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Just Like You, Nick Hornby

Just Like You, Nick Hornby

Just Like You by [Nick Hornby]

Genre: Romance, General fiction|R

OK, confession time. I’ve never read Nick Hornby, and as I don’t have a TV I’ve never seen any film adaptations of his books. Yet his name is everywhere and when I saw this I thought maybe it was time….

So, what did I think? Well, sadly I guess Nick is one of those authors who many folk love but who’s work isn’t for me. I found this book really hard going, tedious, if it wasn’t a review I would have stopped at 30% when I was still struggling to get interested in the story. Sadly that first third I struggled with was the best part of the book too.

I liked Joseph, but he was a very typical 22 year old, not ready to settle with one person and apart form being attracted to Lucy I didn’t see why they were together. Likewise Lucy was a lady I felt for, failed marriage, elderly parents, mum of two young boys.
I loved her boys, at times they were the most honest out of all the folk in the novel.
There were times where Nick brought both Joseph and Lucy with others of their own age just to show they tried – that’s how it felt to me, but the people they were with just weren’t right for either regardless of the age issue.
Friends of both were predictable, Joseph’s friends denigrating him being with Lucy because she was white and older, likewise Lucy’s friends trying to be very middle-class polite about the fact Joseph was younger and black.

The book describes Lucy and Joseph’s other relationships as the perfect match, but we didn’t actually see any of that, they were just same age group, same colour, and had one shared interest. You could pull hundreds of perfect matches off a dating site if that’s the only criteria.

I hate that Joseph is portrayed as – well – not too bright. The Brexit issue, where he wavers, feeling he “ought” to vote one way or the other and then….his determination to make it as a DJ, but in fact though music and one song plays a big part I didn’t feel he was that invested in it. He didn’t know what were some common genres of music, when if he was serious he’s have been doing it not just talking about it. He wants to be a DJ but isn’t out there learning, helping another, finding out whats hot right now. The theatre where he doesn’t really know the story etc…it just felt he was a stereotypical black male, when the opportunity could have been to make him so much more.
He was a pleasant kid, and that was it really. He hadn’t grown much from teens, wasn’t ambitious, didn’t know what he wanted from life on a personal or professional level, he was just a typical new adult drifter, waiting to see which direction life takes him. Regardless of race that’s how things are for many early twenties kids.
Lucy, in contrast, was portrayed as very middle class, degree educated, English teacher, mum of kids, and a very “Boden family” type person, from her friends, her interests, her voting habits, everything apart from the divorce and her ex. She’s interminably living in her head, mulling over problems, worrying what her friends a family will think. She had friends she didn’t even like but was too polite to keep away from them. Her friends are very much the same mould – the start to that dinner party, “ oh, obviously you’re not Joseph!” The type who love to see themselves as open minded, liberalists and yet they’re inwardly horrified at Lucy being with a black younger man. Sadly had it been the other way round, older white guy with black younger lady they wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Sexism is still alive and thriving in some areas.

I suppose at the heart this novel didn’t ever give me the feeling there was anything more between Joseph and Lucy but hot sex. The interactions they had were mostly fraught with problems, prickly tensions over age and race. Lucy seems to endlessly mull on the age issue and Joseph having kids, thinking she’ll be gone by then, and Joseph thinks about the future in terms of someone, sometime, but who isn’t Lucy. I just can’t wee two people supposedly in love who would think that way without the demons of jealousy gripping them. The holiday – I found that really odd, there’s no way I could have done that. Invited, or gone, and it just reinforces to me that there was no grand passion, no real love between them.
The ending – well, I felt it was rushed and unsatisfactory. All the issues that plagued them through the book were still there, none were resolved, no action ever taken to deal with them, and yet somehow the last few pages magically make everything OK.

Stars: Two, I guess Nick is an author who’s writing others love but I don’t. I found the story had no real point, drifted along and relied on stereotypes that irritated me. It could have been so much more for me, but as ever its perfect for others.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

A Tainted Marriage, Regency Marriage Laws series, Julie Roberts

A Tainted Marriage, Regency Marriage Laws series, Julie Roberts

A Tainted Marriage: A captivating new Regency romance novel from Julie Roberts (Regency Marriage Laws 3) by [Julie Roberts]

Genre: General Fiction (adult)

I like to dip into historical fiction every now and then, everything seems gentler, less fraught, though of course life was still a real struggle for so many folk. I really enjoyed this read, it took some turns that I didn’t foresee and which were very real. I do like my fiction to have a sense of reality – even if its fantasy I need to think that events could actually happen that way. The things in this book, especially when Grace visits Greensleeves, I could see things happening just as they played out.
I really liked Grace, wasn’t so keen on Alex. I sort of understood his fears, but it was really hard on Grace and I could see how upset by things she was, and how she reached the conclusions she did. Later in the book it was easy to see why Alex, jumped to conclusions and I guess most would see things the way he did given the constraints on women at the time, the conventions of society that she wasn’t adhering to. Earlier in the book when he was so ,,dogmatic, autocratic, I’m not quite sure how to describe it, I had to keep reminding myself his actions were the norm for the time, when ladies were considered property of their husbands, of fathers, and decisions made for them. I guess that shows just how far we’ve come with women’s rights.
I was expecting a simple historical romance, what I got was just that, plus an interesting side story, that lifted the novel from “just” a romance, to a story that really made me think about conventions, about women’s rights, and about how easily some of these events could have turned to disaster for Grace. I even came round to Alex, he redeemed himself by his love for Grace and his willingness to admit where he’d been wrong.

Stars: Five, An enticing story with romance, drama, some fabulous obnoxious characters and a real flavour of the time.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales, by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales, by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

Grimms' Fairy Tales by [Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm]

Genre: General Fiction (adult)

First thing I noticed was the Genre category. Adult! Yet we think of fairy tales as childrens reads.
As a kid I devoured anything like this, many of these tales, the Greek and Roman legends, Aesop’s fables and more. If they were a little gruesome at times I coped, I certainly wasn’t scarred for life. They were my bedtime reading, torch under the covers as I was supposed to be asleep…..
I think we need to give kids more credit for understanding fiction, not pretty up old fairy tales ala Disney versions. Stop mollycoddling them, and let them enjoy fiction that can be a little darker at times.

So, TBH rereading this was a bit of a let down. I remember being absorbed by these tales, fully immersed in another world, but reading them as an adult I found them entertaining, interesting at times but ultimately a bit of a let down. That magic that had me so gripped seems to ave been lost, but I guess that what growing up does for you, throws in life and reality.
There were times with some of the stories when I though “ that wasn’t fair”, when I noticed that yet again the protagonists were young, handsome, beautiful, talented, treated badly by others, while the “bad” guys were always ugly, scarred, not very clever, in a place of power gained by evil means. Stereo-typing clearly started a long time back. Its odd because I don’t remember noticing when reading as a young girl.

If you’ve an interest in the real stories, not the pretty Disney versions then this is a great read, but if like me you loved it as a child, you might want to leave those happy memories untrammeled by the logic of adulthood, the cynicism of age.
Am I glad I read it? Well, a mix, I am disappointed at losing the childhood magic, but set against that it was fun to read the true versions, not the sanitized ones peddled now. And there were several stories I’d forgotten so that was fun, I guess its a 50/50 situation. What I lost in past magic was balanced by finding tales I’d forgotten.

Stars: Three, a good book, but I was disappointed at losing some of that magic surrounding the stories.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Keep Her Quiet, Emma Curtis

Keep Her Quiet, Emma Curtis

Keep Her Quiet: The gripping new novel from ‘the queen of the unputdownable thriller’ by [Emma Curtis]

Genre: General Fiction ( Adult), Mystery and Thrillers

Wow, what a read, full of surprises I didn’t see coming. Some stories you can see way ahead whats going to develop but this one threw all the curve-balls….

Leo, what a narcissistic man, concerned only about himself. It made me wonder what Jenny ever saw in him. When she strays that one time she has no idea Leo knows the baby isn’t his and yet I felt it wasn’t so much for love of her he kept quiet but because he didn’t want to lose his cushy life that allowed him to be An Important Author. How much of that was down to his childhood, with a weird mother and a father who felt he’d had to give up his dreams of being an author to teach because of Leo. Who knows what shapes people, or whether they just are that selfish.
Jenny, poor Jenny. I don’t condone cheating but Leo must be a hard husband to live with, she had to do literally everything in their marriage, so the man could focus on his writing. He made that very clear, he was going to be a great Man, make his mark on the literary world and nothing would stop him. She strays just that once and that changes the direction of so many lives. I so felt for her, she had her life changed by things totally out of her control.
Then there’s Hannah, not much more than a child herself, yet abandoned by her family, abused by those she trusted and left to make her own way. She and Leo hatch a plan on the fly, trap each other into long standing events. In a way I understood her actions, and her later ones, though I found it hard to believe she would have acted that way. It proved to me really that however much I felt for her she was in her own way as selfish as Leo. Put herself above everyone else.
Then the later events of the book, well, once more we saw there was no end to Leo’s selfishness. He was callous in his musings about what to do, it was all about what worked best for him. At times it was incredible the way he casually went through possible scenarios, how he felt he’d had no choice, how he portrayed himself, even after these terrible actions, as a good guy, just doing his best in difficult circumstances.

Its a gripping read, stunning the way shock after shock gets delivered, the way that one cataclysmic event had consequences that lasted years, that get wrapped in lies, falsehoods, actions beyond imagining. I really didn’t see so many of the twists, big ones and even up to the end, smaller ones. That letter shocked me.
There’s one true innocent at the heart of this who gets a life she really didn’t deserve. I so felt for her. What long standing consequences could come from her innocent actions.

I think what I always had in the back of my mind too was this is so far fetched and yet…we see over and over it actually does happen. There’s one particular story that sticks in my mind from a few years back that reminded me so much of the events here, how we can do unimaginable things for our own ends, to save face, how we can justify wrongdoings to ourselves, telling ourselves we had no choice.

Stars: Five. A great read, full of surprises. The characters were so perfectly written, I felt as if I was there with them, a voyeur in their lives. A read to treasure, to whip out on a dull day and lose oneself in.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Feathertide,  Beth Cartwright

Feathertide,  Beth Cartwright

Feathertide by [Beth Cartwright]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that.
It is both those things but…somehow I felt the story it told was a little flat.
The writing was beautiful, the world unusual and the characters wonderful but for me it just didn’t add up to a great story.
I wasn’t convinced by the romances, didn’t feel there was any real depth to the plots. It was just things that happened to Marea on the route of her journey to find her father, and to discover herself, a kind of coming of age read. A lot of words, lots of things going on but nothing of any gripping interest to me.
I’m sure others will love it but for me it needed more depth, more emotion, more feeling. I felt the end was kind of ambiguous too, and in general that doesn’t work for me, though it does let me imagine my own HEA ending…

Stars: Three, it had the potential for five stars from the beautiful writing, but the lack of depth let it down for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Storm, Amanda Jennings

The Storm, Amanda Jennings

The Storm: The most gripping and chilling psychological suspense novel of 2020, exploring coercive control, lost love, and buried secrets by [Amanda Jennings]

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, New Adult

I’m not really sure why this is listed as New Adult, everyone in it is well past that except for Hannah’s son 😉 Anyway, I was expecting to love this, it sounded very intriguing.
I liked it, a lot but didn’t love it. Its one of those I’m glad I’ve read but won’t reread.
I didn’t really like any of the characters, except for poor Alex, he was the innocent victim in everything.

Nathan is obsessed with Hannah right from the start and manipulates his way into her life. He’s got money and uses it to carefully lure her in, not in an obvious way, but in more subtle ones once he susses that she’s not impressed by wealth. Her boyfriend Cam though….he’s stiff competition. Cam’s a fisherman, to Nathan its no contest but of course Hannah is in love and for her Nathan is just a good friend. And then something happens that changes everything.

Nathan goes from being a bit of a stalker to a total control freak. As events unfold I can actually see where his issues lie and they stem from way back in his life, to childhood and I did feel even the tiniest bit sorry for him. He knows way more than he admits, and what seems like heavy handed OTT control is his attempt to stop Hannah – his love, his life – from leaving. It made a hard life for her but she puts up with it for reasons of her own.

Then there’s Cam who I hated at first, for leaving when she needed him, but of course as events unfold it wasn’t that simple. I had guessed at some, though not all, some parts came as total surprise. I felt so sad for some of the characters, life in a fishing fleet is tough, harsh and death or life changing injuries never far away.
Its a classic story in a way of Teen ( imagined) Invincibility meets Real Life, and led to sadness all round. Alex was caught in a trap not of his making, Hannah was in a situation she felt she had only herself to blame, Cam did what felt right at the time even though he lost everything, and Nathan, well Nathan thinks he has the girl he loves but its only by controlling every bit of her life that he has her….A really sad group of characters, and even the ending holds a hint of more to come.

Stars: Four. A great read but not a re-reader for me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

White Swan, Lono Waiwaiole

White Swan, Lono Waiwaiole

White Swan by [Lono Waiwaiole]

Genre: | General Fiction (Adult), Literary Fiction

I wasn’t sure about requesting this, but am so glad I did. Its more of a journey read, one to savour each sentence, every event, more than a story where you race through to get to the end.

Eddie is a wonderful character but losing his parents, and killing his much loved cousin in a tragic accident really impacted on him, and that carried through to adulthood. In some ways he destroys his own happiness, its as if he feels he doesn’t deserve any. Yet he does, I so wanted that happy ending for him, for things to work out between him and his girlfriend. He faces such a barrier through life, his own circumstances, and of course the prejudice that always follows anyone in a minority group.

He loved Evelyn as soon as he saw her, still a child, and I feel that love never really left him, even though she married another, and he had other relationships. I was so angry with her even as I understood what she was doing, that she couldn’t continue to be the only one working at their relationship. It almost feels like Eddie is unconsciously sabotaging his own happiness through that guilt.
That makes it sound as if its a doom and gloom read, and its not. There’s so much going on, so much to see, a snapshot of life back in the sixties.
There are some interesting friendships, heartbreaking times when Eddie talks to his mum at her grave, when his father dips briefly back into his life, and of course his much loved grandfather who sees in Eddie a replica of his son, Eddie’s dad. He worries for him knowing how hard his dad found life, and how much Eddie misses having parents.
Eventually it feels like life turns full circle and that lost little boy is a dad and granddad himself, and those childhood relationships become family.
It didn’t have the ending I wanted for Eddie 😦 but it was still a good ending, a content one if not the one I wanted. I felt Eddie finally found peace and a way to live.

Stars: Five, a fabulous slow read novel, one to enjoy each chapter, to soak in the life that’s revealed and the way it affects Eddie.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Lake of Bad Dreams, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 8), Susan Clayton-Goldner 


For UK readers this is currently just 81p, 99c in US. A bargain if you like crime novels, and i’m sure it will tempt you to get more from the series 😉 .

Lake of Bad Dreams, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 8), Susan Clayton-Goldner 
https://amzn.to/308ZBk4

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers

I love this series, and book eight is as fresh and original as book one was. Sometimes this far into a series books start to feel dull, plots repeat and the whole just feels like its time to stop. This though feels like there’s still lots more to come. It reminds me in a way of Patricia Cornwell’s novels. I used to read those avidly some years ago and recently was talking to th friend who introduced me to her books, returning the favour I’ve introduced her to Susan’s stories. Book one is currently free so well worth reading, if you like realistic crime stories you’ll be hooked and want more.

I’ve said before, if I was in the situation so many of Susan’s people find themselves I’d want a detective like Radhauser. He doesn’t just look at the obvious, doesn’t go for the easy solution but investigates all angles. He’s supported where its possible by Heron, the medical examiner for the police, but clashes frequently with his boss Murphy, who’s always wanting to wrap cases quickly, under pressure from the Mayor. I guess that’s where US and UK differ. Our policing is different, and Mayors have no say in police cases. I wonder if something will come of these clashes, Murphy seems to be more and more for the quick wrap up and praise for the force for doing so, rather than taking the time to find the real killer.

Its every parent and policeman’s nightmare, a school shooting, and as usual it looks clean cut. Radhauser isn’t so sure, and the more he investigates the less certain he is that Kristina Sterling was the shooter. Its a tough one because we just don’t know what is in another persons mind, what makes them do something like this. I’m so glad that are UK gun laws are so much more strict, we have occasions when knives are an issue, more than I’d like but the difference in killing numbers between a knife and gun is vast.
There are a number of possible suspects, and I was as usual trying to work out who dunnit. As usual I was wrong 😉 though I wasn’t really fixed on one person, I had no notion of the eventual person.

I love the contrasts between the horrific killings and the day to day minutiae, the way the police works, the stories each of the kids tell, Radhauser’s wife Gracie and their kids. The way he goes in to say goodnight to the horses each time he comes home for the night. I can smell the barn, that fragrance of horse, hay, shavings and feed that’s typical in a well run stable. The family and home provide that balance he needs to stay grounded, and Gracie really is a wife and mum in a million. Radhauser’s job, when he’s on a case like this, is long hours, days filled with sad stories, tragic families, and he needs Gracie and the family to keep him sane.

I was so sad at parts, and when Clive stand up to speak at Kristina’s funeral it had me in tears. A very emotional moment. Her parents were wonderful, and until now been a part of the town, valued and with so many friends. Now though, with the rumours seeping out, the bitterness and hatred directed at them is awful. Its very easy to believe though, as in real life folk want someone to blame and they were just There, a target for the anger that lurks beneath the sadness.
They forgot that Kristina’s parents were grieving too. They couldn’t go out, couldn’t get shopping, bombarded with hate mail and calls, and suffered from vandalism of their property. The crosses at school, how awful that must have been for them. Likewise organising her funeral, visiting her grave. No parent expects their child to die before them, and dealing with that is tough enough without having all this blame and hatred cast on them.
They really were in an awful place, grieving, wondering why this happened, convinced Kristina couldn’t have done this, but of course almost any parent would feel that way. The town has the girl judged, and her parents along with her though. How quick folk are to pass judgment, to blame the people they were friends with, who they respected, just days before. It made me think how tough it must be in real life for parents caught up in this scene.

Its another fantastic real life read, full of clues, motives and hints to keep the reader guessing at the culprit. There’s a twist at the end I really didn’t anticipate, that came as a shock, I’m still not sure how I feel about that. There’s good and bad possibilities I guess, caught up in this snippet. There’s one final, not twist, hmmmn, event I guess? I really liked that bit.

Stars: Five, once more Susan delivers a book to keep the reader hooked to the very end. A realistic story that at times was incredibly emotional.

Arc via author

Echoes, Maeve Binchy

Echoes, Maeve Binchy

 

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

Bah! Women’s Fiction. Its 2020, not 1920 folks, Men write romance, men read romance.
Its years since I read a Binchy book. I’d forgotten how she takes you on a journey through the characters lives. She doesn’t just tell a story, she shows the progression of events and the characters growing along with them. I love that, a story where time is measured in years not just days.
We meet Clare and David when they are just children, living in the same town but with Clare’s family running a small shop and David’s dad being the local gp they are socially well apart. David mum certainly lives up the the Lady of the Manor ideal, she’s a real snob, but his father is wonderful to everyone. David being an only child after numerous miscarriages his mum devotes her life to him, and that creates certain pressures.
Clare is wonderful, fiercely intelligent and determined to get educated to the highest point, she has her life mapped out, and with the help of a wonderful schoolteacher Angela she’s on her way up.
I loved reading about them growing up., Clare and her family, bickering with her big sister Chrissie, working at her lessons, and then as she’s older, taking care of family problems. Angela the schoolteacher, with one face on the surface, and hiding secrets below it. Gerry the town heart throb, he’s one of those folk you can’t help but like, clever, and also opportunistic, he’s got the art of wooing the ladies down pat, but never dates them, its just fun and free with Gerry. He’s got hidden depths too.
I really enjoyed the story, the way things unfolded, the way we see behind the doors, to whats really happening. My heart broke for one person, and I was so angry at the [person who did it. Kidding themselves they weren’t doing any harm. Yes, of course its all OK. We know fine well that if things were the other way round they wouldn’t be. I’m talking in circles here, when you read the story you’ll know what I mean.
As well as the good, the bad and the indifferent characters there’s one bad seed, one person who’d always out for themselves, not matter who gets hurt in the process. I love a character like that, someone who really doesn’t care about the feelings of others, but just takes what they want.
Its a fabulous story, slowly unfolding, revealing hidden secrets, prejudices, ambitions, and of course Love.

Stars: Five, a fabulous slow to unfold novel, letting the characters really shine through, tell the story. Its heartbreaking at times, and a definite reread book.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Love Disregarded, Rachel Blaufeld

Love Disregarded, Rachel Blaufeld

Love Disregarded by [Rachel Blaufeld, Pam Berehulke]

Genre: Romance|R

I’ve mixed feelings about this book. I loved Bex, but when it came to Aston she was a bit of a doormat. I loved Aston too, it was clear how he felt about Bex but…he let money and revenge guide him. That was OK ish when they were young, we all make mistakes, especially when young. We haven’t yet had enough life to assess whats important. When they reconnected though that first time Aston did it again, without the excuse of age. Then after years he decides he wants her and now….and she really just rolls over. Yes, I got that they had a Grand Passion, but the hurts of the past were still there. They had that passion then, this time they’ve both got others to consider, not just themselves. If I was Bex I’d have made him work Much Much harder the third time.
I felt for Seth, he was just there. Used TBH and though Bex came to love him – sort of – it wasn’t the passion she had for Aston. Poor Seth could never live up to that. Never the less he’s a good guy, really steps up even when faced with unwanted surprises. He got a hard time IMO.
Milly and Mike, loved them. Hope things worked out for them.
The kids, all of them, were great. Really well balanced considering all they went through.
Aston’s parents, weak mother, vicious and cruel father. It kind of excuses his actions a little IMO, but only a little and only when he was younger.

Overall its a mixed book for me. I loved the passion, the so strong feelings between Bex and Aston. I loved the angst, I can never get too much of that, and would have liked it to last a bit longer. I hated that she let him get away with so much, and even up to the end he was just steamrollering his way through, expecting everyone to fall in line with his plans. It doesn’t matter if they were good plans, I felt for a solid future Bex needed to make him understand they were a partnership, she had equal say, not just let him carry on as before.

Stars: Three and a half, a good read but I had quite a few reservations about parts.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

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