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Swallowtail Summer, Erica James

Swallowtail Summer, Erica James

RSwallowtail Summer: This summer escape to the country with bestselling author Erica James by [James, Erica]

Genre: general fiction (adult)

I’ve read a few of Erica’s novels in the past, and those all had a romance slant, so even though this wasn’t billed as romance I somehow was expecting one. My bad, its not romance. It is however, and accurate, sharp look at us as people, how we turn a blind eye to what we don’t want to acknowledge, and how differently people react when the truth is forced in front of them.
I liked the strength of the characters, the way they felt real. I can’t say I really liked any of them as people though, and I wasn’t really invested in the outcome of events. Its not a book that really worked for me, very well written, but the actual story just didn’t resonate with me. Possibly because I was waiting for a romance to develop somewhere….totally my fault. I do read stories other than romance, but my mindset wasn’t in the right place. Maybe at a different time I’d enjoy it, but right now I didn’t. I found it a very sad story, almost depressing in how people could be let down so bsdly by those close to them.

Stars: Two, just not one for me, but I’ll happily read others from Erica.

Arc via Netgalley

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Missing Pieces, Susan Clayton-Goldner,

Missing Pieces, Susan Clayton-Goldner,

Missing Pieces by [Clayton-Goldner, Susan]

Genre: Fiction

Well, I know I enjoy Susan’s writing style, this book is a wide departure from her usual suspense genre though, so would I still love it? Quick answer, yes!

Its told in three timespans, the present, Lillianna’s childhood and her father Cal’s childhood. At first I hated Cal, almost as much as Lillianna does. Like her I thought why should she go back to him now he is suffering, how could her brother Greg still be close to him after their terrible childhood?
Her husband says though, that this could be her last chance, that from experience he thinks she will regret not taking it and she goes.

We meet Greg and his wife Sarah, Cal of course, and his siblings, and gradually he tells Lillianna the story of his own childhood.
Its heartbreaking, I was moved to tears by what happened to Greg and Emma (Lillianna) and also by the tragic story behind Cal’s early years. I suspect its a scene that was familiar back then, when it was normal to turn a blind eye to what happened behind closed doors. That does happen, even now in some families, not just those struggling for work but from all ends of the spectrum. The “walked into a door/had a fall/tripped on stairs” excuses people use to hide the truth. Sometimes it’s because of fear, but so often its rooted in love for the abuser.
I did find it hard to accept that their mother loved them but yet didn’t stop what was happening. Love for Cal – should it over-ride her responsibility to the kids, make them complicit in covering what happened? Its a tough one, Cal and Cassandra shared a real soul melding connection, and yet when things went wrong in life the effects hit all the family. After Cal’s upbringing you’d think he’d be more aware of the dangers and yet he repeats the cycle, something research shows is incredibly common, abusers were very often abused themselves.

Its a hard review to write without giving away what happened, but its a book that’s riveting to read, incredibly emotional and one I found hard to put down.
There’s no happy ending, as in my usual reading choices, no real winners, but there is a satisfying sense of closure, of a past finally dealt with, of letting go of anger, that only harms the person feeling that emotion.
Its easy to hold on to bitterness and resentment, but in honesty that damages us personally more than anyone else, and Susan shows us its possible to get past that, to remember old hurts but with fresh eyes, and be a better person for it.
I like to think as a parent I did the best I could but looking back I can see there were things I could have done differently, I guess that’s common to most of us. We only get one shot at life, and we do what feels right at the time. Whether that is the right way only time can tell.

Stars: Five, an emotional, at times tearful, read. Made me look into what makes us tick as humans, how our past and present affect our behaviour, shape us as people, and one I’m sure I’ll reread.

Arc via author

Amazing Grace, A heart warming feel good romantic comedy, Kim Nash

Amazing Grace, A heart warming feel good romantic comedy, Kim Nash

Amazing Grace: A heart warming, feel good romantic comedy by [Nash, Kim]

Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction

Gah, once more, Women’s Fiction – just why? Men read and write romance, don’t lets exclude them.
Anyway, this proved to be a fun read, I wouldn’t call it comedic, but it certainly had some lighthearted moments. The characters felt very real, like people I could know, and that’s important for me to enjoy a story.
Mark, what a complete ar se. Sadly there’s a few like him, think their job, their needs take precedence over everything, and like a fifties throwback they assume their wives and kids should take a back seat. He cheats, gets caught and thankfully Grace gives him the heave-ho.
I found it a bit slick how easily a woman years out of the job market swept into a perfect job, and can manage a mortgage too on the perfect house. Real life is a bit tougher than that, at least here in UK it is. She’s picking herself up though, and building a new life for her and Archie.
Monica, her friend, encourages her out of her safe zone of job, Archie and home into a new look and updated wardrobe, and signs her up for internet dating. I loved the dating experiences, could see them being very accurate. Of course romance when it comes is from an entirely coincidental contact, via Vinnie who comes to see her trees that need cutting back.
I loved Vinnie, a perfect gentleman and so good for Grace. He was a real treasure, genuine, kind, good to Archie and perfect for Grace. The garden transformation made me so jealous, even though its fictional!

Its a cute story, predictably once Grace has someone Mark gets jealous and tries to interfere. Fat club, been to them like many ladies and Kim is spot on. I gave up on one where a huge discussion evolved over whether a tin of tuna was half a fat gram or quarter of a fat gram. Life is just far too short! A club like the one Grace and ruth started would be perfect.
I didn’t like the snippets from beyond, where her deceased mum is talking, didn’t see the relevance at first, and later when it became relevant it still jarred on me a bit. Its not that I don’t believe, more it just didn’t feel right to me.
I guess my biggest disappointment was the ending though, its a huge drama, and that was great and then…next page and wham, we’ve moved waay forward. I wanted a bit more wrapping up of that drama.
Also there’s a secret Vinnie is holding which is taunted all the way through, brought up at relevant times and seems something that could be big, huge, a deal breaker, but when we get to last few pages it almost feels like the author though “oh, what shall I do about xxx? Oh I know, this will do…” the big reveal, the answer, just didn’t fit the mystery and secrecy of it for me, I expected something much bigger, much better.

Stars: Three and a half, its a fun read, very easy to follow and at times very real but there were a few minor points that didn’t feel right to me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Girl He Used to Know, Tracey Garvis Graves

The Girl He Used to Know, Tracey Garvis Graves

Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Genre: Romance, women’s fiction.

Usual moan, women’s fiction – just why? Why assume men won’t want to read something? Isn’t that as sexist as assuming women’s wont/can’t do something, enjoy something?

I adored this story, refreshing, unique and satisfying on the romance front, its a simple plot but has so much contained within it. My only criticism ( well my only two crits!) were I wasn’t convinced by the break-up, I know it was a pretty dark time for both, and Annika’s unique perspective made it harder, but it didn’t feel right to me. I didn’t think they’d end just like that. Then the actual ending felt a bit rushed, hurried, especially given the intensity of the preceding few pages, taking in 9/11 and really making the reader feel events on a personal level. I’d have liked a bit more detail, maybe an epilogue a few months/years later. As it was I got to end and was tapping Kindle, convinced there was still more to read.
I loved Annika, felt for her as I have the same, though on a much smaller scale, issue with social occasions and people. I don’t always “read” conversations, spend time wondering just what to say and practicing different lines in my head….Poor girl has it so much more though, for me its just a nuisance, for her its coloured her whole life. As we read further we begin to see just how much, just how hard it was for her mum to balance protecting her child against teaching her independence in a cruel world. We only get one shot as parents and for kids like Annika most parents just have to do what they think best.
I loved her roommate who became a life long friend. She helped Annika so much, at college and years after, but what folk often miss is seen here, she also gained from knowing Annika, made her understand others better, gave her a different way of seeing the world. Life for someone with disabilities isn’t all depending on others, we have a lot to give too and Tracey shows that so well here. It comes over too when she finally meets Jonathon, he needs to be different with Annika, to work at it if he wants a relationship with her, and he can see how vulnerable in ways she is and yet how her openness and way of saying exactly what she means is refreshing, there’s no game playing, no deception in dealing with people like Annika. Some can’t take it, others value it for the gem it is.
Jonathon is wonderful, patient when getting to know Annika and loves her uniqueness. I found it hard, knowing how close they were, how in love, that he would let their relationship end but he did, it did. Then when they meet ten years later, despite all that’s happened t o both of them in between they still have that same attraction. Jonathon has been married and divorced though, he’s not sure he wants to open to Annika again, nit sure he can deal with getting his heart broken again if it goes wrong. Annika has done so much though, really worked at her issues in the intervening years, and sees a therapist. I loved those insights, when the therapist is helping her decide what to do, helping her analyse what action, what worked, what didn’t. That was a great insight into how she’s coped with life, and also just how hard and tiring it was for her. Everyday issues become major hurdles and when one’s brain is full on constantly it is very exhausting.
Its a fabulous story, some gentle but very real romance, some valuable insights into life as a person who thinks differently to most others, and some realistic events over 9/11. I could imagine that playing out exactly as Tracey has written it.
I don’t know if she knows anyone with Annika’s issues or if its from research but from someone who shares a few traits though on a much lesser scale I can say its incredibly well written and made Annika and her problems feel so believable.

I wasn’t sure about requesting this, I’m so glad I did , its a wonderful story.

Stars: Five, a perfect read, very different than just the usual reunion romance. I just wish there was more of an ending.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Sara Collins

The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Sara Collins

The Confessions of Frannie Langton: 'A dazzling page-turner' (Emma Donoghue) by [Collins, Sara]

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction.

A very disquieting novel. Written so well its easy to forget this is fiction, because sadly stories like it were real life for too many people – still are in certain parts of the world.

Its starts with the trial, and then reverts to Frannie’s early life, how it differed from the other slaves once she reached a certain age. It left her in a kind of no-mans land, neither accepted by the slaves because of her differences, and of course never accepted by whites, her skin colour, heritage and position in life precluded that.
What it didn’t preclude though was them using her, and poor Fannie has a pretty horrific life, culminating in the murder trial.
She’s adamant she didn’t do it, but the time is a blank to her, and the “evidence” is very strongly against her. When you read the story you’ll understand why she says she simply could not have killed her mistress.

Its a mixture of Frannie’s story, and the way people of any colour were regarded in those times, the way the ruling classes regarded anyone below them, whatever colour they were, as disposable, lesser, of having no feelings and they way they were used is shocking and yet horribly true.
There were things she had to do, no choice if she wanted to stay alive, that had me feeling really sick. Its easy from our safe world to say we’d never take part in such atrocities but if we were living her life, well, its a lot harder to decide. Those parts I skimmed over, just taking in the bare bones as I’m horribly squeamish and get nightmares, but always conscious that for many this WAS real life. Man ( men and women) really is one of the cruelest animals, there seems no end to the depravity they can conduct, and back then they had free rein citing their activities as “science” and therefore important.

Stars:Four, a perfectly written story, fascinating in parts but was just that bit too much for me to give a five to. One I’m glad I read, albeit skimming the more uncomfortable parts, but not for my re-readers files.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Dream Daughter, Diane Chamberlain

The Dream Daughter, Diane Chamberlain

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

Ah no, not another “women’s fiction” classification – why assume men won’t read this?

Anyway, that aside, what a fabulous read. Enthralling, making me wonder “what if” ? Make me think about the temptation to change things in situations like this. Really though, the act itself must have repercussions and certainly Hunter is knowingly breaking the Golden rule when he helps Caroline, but then, how could he not help?

I loved the way little things were included so that the puzzle of Hunter not talking to anyone in the hospital and then seeing Caroline and getting her to help me – thus setting in motion the whole chain of events – ties up later in the novel where we find out just why Hunter talked to her while refusing help from anyone else.

The whole novel is so full of emotion, and light spots I didn’t expect, but was so glad to find. Then there’s the angst over Vietnam in 1970 to how its almost a passing historical note later. Its full of “what if” questions, what should one do if one has the knowledge, is the risk worth the benefit, how far would you go for your child’s life? It gave me lots to think about.
I enjoyed the way it was formatted too, seeing both sides of the story concurrently. I’m old enough to recall the seventies as a teen and though I’m UK not US so much felt the same, life was so much simpler then even if it did mean that technology wasn’t there to save babies like Caroline’s. My grand-kids find it incredible we had no mobiles ( well apart from the ones hanging above cots!), no computers, games consoles, only three or four TV channels….it really is a different world now. I remember thinking my grandfather must see cars and aeroplanes as strange, growing up without them. Now I’m in the other side of progress.
I understood a bit why Patti ( Caroline’s sister and Hunter’s wife)was kept in the dark about the plans, but would have felt as she did, betrayed, devastated. Seeing how the decision affected their marriage and later, her relationship with Caroline was hard, I felt so much for both sides.
I’ve tried not to give too much away but it really is an incredible read, very believable and wraps up perfectly.

Stars: Five, a perfect read, full of terrific characters, real tough sacrifices and questions about how far we will go for loved ones.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Mona Lisas and Little White Lies, John Herrick

Mona Lisas and Little White Lies, John Herrick

Mona Lisas and Little White Lies: An "Artfelt" Romantic Comedy You Won't Want to Miss (John Herrick Collection Book 7) by [Herrick, John]

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

Boundary Broken, Boundary Magic Book 4, Melissa F. Olson

Boundary Broken (Boundary Magic Book 4) by [Olson, Melissa F.]

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

The Pieces of You and Me, Rachel Burton

The Pieces of You and Me: The new heartfelt and uplifting love story for 2019 from bestselling author Rachel Burton by [Burton, Rachel]

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

Never Forget, Pamela Q. Fernandes

NEVER FORGET by [Fernandes, Pamela Q.]

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.

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