via Netgalley
Always With You, Indigo: Book 3, Kate McBrien
Well, a very climatic, drama filled finish to the trilogy. TBH it felt – cough- a little too drama filled. I love action, intensity and drama but there was so much here that I felt it became almost wearying to the senses, took away from the actual events. Having said that its still and amazing read, and a fabulous trilogy for a debut writer. Very well written, full of excellent plots and very polished overall.
Lucy; at times I want to say to her “what are you doing!!” when she dithers. She’s grown in confidence though, and there’s a lot less of that in this final part. Justin, well, he’s just fabulous, so very solid in his love, so very protective and I enjoyed how the past events affected him in this life. I loved Lucy and Justin together, but did feel they got a little lost in the other events that filled this story. Sometimes Less is More, and for me less additional plots ( the Russian connection) and more of Lucy and Justin would have worked better. That’s just me though, others will love it as it is.
Edward…Gah, I hate that guy, but I love characters like his. He played a terrific part in the story, very believable. I wasn’t so convinced on the Rachel story-line, especially with how things ended. I disliked her intensely, didn’t want to change my stance on that and though events could have proved otherwise I’m holding fast to my dislike 😉
I would have liked to have seen a bit more connection between Justin and Lucy’s nightmares and the past, maybe snippets of what they were dreaming or something? The past in each book is really kept to just beginning and end, which makes for a wonderful ending, where we see just what did play out, but I’d have enjoyed a bit more linking through the story.
I love the way the Cross links past and present Justin and Lucy, and how its creation from Love held fast, and meant so much to them when they touched in in the present. I enjoyed the history, past and present story of Lapis Lazuli and the issues behind it. Everyone has heard of Blood diamonds, but I’d never connected this stone with terrorism financing.
From the book blurb, and important. Note to readers: This book contains scenes which may be triggering to survivors of sexual violence
Stars: Four and a half, a great trilogy, but I wasn’t quite as gripped by this part as by parts one and two, especially part one, which I loved.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers
Counting on a Countess, The most outrageous Regency romance of 2019 that fans of Vanity Fair and Poldark will adore, Eva Leigh
Counting on a Countess, The most outrageous Regency romance of 2019 that fans of Vanity Fair and Poldark will adore, Eva Leigh
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
* Sigh…Women’s Fiction again…Why? Why write off a potential clutch of readers? Men write romance, men read romance so this genre is sadly outdated.
I didn’t like Vanity Fair, and though I loved Poldark this isn’t in any way similar to those novels, except in the setting being Cornwall and past times.
Another historical that proved for me to be well written but not exciting. Its an easy read, a perfect book to relax with but not one to set the heart pounding, make emotions come alive.
I liked both characters to begin with, and love that Regency way of talking round issues, of pandering to society while working towards one’s own ends. Its a clever trick, a dance that’s hard to perfect and I love the way characters know what they want but have to use polite dissembling to achieve it. Here its Kit that needs a wife to secure his fortune and Tamsyn that needs a wealthy husband. Both have ambitions that need money, and a very short span of time in which to obtain it.
I loved the spark that ran between them, sexual tension, subtle wit and a sharp intelligence in both made them perfect for each other. Both though are holding a big secret, Kit wants the money for the dream that held him together in the depths of war, Tamsyn wants to buy her childhood home and the smuggling coves so essential for sustaining the villagers in these lean times.
It plays out well, gradually unfolding the plots each have to gain what they want. They marry, and then Kit receives a massive shock, control of the money is solely with Tamsyn, he has to ask her for everything, the promises he made about setting her up with an allowance, etc all fall flat. Tables are turned and its Tamsyn who has the deciding hand. Of course letting him have the money for his dream means letting go of hers, and can she do that with the village depending on her?
That’s where it fell back for me, she didn’t discuss anything, didn’t try to meet Kit halfway, just made her mind up and went ahead. I found that really unlike the character I thought she was, and to be honest, morally unfair too. It was Kit’s inheritance, but she’s happy to take charge of it and make all the decisions. Emasculating for any man, especially in that era. There’s also the fact that she knows how he feels about the Law, and yet she’s made him an unwitting accomplice, without ever trying to work things out another way. I’m not saying his ideas where necessarily right, but what she did felt so very wrong. I really didn’t like the way she just dashed his dreams, no discussion, no explanations just waded ahead with her own plans.
Then when it all comes to a head, well, that old 10cc seventies song springs to mind “The things we do for love…” I did find Kits about turn on what he had long believed a little hard to take, heat of the moment yes, but I thought there’d be some hard words in private, but he appears to have abandoned all his principles and it made me think less of him.
Still, its a romance, we can’t have an unhappy couple, and clever Kit finds a way to make both of them achieve what they want.
Stars: Three, a solidly written story, but at times I disliked Tamsyn intensely, and I felt Kit was way to quick to abandon all his long held beliefs.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
Lake of the Dead, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 5), Susan Clayton-Goldner
Genre:Mystery and Thrillers, General Fiction.
I love this series. I started with book two, offered the chance to review by the author and she’s been kind enough to let me review each succeeding novel.
You can read each story as a stand alone but you’ll get much more by reading in order, as there are people connecting each book, and its interesting and adds more if you know the back story. Parker’s girlfriend Rishima was in the last book, only as a very secondary character, but it brings the stories closer knowing just what she’s been through, and continues to face. I really felt so sad for her, a wonderful character.
As usual Radhauser is immersed in a complicated murder, with multiple possible suspects but no real motive. It makes me wonder how police even begin to search out who was responsible, and following this story, seeing Radhauser’s reasoning for doing things, the constraints that stop him doing other things, was really interesting and absorbing.
As always the characters here feel so real, so genuine. I think I could find ones like them easily within my own life, though hopefully not murderous ones! I love the way Susan makes what seems reasonable at first sight untangle to become something else, and then puts in reasons and bars to what seem like real motives and possible actions to the murder.
And once more she caught me out. I had an early dislike of a character but thought I was judging unfairly, and it wasn’t til very near the end that I began to see how and why things happened.
Its a sad story, one sadly that could be real, murders happen to so many folk, cut off before they’ve had a chance to grow, to become adults, have their own family. There were some really tragic backstories here too, ones that I had no trouble believing in.
I love Radhauser as a cop, he’s exactly they guy we all need, thorough, principles, meticulous and yet I’d hate to be married to him, to have him as a parent. He adores his family but work – when taking time off and going home could mean a killer escaping, possibly to kill again, how can he? We see here him spending so much time on work, that he barely has time with his family. Grace is incredibly understanding, though we have seen how his work causes friction at times. Its understandable, she’s got two young kids and is still recovering from her cancer treatment and surgery.
I guess she’s seen how he is when they first met, and it would be hard to say come home, knowing the possible consequences and also how it would affect him. You take the person as they are when you choose a partner, and Radhauser is very committed to his work. It doesn’t mean he loves his family any less.
Stars: Five. Its another great story from Susan, well plotted and gripping reading, which wraps up properly. I hate novels that make me thing “but what about….” when they end. This doesn’t, we get a brief six month on peek into what’s happened with some of the key characters and that’s just perfect for me.
ARC supplied by author
The Binding, Bridget Collins
Genre: General fiction (Adult)
A really unusual story, its hard to class it but it feels like its set back in time but where the magic of Binding – removing peoples memories and putting them in a book– is real. Of course while alive those memories aren’t supposed to be sold, but they are the only kind of stories around, and there are always unscrupulous folk….
I did find it difficult re pacing at the start. I felt like I was fully engrossed in Emmet’s present and the issues he’d been through when I’m taken to his past, where he meets Lucian. And that was heartbreaking for all parties.
Its a read full of what if’s – what would I do in the same situation, and it shows that the old adage of be careful what you wish for is something to be carefully considered.
I loved the characters, the descriptions of everyday life, the horrors of those who abuse the system, from people covering up or forgetting their own bad behaviour, to those poor folk who had nothing left to sell, were so poor they parted with their memories, each leaving its own impact on them. Of course things like that weren’t supposed to happen, ostensibly people had to consent but there are ways around that and the more money and position orientated Binders were ready to take full advantage.
It did feel a little disconnected at times, as though I’d missed some essential parts, but that didn’t affect the overall story, and the gentle, unfolding romance was beautiful. If this magic was real, yes, I could see all the things in the novel happening all too easily. Its not a HEA story, there’s a conclusion of sorts, but its very much a possible HFN, and maybe the magic HEA, though in that time and clime I think its unlikely.
Would I reread this? Possibly, and I’d certainly read more from this author.
Stars: Four, a really unusual and entrancing story but the pacing was a little off for me, and I would have liked a bit more of an ending.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers