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Call Me, Maybe, Stephie Chapman

Call Me, Maybe, Stephie Chapman

Call Me, Maybe: A hilarious, uplifting romcom with a love story that will make you swoon by [Chapman, Stephie]

Genre: ,Women’s Fiction, Romance

Bah, Humbug. Women’s Fiction – that infuriates me. Why do we insist on having such an outdated category?
Well, that’s out of the way so on to the book…I liked it, a lot, but didn’t Love it. And I’d expected to, its got one of my favourite tropes.

Its got some fun characters, some humour that lifts parts and the potential for some great drama. I just didn’t feel it lived up to that potential. There were characters that were fairly major in parts who then just dropped away. There’s the mystery of Franco and its demise, which was kind of storm in a teacup when finally revealed, and the actions of some of the family over that seemed a bit OTT.

I was never really convinced of the romance between Cassie and Jesse, it seemed kind of insta-love and yet although they’re talking online they’ve only met a couple of times before they’re in deep….They were good together but I didn’t really feel I knew either of them well enough, and didn’t feel they knew each other well. Hot sex doesn’t make a relationship work, you need more.
The relationship between Cassie and her best friend for years seems rocky at times, and there’s no real explanation – like the romance issues its kind of hinted at, there are hurt feelings and then all’s OK again without any real exploration of what went wrong.

That Big problem, yes I can understand Cassie’s reaction at the way it came out, but TBH given that the real circumstances aren’t yet clear, no one has asked, or even really bothered to find out the essential question, and as it all happened well before Cassie and Jesse were in contact it seemed again an OTT reaction all round. By the time it had all happened simple maths would have given the answer too….It seemed too as if all the relationship issues were put down to that one problem but they had much wider ones, ones which if they didn’t explore would simply reoccur. Jesse cam close to seeing some of his issues but I’m not sure he was willing to look at changing them though. The same for Cassie, she recognised that maybe she’d over reacted but given similar issues I think she’d still be the same. I guess for me its back to that build a relationship – they didn’t really, but went from online chats to full fledged all in, and that middle part, the getting to know each there, is so important.
I did like Holly, I do adore a “good” nasty person, and she was a queen bitch! I wish there were more like her in books 😉

Stars: three and a half, a lot of potential, but for me it didn’t quite hit it.
Arc via Netgalley

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Let It Snow, Sue Moorcroft

Let It Snow, Sue Moorcroft

Let It Snow by [Moorcroft, Sue]

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

Quick usual moan about the genre Women’s Fiction – why? Why assume men won’t read this? Men write romance, men read romance….

Well, I was late to the Sue Moorcroft appreciation group 😉 but she’s the kind of author whose books are worth reading multiple times. They’re so packed with mini plots, secondary characters, fascinating dialogue that I know on subsequent readings I’ll pick up things I missed this time round.

As usual its not just one plot, one strand of story but lots. I love that in a story, keeps things exciting. Some books are single plot and I find that can mean the story becomes a bit dull, fixated on one event but here we flip between plots, many of which prove ultimately to be connected.
Fabulous charters too, that make the story feel so real. They’re the kind of folk you find in any village, with all life’s dramas, the everyday issues we all face at times. There’s Lily, Zinnia and the two mums, and the issues that’s brought for all of them, and then Lily discovering her two half brothers, and what she should do about that. They have no idea about her, the mums and Zinnia are feeling a bit rejected, even though Lily still adores them. I guess that’s natural, how most parents would feel when their child wants to search out other family members. Til now they’ve been a tight knit unit of four, what will happen when Lily finds them.
Of course its not straight forward, Lily finds Harrison Tubb ( known to all as Tubb), he’s a well liked genial landlord of a village local, and she gets a job with him, intending to tell him who she is when time is right. Its never that straightforward though, and that simple quest gets more complicated as she falls in love with Isaac, who’s minding the pub while Tubb recovers from a heart issue in Switzerland with his brother. By now Lily has been at the pub two years, part time, while building her own business. That brings in an opportunity to work at an event in Switzerland, via Tubb and his brother Garrick, who still don’t know who Lily is to them.
Then there’s the singing group, who are also on the Swiss trip, singing Christmas songs, the other villagers, Isaac and his ex Hayley, and of course their dog, Doggo. He’s a real star of the book, so typically Dalmatian, full of exuberance.
Everything comes to a head just before, and on, the Swiss trip, its multiple dramas pulling Lily from all sides. Perfect read for me, I adore that kind of drama that makes you think, how can they get through this, will they even, or are the odds so stacked against them they won’t?

Its a perfect read for me, full of people and issues that feel so real and one in particular is handled very well, an illness that touches many of us. I’ve read similar plots in other books where it feels like its been brought in to add drama but just isn’t handled well, with parts being very unrealistic. Having had an illness similar myself I appreciated that this was written sensitively but realistically.

Stars: Five, a fun read, full of drama and subtle romance

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

One Christmas Star, Mandy Baggot

One Christmas Star, Mandy Baggot

One Christmas Star by [Baggot, Mandy]

Romance, Women’s Fiction

Bah, Humbug. Women’s Fiction – that infuriates me. Why do we insist on having such an outdated category?
Anyway, the book. I’ve enjoyed many of Mandy’s stories now, I know her writing style and my reading tastes generally mesh well so was keen to read this.

I loved Ray, in bad press and once more its media hype to get headlines, nothing like the truth. Its why I don’t buy newspapers any more, fed up of the lies and half truths they publish. Folk like poor him get their lives derailed in the pursuit of headlines. Rant over 😉
Ray has a lot going on in his personal life too, but somehow when he meets Emily, in the school shed, holding a hedgehog, overlooked by Emily’s year six pupils, he’s a goner. Life keeps on bringing them together somehow, and slowly more develops.
I loved Emily too, such a truly good person, adores her job teaching, and is a gem, one of those teachers who really tries to encourage her pupils, to set them on the right path, give them skills they need in life, and keep them doing the right thing. I just adored her class, a typical primary school mixed bunch, full of a mix of innocence and good ideas……and then of course there’s Jonah and Two LL’s 😉

Its a fun read, with some fairly deep emotion in parts, and a surprise in store over the allegations Ray faces from his ex. Its fiction, its entertainment, but this particular thread is true for many folk, and something too often glossed over. It was good to see it brought forward.
Can’t say more without spoiling, but you’ll know when you get to it, and maybe when you hear of something like this in real life you’ll be understanding, not do the usual reaction.

The play: well. Emily and Ray really knocked it out the park with that – it was fabulous, and I loved the songs, humming them to myself as I read.

Stars: Four, a great fun read, didn’t quite have the magic for me that some of Mandy’s books have had though, it took me a little while to appreciate the story, and warm to the characters.

Arc via Netgalley

Dating by the Book, Mary Ann Marlowe

Dating by the Book, Mary Ann Marlowe

Dating by the Book by [Marlowe, Mary Ann]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

I loved Mary Ann’s first two stories, but this one wasn’t as good for me. It could be my personal circumstances. I’m STILL in temp accommodation, seven months now, and that means my usual schedule is on hold. Finding time to get totally absorbed in a book when you’re alone is easy, but when you’re living with a busy family isn’t so simple. It may be that if I re-read this in a few months time I’ll feel differently.

Maddie is lovely, as are most of the cast here, and I adored the setting, book/cafe and book club. She really brings folk together through her work and the club and I enjoyed reading about them and the issues they faced.
Maddie is still struggling a bit I felt, and with her relationship ending like that who can be surprised? Suddenly though it seems would be suitors go from an ambiguous possibility at some time in the future, to a shed load of them on her doorstep – and at the other side of her PC. Add in that she’s got a fast approaching deadline for her next novel, another that’s just been released and then her beloved Mossy Stone, which despite her hard work is struggling financially. Of course only her close friend knows about her book, she’s written under a pen name and not told others.(Against her advice she just can’t help reading reviews- I’d be like that!)
That’s a lot to contend with but we see her ploughing through.

I enjoyed meeting the different characters, getting to know them, seeing them in the store, at the book club and watching for which one might prove right for Maddie. I found myself putting the book aside a few times though, having to remind myself who was whom, and how they connected. Usually with a book I love I can’t put it down, engrossed in the story to the point I feel I know the characters, and certainly that was my experience with Mary Ann’s first two novels.

Stars: Three and a half. A good story but I didn’t enjoy it in the same way as the first two of Mary Ann’s novels. As I said though, its likely me and circumstances, and perhaps a later read will change that.

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

Coming Home to Holly Close Farm, Julie Houston

Coming Home to Holly Close Farm, Julie Houston

Coming Home to Holly Close Farm: Addictive, heart-warming and laugh-out-loud funny. Perfect for fans of Katie Fforde and Jill Mansell by [Houston, Julie]

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

Once more, women’s fiction. Why, why alienate men? They read books like this too.

Anyway, I’ve loved all Julie’s past stories, but this one wasn’t a great fit for me. It could well be living circumstances, I’m between homes, living in my daughter’s conservatory so getting “lost” in a book hasn’t been easy. I may reread this at a later day and feel very differently.
Its full of the usual realistic characters and events, and peppered with Julie’s trademark subtle humour. I’m always nervous when a book promises to make me “laugh out loud” as too often I fond that really means the forced, very unfunny humour I hate. Julie’s style isn’t that, is much more soft and clever humour, not pushed-in-your-face stuff .
So, the story, its kind of in two parts, and I found I loved Madge and her backstory more than I enjoyed the current time romance. Madge had such a tragic past, I loved her stoic, never give in mindset, but found it hard to believe no-one knew about Holly Close Farm, how a property so valuable would have no evidence that family would have picked up on linking her to it. No bills from the council? No demands for utilities etc? It’s possible but a bit hard to believe given that now I seem to get bills from the council in numerous duplicates constantly! Her daughter Nancy was a bit weird, and I couldn’t see her missing out on any stray info that would lead to reward for her.
I wanted to like Charlie, felt so much for her over Dominic, sadly things like that happen, and people can be horribly plausible about absences. I just found it hard to really feel for her after that, she’s a little too me, me , me for my taste. Like I said, maybe its my mindset, and I’ll feel differently at a later date.

Stars: Three, a good story, great characters, but fell a bit short for me of Julie’s others five star reads.

Arc via Netgalley

Summoned to Thirteenth Grave. Darynda Jones

Summoned to Thirteenth Grave. Darynda Jones

Summoned to Thirteenth Grave (Charley Davidson Book 13) by [Jones, Darynda]

Genre:Mystery and Thrillers.

I’ve joined the blog tour as part of the release of this final book and we were asked to review another book from the series too. I’ve chosen the first book, seems ages ago I read that – when I very first bought a kindle. Charley and the gang have come such a long way since then so I’m looking forward to rereading the beginning – and I’ll probably work my way through the series once more! Good books are well worth that, I find I see things I missed first time round.
Anyway, this book. Well, after the ending of the last, where Charley was banished for 100 years what would happen why she returned, what happened to the humans she knew, what happened to Beep? So many things going on but as usual Darynda manages to give all the answers in a way that’s believable.

The thing with Charley world is you have to forget everything learned about supernatural fiction from other reads, and go with what Darynda has created. Its unique, time isn’t linear, isn’t even anything I’ve read before, but exists in a way that makes ends easy to tie up. Its worlds within worlds, past, present and future all existing within the same frame. There’s God, and his side, Lucifer and his side, and of course Charley, Reyes, and all their gang amassed over the series. If I think about it too hard its head-aching, so its easier to just accept it as is, and go with the flow.
I love Charley’s “voice”, her snark, her outlook in life. At times she sounds a little childish, but its as if that’s her way of coping with all that goes on in her life. She’s had it tough, and there are still some huge shocks to come for her in this book. What I love is that as usual she’s got the big question of Beep and Lucifer, and yet she takes time to deal with everyday issues that crop up, deal with friend’s little issues, missing people, possible murders, letting a few folk pass through her as she’s out and about. I loved that we see almost everyone I remember from the past books in this one, it really feels like a tying up of ends. I hate books where I’m left wondering “what about xxx, how did xx deal with it” and thankfully there’s none of that here.
Reyes, ah Reyes. That guy is so incredible, adores Charley, you know he always has her best interests at heart (can I sever his spine now?) He is just so gorgeous, everyone has the hots for him, but Charley really is It for him, he never even looks elsewhere. Well, he did create her for him, so I guess that’s to be expected. The fact that there are so many supernatural folk in this book, and none really fit the standard supernatural trope. Reyes isn’t one of the good guys, and yet he’s good, others are supposed to be God’s folk yet they leave things t play out, and as when Charley saved amber in the last book a good deed still has consequences for them. They seem to be all about non interference even when it means unjust endings.

Stars:Five stars, a fabulous finale. Forget all other supernatural stories, Darynda’s book are unique. Read them and lose yourself in an amazing world, full of incredible characters and a story that will stay with you for ages. I’m hoping we get more of Beep and her story, I’m not ready to leave all these characters yet

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Don’t You Forget About Me, Mhairi McFarlane

Don’t You Forget About Me, Mhairi McFarlane

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

I’ve really enjoyed some of Mhairi’s past works and fully expected to adore this one. But…I liked it, just didn’t love it.

Its got some great humour, allied with some very genuine “today” issues about women, sexism, expectations that made it feel very real, very contemporary.
We start with Georgina getting fired, not her fault, not the best job to have but its money and the rent is due. She then decides to call on her boyfriend for commiseration, and finds him in bed with someone else…. He’s a real charmer BTW, her friends have it spot on when they describe him as the worst boyfriend. I just couldn’t see why she was with him really, why she made excuses, maybe its because he seems to find her funny, and she wants to be seen that way, entertaining, popular and perhaps that’s how he makes her feel? Well, how she interprets his reactions anyhow. He’s actually selfish, annoying, sexist and she deserves better. That’s a huge part of her issues though, she’s always struggling to be seen as the fun girl, the popular one and its something that stems from issues at a really young age.
That part of her is why she acted the way she did in the Big Event, the one that’s tantalised throughout, and made me really sad for her when we saw what happened. Heartbreaking, but what does happen so very often.
I was astonished at Lucas, given their history, that he simply didn’t remember her. He makes the excuse later that everything between 18 and 25 is a blur, though never actually says why. I kept wanting him to see her as the girl he loved, who loved him, even if they hadn’t fully acknowledged that back then. He’s got his own issues though and reasons for his actions.

It all sounds just what I love to read, but somehow it felt so very slow, so padded out and full of inaction. Its not billed as Romance, but from the description I did expect romance to develop far sooner. I guess its a case of actual book v my expectations that made this just an OK read for me, where others of Mhairi’s have been 5star re-readers. I’m sure its perfect for others, but for me this wasn’t one I really enjoyed.

Stars: Three, some really topical and important issues contained here, but overall the story just fell short for me

ARC via Netgalley and publishers

Christmas Secrets by the Sea, Jane Lovering

Christmas Secrets by the Sea, Jane Lovering

Genre: Humour, romance

I’ve read several of Jane’s stories now, and she has a style of writing I really like. I’m cautious when a book is styled as “humour” as so many are just that forced, OTT that I simply just don’t like them. Jane’s humour though is typical British subtle humour.
The romance is muted, a side part of the overall story but was very satisfying and the perfect ending.
I loved the characters, Tansy, clearly escaping from something – but what? It takes the full length of the book for everything to come out, little bits are released along the story but you always know she’s holding back something more. Likewise Davin, he’s so obnoxious to begin then as we get to know the real man, the secrets of his past I really liked him. He’s got a real sensitivity about him, something that isn’t apparent until we get to know him.
The rest of the cast are great too, Karen from the cafe, Rory, a typical teen, written so well. Everything’s a drama at that age, its all highs or all down dramas….I loved his openness and how close he was to his mum, how protective of her he was. Even Larch had me warming to her by the end. People really aren’t as they first seem all the while, some just need you to get to know them, in real life and in books.
Then there’s the real stars of the story Brian and Seelie, they were so perfect. They brought a lightness into more serious moments, brought people together, brought in some gentle humour ( Brian and the ever present sardines and seaweed) and provided real emotional support to Davin and Tansy, something they both really needed.
Its a wonderful story, fully of whimsy and gentle humour, a terrific story and wonderful characters, all wrapped up in a very satisfying ending.

Stars: Five, a fantastic read, one that kept me gripped, sniggering one moment and emotional the next.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Fall ,(VIP Book 3), Kristen Callihan

Fall ,(VIP Book 3), Kristen Callihan

Fall (VIP Book 3) by [Callihan, Kristen]

Genre: Romance

I love a good rock star romance, but though there are thousands in that genre good ones are few and far between. Trawling though some time back I came across the first in this series and fell in love with this band. Bought that, and book two – which is still my favourite- and now bought book three. In between review copies, KU and the loads of free books offered its pretty rare I actually spend money on a book, but this series are ones to read and re-read and well worth twice the price.

So this time its Jax, or John as he introduces himself to Stella. Poor John keeps things deep inside, plays the happy, light and fun guy, hiding his sadness, but just before the start of this series he tried to kill himself and it brought the band to their knees.
They’re slowly recovering but John is a work in progress, still carefully finding his way forward and feeling so guilty for what he sees as letting his friends down.
The depression factors in this story are really well handled, I understood John and his feelings so well, and of course seeing the impact potential suicide has, it changes everyone in the vicinity. Its hard to imagine being that much in despair but when you feel so down that everything seems pointless its looks like a way out, if you’re just tired of the struggle getting through each day becomes. Thankfully John was found in time and has been getting some excellent help. What made it feel very real though was despite that he’s still struggling, some books make counselling a miracle cure and its not, it gives people tools but the change has to come from them and it takes a lot of time and support.

You’d think a book with the MC going through this would be grim, but its not, its full of humour, sharp one liners, ongoing jokes and the Chlamydia incident gave rise to some wonderful humour. Gabriel threatening Sex Ed for them all, the Gritty Kitty phrase, John’s horror at having Brenna know about it. It was humour within a serious issue and one so sadly ignored often. I’ve read thousands of books, and this is only the second time I’ve heard dental dams mentioned….its a very important topic.

Its a story full of vitality, shows what a support good friends are, and of course I loved seeing the gang again, ( Whip and Brenna, that mystery really tweaks at me, it gets hinted at more and more and I so hope we find out soon). It was great seeing the softer side of Gabriel, baby Felix, Killian’s pets, all the little everyday fun parts that lifted this book. Of course there’s a good deal of steam here, the sexual tension between them can be felt right from the Mint Ice-cream Incident. ( You may take my Oreos but you’ll never get my mint choc chip) They’re not down and dirty straight off though, but a gradual simmering build up, so that when they do finally get there its incredible, shocks them both just how good they are together. I like that, books which have MCs in bed within the first few pages sometimes work, but more often have me skipping pages and chunks of text, bored with the repetitive sex scenes. Here that didn’t happen, everything was so perfectly paced.

Johns past and current issues are so serious, but though they guide the direction of the book they don’t make it dull, sad reading, but just give a balance to it, make the characters feel more real. I can imagine these people, their actions, mistakes, words, feel so genuine.
That kind of thing makes a book work for me. Intelligent characters, not grunting, monosyllabic alpha males, ladies that are inspiring, work hard to overcome difficult circumstances, not just flutter eyelids at said Alpha males and expect to be taken care of.
Stella, she really was a star, a fabulous character. She was the perfect foil to John, they were each what the other needed, someone each could depend on, not someone watching John’s every move expecting him to regress, but a friends, someone who saw beyond his issues, and she didn’t need him to support her financially, she’d do that herself, but to just Be there when she needed someone, though it took a while before he could believe in himself enough to be that man.

It really is a fabulous series, and for me on a par with the fabulous Kylie Scott and the Stage Dive guys and ladies.

Stars: Its a five, as are all three books for me. A welcome rock star read that has intelligent characters.

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