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Cecily by Annie Garthwaite

Cecily, Annie Garthwaite

Cecily: ‘A STARTLING HEROINE’ Sarah Moss by [Annie Garthwaite]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Historical Fiction

Well, I’ve mentioned before how I hated history as a subject at school, all battles and dates, and yet now adore reading it. Its books like this that have made the change for me, brought history to life, through the retelling of events as well as we can imagine, through the eyes of the players involved. We read much about the men in history, the key players, and yet behind them, for better or worse, were often some very strong women.

Cecily is one such, and when we first meet her as a child its clear she adores Richard, and that feeling is reciprocated. It makes them a force to be reckoned, Cecily is fiercely intelligent and Richard wise enough to listen to her.
And yet, she’s a women at a time when life was fraught with danger. Not just the danger of being close to the king, the politics which can change day by day, but also the dangers of life for women of the time, childbirth being a huge one. Expected though to keep on producing children, male children especially. The girls were pawns, married off at a young age and sent to grow up with the husbands family. We see one of Cecily’s daughters sent away at the tender age of five. Five! How heartbreaking for a mother, and perhaps some of the reasons some women like Cecily became so pragmatic. They could find themselves on opposite sides, politically, of their close friends, and even family. They had little control over many things, so they needed to exert themselves where they could. Cecily wanted much for her family, safety, but also to be seen politically, to have prominence in the top echelons of society.

Its a difficult line, and we see Cecily and Richard back and forth, England to France, and then sent to Ireland, problem shooting, where the solution looks insolvable. Richard, advised by Cecily, manages to tread a path, commanding respect and yet what amazed me was how he had to fund the soldiers personally. He needed the riches and lands the King granted to pay for the things the King and treasury refused to do. Never outwardly, its was always promises, and yet they knew money was needed then, not later.
There’s always enemies of course, those who have the kinds ear, especially when the king is weak and Richard and Cecily reach highs and then are plunged down again. Its a thankless task and sometimes – often in fact when I’m reading about characters like this – I wonder why, just why? Why put yourself in the position where your life can be changed, snuffed out even, on a whim. Hard times.
I did have to back track several times to recall who was who and where they fitted in, as this isn’t a period of history I’ve read much about. There are very many characters here who take prominence, and I needed to be sure exactly how they fitted in. Its quite a deep book, intense at times, but the day to day stuff provided the perfect contrast.
I loved that we saw life on a very personal level here, the daily issues and hardships, the small triumphs, the sad losses of children, the feeding at a moments notice of five hundred people. Cecily really had to run a tight ship, be on top of things and she made it look so simple. Throughout we saw just how much love and respect was there between Cecily and Richard. How scared she must have been each time he went off to fight, not knowing if he’d be back. There’s a part where she’s checking his armour before one such event, praying over any vulnerable spots, that brought to me how she must have felt. Richard too, had to show a brave face when inwardly he didn’t know if he’d be back.

The ending, showing the early start of the two families fight for kingship, was also heartbreaking, showing just how sometimes, despite best intentions, attempts to guide a King who is weak, who makes bad decisions, people just have to make a choice they really don’t want to. And yes, I cried.

Stars: Five, a fabulous and very dense read. I loved the small details, the descriptions of life on a personal level.

ARC supplied by netgalley and publishers.

A Good Day for Chardonnay, Darynda Jones

A Good Day for Chardonnay, Darynda Jones

A Good Day for Chardonnay (Sunshine Vicram) by [Darynda Jones]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, I saw Darynda’s name and requested. I adore the Charley Davidson/Grave series, and stupidly didn’t realise until part way through this that there’s an earlier book. I think if I’d read that I’d have got “into” this story much quicker, instead of trying to puzzle out who’s who and how they fit it. Darynda does give enough info that I could work out the gist of earlier events, but I think I’d have got more from this if I’d read that one.
I reread the CD/Grave series recently and enjoyed the earlier books even more now I know how the story goes. I’m a fan of rereading good ( to me) books and adore a whole series to go through.

Anyway, what a great cast of characters. Sunshine reminds me so much of Charley, that same quirky sense of humour that appeals to me, the way she does the right thing regardless of personal cost. It always ends right, but via a somewhat tortured route, and brings in some chaotic events.
Levi ( swoon) feels like Reyes ( swoon again!!) and Aurora could be Amber. They share so many characteristics. I really enjoyed the story, a mix of humour, sensitivity, dangers and the pathos of growing up.
I adored Cruz, and the relationship between him and Aurora, he was so protective. And of course Sunny’s Parent talk, Mr Penis and the Devils Doorbell had me in stitches. I could just imagine poor Aurora’s face.
Under the humour and zany actions though are real events, dangers, bad, greedy people and then a bit of heartbreak at the end with Cruz’, beautiful poem and the way he read it. That gave me a tear.

Its a series I’m going to continue with, less pressuring in a way that the Grave books, no supernatural baddies popping up but of course humans can be pretty nasty too.
And book one is definitely going on my list of reads too. I think I know most of the background but I’d like to see it play out in real time.

Stars: Four, though I do think if I’d read book one it would have been a five. Its a great read, solid mix of plots, life events and humour.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Missing Pieces of Us, Eva Glyn

 

The Missing Pieces of Us, Eva Glyn

The Missing Pieces of Us: The most emotional and gripping page turner of 2021! by [Eva Glyn]

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

First, darn, women’s fiction Again…Why? Its 2021 not 1821. Men read romance, men write romance..

So, the book. I was really intrigued by the description. I know from reading that actually what we remember as The Truth isn’t necessarily what happened. There have been many studies around police witnesses to prove this. So I wondered how things would play out in the story. Plus I’m a sucker for second chance romance.

I liked Robin, as a young man and now as someone older. He’s been through a lot and has learned so much about himself, he seems reasonably secure in who he is but…Izzy. She seemed to spend an extraordinary amount of time belittling him, in subtle and not so subtle way, and he just took it. She didn’t seem to notice she was doing it. I liked her at the start of the book, and I think that core of her remained inside. Now widowed, suddenly, she’s clearly got issues of her own that she’s ignoring, and that’s affecting those around her. There’s still a strong bond between her and Robin but she needs to have more respect for him IMO.
Claire was the star, just 16 but so good with her mum and Robin. Yes she has the teen outburst at times, but that’s normal. Considering she’s just had her dad die suddenly, her mum’s old lover/boyfriend turns up on the streets and is now in their home she’s amazing.

The theme of memory and truth is strong here. I didn’t really take that in and when I read something Izzy recalled that didn’t match what I’d read Robin say I was confused, flipped back to check I’d read it right, and was more confused when I had. It all connects eventually, just go with it.
There were a few times I needed to check who was talking/remembering/thinking, as it wasn’t clear but I assume final edits will sort that.
I enjoyed the story, its not one I’d reread and the romance side was really only a small part of the novel

Stars: Three, I enjoyed it but at times it was a little hard going, and Izzy frustrated me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Love you to Death, Reily Garrett.

Love you to Death, Reily Garrett.

Love You To Death: FBI Romantic Thriller (Moonlight and Murder Book 6) by [Reily Garrett, RE Hargrave]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romantic Suspense

I really enjoyed this. I think much of that comes from having read some of the earlier books, I’m familiar with the characters and how the team works. The only issue I had was that Dylan was a major romance lead when its only been months since his love was killed. I find it difficult to believe someone can fall in love again so quickly – but that’s just me, its not an issue for everyone of course, and didn’t spoil the story.
I loved Dylan in the last book, Deadly Interception so was pleased he’s the male focus of this one.
Taylor is ambitious, fresh out of probation and working along with her dog Magnum, she’s been given the job of looking into cold cases of missing girls. Out in the woods she gets a terrific break ( and OK its fiction right, so go with it. Strange things happen even in real life) when the latest would be abduction goes wrong and the victim escapes. She meets Dylan with Amelia, the victim, and another man, both helping but also very suspicious of the other, especially Dylan. We know his background but Taylor doesn’t so she’s immediately wary of both.
Gradually the team become involved, Taylor is wary but can’t deny the results, and her supervisor Trenton seems to know and approve of them all so goes along with it. It beings her right into danger several times, and I enjoyed trying to work out along with her so was behind this. There are some interesting clues, some I missed at first of course, that always seems to happen….I’ll get better one day at finding them. I’m in awe of how authors think of all these thinks, think of how to set up little signs that aren’t obvious until it all comes together. Reading I love, writing had never been my forte though! I just don’t have that kind of imagination.
I was still puzzled by the motives though, even when the person behind the abductions was revealed, and then there’s a lead in to the next book which shows that its actually not all over yet. They have one of the major players captured but it looks very much like there is another, so of course the motive is yet to come 😉
Trenton seems to be involved in the next story, I hope he’s the male lead. He’s kind of on the fringe of the group right now, but has some good talents and connections and could give much to them.
As always the dogs ( and Keiki’s drones) play a major part, and I love that they’re brought in that way. Dogs in real and fictional crimes don’t get the recognition they deserve very often!

Stars: Five for this one, a really gripping and entertaining read. I look forward to more on this story.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Queen’s Spy, Clare Marchant

 

The Queen’s Spy, Clare Marchant

The Queen’s Spy: A new and gripping Tudor historical fiction novel for 2021 by [Clare Marchant]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction

aaaand Women’s fiction again. Why? Time to lose this genre.

Well, this was a fabulous read, one I was totally lost in, reading “ just one more chapter” til way too late….
I loved the past best, though enjoyed the present story too. I enjoyed how what seemed like two totally separate tales slowly began to meld.

Mathilde was such a defensive, prickly character, when Rachel was hoping for an open loving sister. Its hard though, one of them always knowing the other existed, whilst living an idyllic childhood, but poor Mathilde having spent her life thinking her dad was dead, and living as an itinerant. No fixed home, always being moved on, with a mum that’s badly traumatised by the past, its no wonder she’s so closed.
Slowly though Rachel, Fleur, Rachel’s five year old, and the house begin to weave some magic around her and she starts to open up. Of course the delicious Art Historian Oliver helps too!

From the past there’s Tom, what a wonderful character. Fled England as a child and now as an adult finds himself trying to take refuge here. Tom was taught herbal lore and remedies by his adoptive mother, and it stands him in good stead. His problems mean so many jobs just aren’t available to him, but by chance he comes to the eye of Walsingham, and those make him the perfect spy for Elizabeth 1.
I so enjoyed this historical parts, the days to day issues, the remedies, the thread involving the vanilla plants that ran through the current day story too. Seeing Tom painting his triptych as his life unfolded was magical, and then finding it later and seeing Matty, Oliver and Rachel trying to find out the story was interesting. Art really does tell a tale and before photography was one of the only ways of recording events in a visual way.
There were some happy times and some tragic ones, along with a view of how little choice most folk had in their lives, how one moment you were secure and in favour, the next in prison, possibly facing the scaffold. Its an interesting period in history, one I’m reasonably familiar with and I really enjoyed seeing how the Babingdon plot may well have played out.

Stars: Five, A lovely tale, gentle romance but for me the magic was this historical side, and seeing how eventually Tom’s story came to light.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

No More Words, Kerry Lonsdale

No More Words, Kerry Lonsdale

No More Words: A Novel by [Kerry Lonsdale]
Genre: general fiction ( adult), women’s fiction

Sigh….women’s fiction yet again. Outdated, publishers, lets get rid of it.

Anyway, the book. Well, its Kerry Lonsdale, I love her writing.
She delivers a story that I can get engrossed in, that’s full of twists and surprises and keeps me guessing. And wow – this book did all that and more.
I didn’t realise it was a trilogy when I requested, but I’m not ready to leave this family yet so I’m really glad there’s more. As this story does end but there are lots of unanswered questions, I assume it’ll be Lily and Lucas that are main characters in next books, that we see the story from their pov maybe? That will fill in some of those blanks.

When we first meet them we can see their family is one of those perfect on the outside, dysfunctional on the inside, where appearances and money are all. ( what my Nan would call silk purse and no knickers….)
We see them as children, with parents that really want the perfect family image wise, but not the actual bother of raising them, although Olivia’s dad seems to adore her, and give her time he won’t spend on her siblings. Even so they get dropped off/dumped on family friends for the whole summer at a very young age. Lily is only five the first time we meet them, being left with near strangers for six weeks! Maybe that’s less shocking in US where summer camps are popular, but in UK that’s certainly unusual.

Then we meet them years later, Olivia mainly, and Josh, Lily’s son. He really was the star, his part so well written it was easy to believe in him, to feel his frustration, his fear for his mum, he really was a joy to read.
I liked how we see them change, how slowly Josh starts to trust Olivia, how she goes from wanting no-one in her life, to rely only on herself and yet by the end she and Josh are so close. It was good too seeing how her past impacted on her life, understanding why past actions of herself and others affected the person she is now. I hope we see that in the next two books, I’m really puzzled over Lucas, and of course I want to know where Lily and Josh have been all these years.

Stars: Five, another Kerry Lonsdale Classic and a real treat to read. Kept me engrossed, guessing ( wrongly mostly), on a mix of giddy highs when things went right, and tears when they didn’t right til the end.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Coward, Jarred McGinnis

The Coward, Jarred McGinnis

The Coward by [Jarred McGinnis]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

I wasn’t really sure I could deal with this, part fiction, part bio read. I’m also in a wheelchair, like Jared I wasn’t born disabled, and even now 25 years on the frustration between now and my “old” life is hard to deal with.

But I did read it, and what a gripping read it is. Jarred is such a real person. Too often we disabled folk are portrayed as some kind of saint – I’ve been patted like a dog, had my hair ruffled, been called Brave more times than I can count. We’re people, same as able bodied folk, we get angry, we do bad things, we can be impatient, rude, arrogant….and Jarred illustrated most of those at times. There are times when I really want to be like Blunt Jarred. But that’s not me ;-( I keep it inside. We are who we are.

Its hard reading, very hard at times but the type of book where you just have to keep going, see whats coming next. I felt for young Jarred but had the benefit of the wider view, knowing why he was acting out. His neighbours, the shopkeepers whose stock he was taking, the schools were he truanted, acted out will have a different view.
I feel for his frustration, I understand why he’s rude to those helpful, well meaning folk. Some days you just can’t take it. Its not their fault or yours, it just is.

Poor Jarred didn’t have the greatest upbringing either, mum died young, dad took to the bottle and Jarred was left to his own devices. For a young, grieving teen that means trouble…and after a few more rows with Jack, his dad, he leaves at just 16. The next time Jack hears from him is ten years later.
Those ten years have changed Jack, but Jarred has been on some kind of merry go round, always searching, always moving on, until he comes to this forcible stop. He’s still angry at life, his dad, his older brother, who it seems to him could have helped but turned a blind eye to what was going on.
Now he’s even more to be angry about, and I understood his feelings so well. I found losing my work, losing my leg, equaled losing my identity. I just couldn’t be grateful for the wheelchair, the false leg, the social workers who were well meaning but really didn’t understand. Everything has to be relearned, even simple stuff like turning over in bed. No wonder Jarred was so angry, no wonder he didn’t want to deal, he felt guilt for the accident and his friends death, still had his grief for his mum, issues with his dad. He couldn’t just be grateful his dad took him in, he was angry and it really was a last resort going back to Jack. What an awful situation to be in.

It was a joy to read how slowly he and Jack found common ground, how his brother acknowledged his position in what happened, how Jack has dealt with his alcoholism and what he’d been doing in the intervening years. They both had a dry sense of humour, that came out at times. When they were laughing at the well meaning but patronizing people that struck a chord. The number of times I’ve said to family or friends. “I’m going to spit and scream at the next person to pat me”, or where I’ve paid for something and the change has been ( or attempted to be ) given to whoever is with me. They’ve been trained, ignore until finally assistant realises its Me that wants the change!)

Sarah was the real life saver, and what a wonderful lady she is/was. Again I’m not sure where reality stops and fiction begins but she was a gem, knew just when to stand back and when to push, exactly what Jarred – and Jack – needed. Her family, wonderful and I hope they’re all real. I loved the scenes with Marcus and the time they took him out to the casino. Its back to that “disabled folk should accept their lot and not be out among able bodied people”. That’s a very prevalent attitude, one I’ve met many times. Even my own father expected me at 37 to just be content to sit at home, give up my life. I didn’t and I’m so glad Jarred found a way through too.
I’ve just read his bio, where it mentions his daughters, and that made me really happy that he’s found the family he deserves.

Stars: Five, an astonishingly readable, gripping novel.

ARC supplied by Netgally and publishers

How to Talk to a Goddess, (The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic 2), Emily Croy Barker 

 

How to Talk to a Goddess, (The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic 2),
Emily Croy Barker 

How to Talk to a Goddess and Other Lessons in Real Magic by [Emily Croy Barker]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Sci-fi and fantasy

Its so long since I read book one that I decided to reread it. I remembered parts but discovered there was much I’d forgotten, and found that it was still as much fun as first time round.
Then I went straight on to read this and I think having refreshed my thoughts via first book made it easier to get into Nora’s mind, to follow why she chose certain actions. I was a bit sad for her parents who would once more get plunged into a mysterious disappearance, but really, how could she explain it? I think at least leaving them a note would have been kind, even if they don’t believe it.
I liked that Nora’s return was not seamlessly easy, and very believable. I wondered how after accidentally slipping into that world she’d be able to repeat it, and it was done in a way that felt natural.

I loved this book, the first is still my favourite by a small margin, but this has some great parts. I did like the things that happened, good and bad, to Nora and Aruendiel, the separation, the jealousies ( I love a good jealous issue!) I wasn’t so keen on the Goddess parts, and of course that’s a huge part of the story. It wasn’t that I disliked that part, I just felt Nora became someone else at times, and I wasn’t convinced she’d have acted in the way she did.
I’m glad the Faitoren were brought in and a resolution found, that tied up any lose parts from earlier and allowed the story to move forward.
I enjoyed meeting Aruendiel’s friends, and how they pulled together in dangerous times. The magic, I love that, loved the workings of the spells, loved the whole idea but then at heart I can’t help wishing there was magic in the world…..
Its a fun read, a worthy follow up and I would still like more from this world. I think Nora, Aruendiel and their friends could still have lots of adventures.

Stars: Five, A fabulous read, worthy follow up. And please Emily, more??

ARC supplied by author

Glitter, Abbi Glines

Glitter, Abbi Glines

Glitter by [Abbi Glines]

Genre: Romance,

Historical Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

Oh this was fun, I’ve enjoyed several of Abbi’s contemporary romances ( despite being way older than the characters…) so was keen to see how she’d handle this. And it was great, a fun read, little genteel drama, wonderful characters, and solidly set in the time period. Except for – biscuits. Abbi, we don’t ever eat those biscuits for breakfast, now or then. What you call biscuits is closer to what we would call a scone and eat with butter and jam for tea. High tea or when visitors call back then of course. Biscuits and gravy for breakfast is not British, its US and every time I read it ( and it comes up multiple times) I felt it jarred.
Anyway, other than that I really enjoyed this story, it had all the typical hallmarks of a historical romance. The traditions, the era, the shock when someone steps outside the norm. I think Miriam’s aunt would have found it way more difficult to be accepted in society being a) American and b) ignoring so many of society’s conventions. But for the book’s purpose it was fine, worked well and I adored her. She was exactly what Miriam needed.
Added to the romance was that issue of the brothers and their relationship. Then of course there’s the whole reason Ashington was looking for a wife now in the first place. That made the book into more than a simple romance, into a story with some added depth and drama.
I did feel the end was very abrupt, even with that lovely epilogue, and the brothers relationship seemed to have changed on a sixpence, went from one extreme to another in an instant. I’d have liked to understand more about Nathaniel’s thinking and change of heart.

Stars: Four, an enjoyable historical, an entertaining read with a couple of surprises.

ARC supplied by Netgally and publishers

An Endless Cornish Summer, Phillipa Ashley

 

An Endless Cornish Summer, Phillipa Ashley

An Endless Cornish Summer: Escape with the perfect, heartwarming and uplifting new summer book from the Sunday Times bestselling author by [Phillipa Ashley]

Genre: Romance,Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

ah,ahh Women’s Fiction again….its 2021 people.

Well, its a sweet story, stretches credibility to think Rose could find her donor that easily, then just find the perfect place to stay, make new friends etc, but -its fiction. It makes for a sweet read, gentle romance, and of course the Cornish setting is beautiful. There’s a few bits of drama creep in but nothing very heavy, its very much a gentle beach read.
I really liked Rose, she’d been through so much. She still worked hard though, and got into her chosen field, and now she’s off exploring more of history. Nigel and the YouTube links – that made me laugh. There are people like him everywhere, convinced the answer to everything is on a conspiracy site, and that people who’ve studied a subject in depth are simply wrong, misguided, simply need showing the error of their beliefs. Primary source materials, peer reviewed papers, all pale into comparison against a website set up by someone’s cousin’s, friend’s, brother, who knows absolutely whats right because he went to evening classes in extra terrestrials…or math. Something like that 😉 Covid has brought loads out!
Characters are like-able, Cornwall is gorgeous and I want to go out on a boat. Preferably with a lovely handsome man of course!

Stars: three, Its a fun read, easy to follow but a little light for me.

ARC supplied by Netgally and publishers

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