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The Horse Dancer, Jojo Moyes

The Horse Dancer, Jojo Moyes

The Horse Dancer: Discover the heart-warming Jojo Moyes you haven't read yet by [Moyes, Jojo]

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

Ah no….usual moan 😦 Why, why do we have women’s fiction as a category? Why assume men won’t/don’t read romance – they do, they write it and read it.

….anyway, the book. Its my first Jojo Moyes read, I was put off after reading that Me before You had a sad ending – for me I like a happy ending. But as a lifelong horse addict I felt I needed to read this book. I’m a real dressage lover too and the Spanish Riding School and the Cadre Noir were my childhood dreams.
The horse parts were well done, very believable and I know there are little backyard stables such as the one where Sarah kept Boo. The legal stuff, I’ve seen some criticism of that but to back up Natasha’s character and actions we needed that in a certain amount of depth.

The issues I has were that for a long time we had three stories, the initial one of Henri and Florence, then Natasha and Mac, then Sarah, and it was well into the novel before the three converged and made sense to me. I didn’t really like the characters either, Natasha, I felt for her and what she’d been through but she was very closed off. Mac, I guess he also was affected and sometimes tragedy brings couples closer, sometimes they fall apart, I just found it hard to believe that such a strong attraction, how two such intelligent people could let themselves drift away. Sarah, I wanted to like her, she’s been through so much, but I guess that made her what she was, and I found it hard to warm to her.

Its a well written novel, not the dumbed down type that so often dominates, but I need to feel a connection to the characters and I just didn’t. The story seemed incredibly slow too, I like long novels but so much of this just felt like filler to me, made me lose attention. On top of that long, drawn out story I then felt the ending was way too brief, rushed almost, and I didn’t have time to mentally adapt to all the changes and accept the turnaround.

Stars: Two and a half. Loved the horse interactions, and Mac’s photography, but just felt the main part of the novel and the characters didn’t really connect with me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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The Jasmine Wife, A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women, by Jane Coverdale

The Jasmine Wife, A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women, by Jane Coverdale

The Jasmine Wife: A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women by [Coverdale, Jane]

Genre: Romance

Well, this one doesn’t feature my usual bete noire, the “women’s fiction” category, but that runner just after the title? “Novel for women” – it means much the same and just makes me think, Why? Why alienate a potential swath of readers? Men write romance, men read romance, its time we stopped categorising stories as men/women reads.

Anyway, the story. I love books set in other countries, especially India/China/Japan, and especially set in a period of history where life was so very different not only between sexes but between races.
I loved this book, really made me feel there with Sara, feeling the heat, enjoying the rich aromatics, the colourful landscape, the busy markets and shops.

Its a good story too, what happens to Sara was what sadly happened so often then. Orphaned, brought up by relatives, and encouraged to marry rather than stay with the family. Didn’t really matter whether the match suited her, the fact that someone with a position in India chose her was enough. For those without connections there was the notorious “ fishing fleet” where desperate girls came on spec, hoping someone needed a wife.
Its hardly a romance a marriage like this, more a match of suitability. Perhaps, they don’t really know each other well after all. Sara thinks she loves Charles but barely knows him, and the man she meets in India, after a years absence is very different.
By her background, her childhood in India with very open minded, liberal parents though she sees the locals as people, while the British enclave here now are determined to treat them as lesser, as unfeeling, as beneath any decent treatment. What this books shows is just how it was in reality, and the sheer, breathtaking arrogance of people just because the are British is incredible. Its always amazed me how one tiny, little country became such a world power.
Of course Sara is lovely, way to good for Charles and the British Enclave in Madras. Charles is ambitious, and not above using Sara’s beauty to further his position, and insidiously bullies her into behaving with those who can influence his future. He sees her as a tool more than a wife, but then sadly he’s not alone. Women were regarded that way, possessions to be used, to be paraded out with, to show off, while they kept an Indian woman for what they saw as their baser needs. Wives weren’t allowed or expected to enjoy sex, but remain above such things, while men had “needs”…… Incredible how men who denigrate Indians in public still wanted them kept quietly somewhere for those needs. Sadly that was the norm, accepted even, and the poor ladies, Indian or British, had no say.

Sara gets a rapid eye opening about her husband, and of course the wonderful, attractive Ravi is a temptation she can’t resist. I loved the idea of their meeting being fated, that the signs, the gurus, Sara’s history, all meant it was inevitable according to Ravi. This idea of fate v personal choice always fascinates me, and there are times when things seem impossible but somehow work out, as if fate lent a helping hand.

Stars: Five. A gorgeous read, transporting me to India, desperate for things to work out for Sara, for her to be happy.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

A Life Without Living, (The STREGA Series Book 1) S.C. Alban

A Life Without Living, (The STREGA Series Book 1)

A Life Without Living (The STREGA Series Book 1) by [Alban, SC]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

I didn’t realise this wasn’t a stand- alone, but part of a series so was expecting it to end. And it didn’t, but ends on something of a cliffhanger. Still, its a great story and goodreads and amazon do make it clear its not a stand alone read.

I was intrigued, its a supernatural story but different to much of whats on offer, a love story passed down through the ages.
Gio, what a fabulous man and how harrowing, always searching and never quite making it in time. Then waiting for the next lifetime. Kate, I really liked her and her friend from work, Dave. Then there’s Alex, on the surface the perfect husband but when we see their relationship closer its not all that it seems, and yet despite his faults Kate is always so eager to please him. And of course there’s Claire and Willem, and the way there seems an instant attraction between them.
I enjoyed the story but there were a few sections that jarred, a few oddities such as when Gio meets Kate for coffee. They’re strangers, and he gets her an Americano. “ That’s amazing. Its my favourite. How did you know?” Well, I guess as most coffees are the basic, Americano, it wasn’t a difficult guess, but more a safe choice….

Its a story I enjoyed but didn’t have me riveted to the page, wasn’t one I couldn’t put aside for a while. I do want to read more though, want to see how things are going to work out.

Stars: Four, an enjoyable read, good story and I’m keen to see what happens next.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Wanders Far-An Unlikely Hero’s Journey, Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series, David Fitz-Gerald

Wanders Far-An Unlikely Hero’s Journey, Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series, David Fitz-Gerald

Wanders Far-An Unlikely Hero's Journey: Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series by [Fitz-Gerald, David]

Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

I love stories about other cultures, and was drawn to this one.
Its a wonderful, gentle story, showing snippets of how life was for the Native Indians.

I really enjoyed the day to day aspect, learning about the long houses, Bear Fat’s matriarchal group, and of course the journey Wanders Far’s life takes him on. There were a few harsh moments, life was tough then, some folk were cruel, it was part of their culture, though seems awful looking at it from modern perspectives, but back then it was simply accepted.
Wanders Far is a wonderful young man, and his story was beautiful, marrying practicality with spirituality, and showing just how important stories and the Great Spirit was to the people. I liked that we how others in his extended family and friends grew up too.

Stars: Five, a beautiful read, and I look forward to more in the series.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Echo Trilogy Collection: The Complete Series  Lindsey Fairleigh 

The Echo Trilogy Collection: The Complete Series  Lindsey Fairleigh 

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

 

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

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

https://wp.me/p3gAhS-Q9

https://wp.me/p3gAhS-VZ

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

The Things I Know, Amanda Prowse

The Things I Know, Amanda Prowse

The Things I Know by [Prowse, Amanda]

Genre: general fiction (Adult), women’s fiction

Ah no….usual moan 😦 Why, why do we have women’s fiction as a category? Why assume men won’t/don’t read romance – they do, they write it and read it.

With that off my chest, on to the book. I loved it. I’ve read several by Amanda now and she creates characters that feel incredibly real, and scenes that are like snippets for everyday life. That means the plots too feel genuine, and that’s what I want in a story. Something I can believe in.

I adored Hitch, hated that name that epitomizes her disability. She’s adored by her parents, but as often happens when children have disabilities, they are so scared for her they restrict her, smother her almost, and treat her like a child, always soothing and not really listening to what she wants now she’s older. It must be hard seeing your child upset and the natural temptation is to keep them close, keep them away from harm. Hitch though is feeling a bit lost by life, its a wash, rinse, repeat kind of time for her and she wants a future of her own, a family, her own cake tins. That looks like its not on for her until Grayson Potts comes to stay, and he and Hitch see something in each other that completes them, makes them feel whole. Grayson too has issues, ones that make it difficult for him to relate to others but give him a talent in the finance industry.

They become close, even though its just a couple of days, and gradually both spread their wings a bit and look to a future. I loved when hitch became Thomasina. Its not without traumas though, problems, pitfalls and unpleasant people.
I loved that Amanda showed that disabled folk want – and should have – more than just a safe life, that its OK to want more, that they are the same as anyone else and should be treated that way. The older I get the more I see “normal” as mythical, really we’re all someone along a sliding scale of normal, not one fixed point that denotes it and anyone away from that magic mark is not normal, and shouldn’t expect to have the same rights, realities, life expectations as those who fit that narrow criteria.

Stars: Five, another great read from Amanda, and one to keep for re-reading. Such a wonderful story, no deep dark dramas, but a gentle spreading of wings from two wonderful characters.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Rough Magic, Riding the world’s wildest horse race, Lara Prior-Palmer

Rough Magic, Riding the world’s wildest horse race, Lara Prior-Palmer

Rough Magic: Riding the world’s wildest horse race by [Prior-Palmer, Lara]

Genre: Biography and memoirs.

I so wanted to love this book, I’d adore to have taken part in a ride like that. To the astonishment of my totally non horsey family I grew up with an adoration for all things equine as soon as I could walk.
It took me until I was over 30 to have my own horse but there is a real magic between a horse and rider when both are willing, a real feeling of oneness, rightness. This kind of race takes that and pulls it to its furthermost.

Sadly my hopes for the book fell flat. I felt Lara treated it as a bit of a joke really, something to pass the time, and that makes a mockery of all those who trained, who organised, did the hard slog of setting it up.
She enters on a whim, doesn’t train, hasn’t time to train now having entered at the very last minute. Doesn’t have the money but gets the entrance fee halved, drums up some sponsors, and yet still doesn’t treat it with the respect it deserves. She doesn’t take the required jabs, doesn’t pack spare clothes, ignores all the things race advisers suggest taking, gets bored while waiting pre-race for things to set up, so has fun merrily taking all her antibiotics, anti sickness, painkillers etc out of the packets and decanting into a plastic bag. Then takes them ad hoc on the journey hoping for miracles….she tells us proudly several times about this – its why it sticks in my mind. It feels at times as if she’s an adult, playing at being a child pretending to be adult…
She lets go of one of the horses while tacking up, takes off head collar before bridling allowing it to charge off. Then waits for one of the race guys to fetch it, with an air of “oh dear, how did that happen? Never mind” It’s basic stuff for any rider, strange horse, unenclosed area you NEVER let the animal lose, simply looping the collar around the horse neck would have sufficed but no, Lara knows better.
It wasn’t a problem but could have been, these are horses borrowed ( probably for a decentish fee but…) from the locals, who need them for their existence in that harsh place. She’s there a couple of weeks, they live there, need their animals in good health to survive. If the horse damaged itself they can’t simply call up local vet and have it transported to a nice modern surgery for treatment. Its bullet time. The loan of horses needs respect.

I did enjoy the bits about the race, the horses of course, the people that live there, the incredible scenery, but for me Lara herself came over as an indulged child rather than the gutsy young lady I expected.
What others love about the writing style too just didn’t resonate with me, they enjoyed her “verbal acuity” – for me it read more like self indulgent ramblings apropos of nothing. I love to read about people’s history, families, the personal touch but Lara’s came out in such a strange way I felt they were all really strange folk, and I’m sure that’s not what they are or what she intended.

I admire her hugely for doing the race, but found her lack of planning, lack of respect for the race, for the horses, for all the hard work others have done to let her have this week or so of racing really difficult to let go. I just couldn’t get past the fact that it felt as if she treated it all as a bit of a joke really. Others can get past the things that grated on me and adored the book for what it is, a retelling of an amazing race from one of the participants, so you may feel like them and love this novel. I didn’t.
I enjoyed parts of the story, wanted to give her five stars just for taking part, and yet even that achievement gets tarnished for me by her way of treating the whole things so casually.
She’s not sure even as she starts, that she actually wants to win, mulls over what happens if she just gives up on day one…and that non commitment feels like a slap in the face to all those who’ve worked so hard.
I guess its like someone talking their way into a place in the UK Grand National at last minute, getting one of the best horses to ride, but not bothering with training, protective clothing or learning the course route, and then just as race is starting announcing to news media they’re not really sure if they’ll try to win, maybe a fall at the first might be whats best, maybe they’ll just try to finish, or get half way or….See? It denigrates all those who have put in the work to me.
That she finally won feels like good luck more than actually hard work, and that doesn’t feel right in a race of such epic uniqueness.

Stars: Two and a half. Others love it, what I didn’t like they clearly got past, so may you. Each to their own. Its not a bad book, just one that wasn’t for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Summer at the Art Cafe, Sue McDonagh

Summer at the Art Cafe, Sue McDonagh

Summer at the Art Cafe (Choc Lit): A wonderful happy-ever after romance! by [McDonagh, Sue]

Genre: Romance , Women’s Fiction

Ah no….usual moan 😦 Why, why do we have women’s fiction as a category? Why assume men won’t/don’t read romance – they do, they write it and read it.
Anyway, other than that moan I loved this book. I find that Choc-Lit books almost always work well for me, fun and easy to read but not a dumbed down romance. Sometimes I want a simple romance, not a deep, dark, heavy one but I still want some solid characters, believable plots and choc-lit delivers that.
As an artist myself I loved reading about Lucy’s artwork, and the lovely finds she brought into the cafe. The idea of cakes and art sounded wonderful, and the beach-side setting just perfect. Of course on a rainy November day its not so good but 😉 Its fiction, and in romance land its always sunny summer or crisp snowy winter, no grim and gloomy days allowed!
I loved Lucy, so talented, so kind and warmhearted but married to an absolute pratt of a man. It makes me wonder – and Lucy – how did things change, was he always like this and she blinded by love. Sometimes we’re just too much in the thick of things to see the real truth and that’s what seemed to happen to Lucy, it wasn’t until it was thrown in her face she realised how cruel and awful Gerry had become. Still, I like a character I can hate on so all’s good 😉 and of course when she masters all the things he belittles her for and makes a huge success of life without him, that’s just so, so satisfying.
Speaking of people to hate, Sarah was perfect too, one face to Ash and a very different one to Lucy. I love manipulative characters like that, bring in a real challenge to the story, and of course she was determined not to let things work between Ash and Lucy.
There’s some great humour in this story, a lovely plot encompassing not just romance, but growth, Ash growing to trust in love and Lucy learning to trust in herself and her talent, lots of new friends all round, Nic and Richard from the cafe, TV Tom, the Biker Girls, Ed and co from the bike shop, even the pupils Lucy first learned her CBT with.
I adored Daisy too, she made a fabulous character in the story, a wonderful young lady, and of course she ( and I) loved all the rescue animals. I’ve seen ex battery hens in jumpers too while their feathers grow in 😉 and Ash was so open hearted taking in all those animals.
What makes a romance perfect for me though isn’t just the build up, but the crash down, the angst and its really well done here, lasts a while not just over in a couple of pages, and that’s just what I need. Real life is like that, and when things go right again it feels so much more satisfying. Love, real love, needs that challenge to last IMO.

Stars: Five, a gorgeous read, perfect for holidays and beach, or when you just want an escape to a happy place for a few hours.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Woman Who Spoke to Spirits, Alys Clare

Woman Who Spoke to Spirits, Alys Clare

The Woman Who Spoke to Spirits (A World’s End Bureau Victorian Mystery Book 1) by [Clare, Alys]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers

I love this kind of historical read, one where I feel I’m part of the setting, can taste the atmosphere, really feel as if I’m there in past times with the characters. It proved t be a light and enjoyable read. This is first in a new series, I’ve read a couple by Alys and enjoyed those, so was confident I’d like this one.

First books in a series have a hard ask, delivering characters, new settings along with an interesting story, and this book did that really well.
I’m intrigued by Lily’s past, we get hints of some awful trauma but I guess that’s going to come out more in further books. Likewise her new hire, Felix, has his own somewhat mysterious past. We know some of it, but there seems much more to him that just a down at heel former rich kid. He has so much experience of different things, and I’m keen to know how and where and when he learned all this. He seemed so much older than his actual years.
He and Lily make a good pair, work well together and even though in those times its odd to have a female boss, he makes it work, being deferential without seeming obsequious, and yet standing up when its needed. I feel maybe in further books something might develop between them but there’s little here except respect and a possible growing attraction. I want to know more about the guy in the houseboat – forgotten his name, but though he and Lily have only met a handful of times they have something special maybe? Or perhaps I’m reading things that aren’t there 😉

The mystery this is based around is actually two stories, there’s the one about the actress, the stage and young Julian, and then the primary one of Albertina and the evil she senses is out for her. That had me completely puzzled, I simply couldn’t work it out, though of course after its over I could see the clues Alys had cleverly weaved through. An original tale, not one I’ve come across before.

Stars: Four, a fun read and a great intro to the series.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Summer at the Lakeside Resort,(Lakeside Resort Book 2), Susan Schild.

Summer at the Lakeside Resort,(Lakeside Resort Book 2), Susan Schild.

Genre: romance

I loved the previous book, and enjoyed this. I’ve had a couple of follow-on books recently, and I guess I’m coming round to the idea that actually what I want, what I enjoy best is the pre-romance, the story and struggles that gets folk together. Once they are together, sometimes I enjoy a sneak into what comes next but more often I just don’t seem to get so engaged in the story.
I enjoyed seeing The Boys, Jenny feels her boys are family, exactly the way I’ve always thought about my pets. ( My dog, Roxy, is now shrieking “A Pet!! You think I’m a pet??” I swear she thinks she’s human. ) The resort is progressing, not without problems of course, and that made it so lifelike. Things do go wrong, I know, I’m still in temp accommodation because the 8-10 week renovation is now into about week 14 with another three or four to go. Uncover one issue, and three more pop up. I so felt for Jenny in the first book when this seemed to happen to her all the time. Now she’s laid out all that money she needs to get the bookings in, but to do that she needs to spend more cash on attractions….cash she doesn’t have.
I didn’t really feel the Luke issue, he’s a good guy at heart and the commitment worry felt a bit forced, though of course there is his workaholic dad for history. People do often follow the role model set by parents rather than learn from it.
It was a fun read, a light one but cemented my opinion that for me follow on books aren’t really what I like best.

Stars: three, I enjoyed reading about Jenny and co, and seeing the resort progressing and for those who like reading follow on stories it will be a five, just a case of its me not the book. Reading tastes are so subjective.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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