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More Than Just Mum, Rebecca Smith

More Than Just Mum, Rebecca Smith

More Than Just Mum: A laugh out loud novel of family chaos and reinvention by [Smith, Rebecca]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

This is classic chic lit style, humour, pathos and a good dollop of real life. I so identified with Hannah at times. I too have been wife, mother, auntie, daughter and somewhere in the middle of that Jeannie, Me, was submerged. You have to fight to keep that, and Hannah’s trying hard, but life has the habit of throwing spanners just when you think you’re getting somewhere.

Having said that I struggled with this at times. The beginning almost had me giving up, it felt too much like forced humour and I just hate that. Certain parts had me thinking of a mental visual from the old TV game shows “Clap Now!!” It seemed to be written for the purpose of humour, rather than the humour falling naturally from the content. I stuck with it though and that side of things certainly improved for me, I had tears from laughing at some parts, having been through very similar. Bringing up teens is one of life’s Big Experiences, and its laugh or cry many days. Laughing is better….aided by wine of course.

What really brought this down though was for me it lacked focus. I felt there were lots of little side issues that cropped up but went nowhere, and there wasn’t really an overarching plot that ran the course of the novel. It seemed more a series of little ones that sometimes were completed, but more often just left hanging. I wasn’t really sure where the story was going, and TBH it just felt like I was reading a few months from a typical family life. Works for some of course, but for me I needed that main plot, needed to know what was the point of the novel, where was the story going. As it didn’t have that, the ending felt a little flat. Yes, one biggish plot gets wrapped up but so much was just left unfinished.

Stars: Three, a fun read, and some parts really made me smile, snigger, reminded me of my time with teen and preteen kids, but overall for me it felt a little lacking in direction.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Unexpected Lessons in Love, Lucy Dillon

Unexpected Lessons in Love, Lucy Dillon

Unexpected Lessons in Love: What happens when ‘I do’ turns into ‘I don’t know’? by [Dillon, Lucy]

Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction

Oh Dear, Women’s fiction again – why on earth do we still use this outdated genre category. Men read romance, men write romance, why exclude them?
Anyway, the book. I was sure I’d read and enjoyed some of Lucy’s previous novels but when I checked just before writing this I haven’t – yay, more books to enjoy from a new to me author!
This is classed as romance and…well… it is but its kind of a tenuous connection, and is more the possibility of romance than an actual one.
I love the characters, Jeannie of course and her lovely parents, Andrea, Dan’s mum, Owen, his best friend and then there’s the dogs and the connections they bring. Its a serious problem here in the UK, only yesterday I read of yet another recently shut down in our local paper, where three people had made around £300,000 in two years, and the dogs that were rescued were in much the same state as the ones Rachel takes in. Makes me furious. Always ask to see parents, check that dogs seem happy and secure in the environment, that they haven’t just been placed in a house to appear to have come from there. There’s lots more advice online but the crux is if we’re more careful, demand and profits go and that’s the best way to stop the trade.

The story is so horribly real, I could imagine it happening just the way it was written. Poor Jeannie, so happy and then that last minute concern. Was it bride’s nerves or more, should she go with her head or her gut feelings. Then that crushing feeling of guilt. Then That happens, but while Dan is recovering things come out that don’t quite add up.
The dogs, they were real showstoppers, and of course the Brides Dress Revisited, ( what a fabulous name) added so much extra to the story, that while I’m a romance lover through and through, this was one of the stories I love that has little actual romance, but so much more to the story that I am totally engrossed. Its a fabulous read, I loved it and will look at Lucy’s other stories now.

Stars: Five, a wonderful, all round story it’s a promise of future romance.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Moonlight Kisses at Willow Tree Hall, Alison Sherlock

Moonlight Kisses at Willow Tree Hall, Alison Sherlock

Moonlight Kisses at Willow Tree Hall (The Willow Tree Hall Series Book 4) by [Sherlock, Alison]

Genre: Women’s fiction, Romance

Gah, I hate Women’s Fiction as a genre heading, so outdated. Men and women can read the same books….its 2019, not 1919.

Anyway, after having read the first three books this one was like meeting old friends again, with new ones in Jack and Lily. Although all the stories are connected you don’t have to have read them, each are stand alone romances, but if you have read them it adds a bit extra to the stories, seeing how couples are doing some time on from when we left them.

So many things about this book resonated with me, I share Lily’s List addiction, I have lists for everything. I don’t have Lily’s control issues though, I understand why she does but it makes things hard for those around her and in the early days at the Hall it makes it hard for the family and for Lily. She means well but its simply not working out.
I loved how all the characters pulled together, how the villagers rallied round, how Hazy Memory and the wonderful Alex were included in this story, not family but almost family by adoption.
Rose – I want to be here when I’m older! I adore her. When she’s talking about her Tinder dates and her sex life and grandnephew Sam makes an abrupt turn for fear of hearing more….Arthur, still the benevolent patient Earl, who sees beyond the obvious, who’s at much at home in Bert’s shed as he is in the stately grounds of the Hall.
Jack and Lily, a couple who are perfect but have past issues to get over first. Their backstory affected how they were today, the needed to look at that, understand it, before moving on.
Its a lovely story, full of little side plots and issues, of everyone pulling together for a common cause, of mishaps and mayhem, of the struggle to make the Hall profitable, or at least self supporting, of such wonderful characters, I felt as if I knew them personally.
Its chic-lit at its best, an easy read, some gentle romance, and a story to just sit and relax with. Of course normal things like Health and Safety, Food legislation, insurance etc have to be forgotten…. There’s no way today’s Red Tape would let half the things happen that do in this book. No selling cakes without inspections of kitchens, certificates, data sheets on every ingredient and traceability of it. No running a fete or launch without endless risk and safety assessments, signs everywhere warning of xyz, insurance to cover every possible event. I’m in favour of H&S, it has saved lives but somehow I feel we’ve gone too far the other way and where events like this were common when I was a kid everything get stacked against them now. The traditional British country fair is getting certificated out of existence, and as we see here it can benefit so many folk. It was wonderful to read things that I recall actually happening. I need to mention the apples though, 20-30 per tree is a pretty poor harvest. We used to get around 12-1500 from my four apple trees…
Lily’s family are struggling, all of them in a tiny cottage, her, mum, dad and granddad, and her dad has just given up on life, after his amputation. I found that a bit sad, life isn’t necessarily like that, most folk pick up and forge a new life as he is beginning to at the end of the book, but it was annoying to read at first, everyone mollycoddling round him, not expecting more. If that happens to you or yours don’t be like Lily’s family, don’t just assume for them life is over. I’ve been there, it isn’t!

Overall its a lovely relaxing read, full of country air ( I’m a country girl at heart), terrific characters, some slightly manic times, its a book perfect for a holiday read, or to escape real life for a few hours.

Stars: Four. Great relaxing read. Meeting the family again was like coming home.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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

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

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