Coming Home to Holly Close Farm, Julie Houston
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
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
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
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
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.
Christmas at the Lakeside Resort, (The Lakeside Resort Series), Susan Schild
I loved Susan’s Sweet Southern Hearts, so was eager to get stuck in to this. Sadly in the romance genre stories seem to interpret Romance as being only for the young.
Hurrah for authors like Susan, who show that the older generations want romance too. Not everyone gets their HEA when they are younger and accidents, divorces, just plain old Life means many folk past their thirties are still looking for that special someone.
Jenny thought she’d found that, and then the jerk calls everything off. She’s struggling through the aftermath of that when she gets another blow, her home has been sold and she’s a couple of weeks to find somewhere new. Sometimes things like this make us look at life and that’s what happens with jenny, she decides she’s just marking time, doesn’t love her job, her life, so takes the opportunity presented by her fathers legacy to make a huge change.
Of course it doesn’t all go smoothly, but that’s part of the magic, if it did it would be a dull read. I loved Luke and Alice, adored Benny and Bear, and as a horse lover how could I fail to be entranced by Levi. My old mare Muska thought she was a person, was always trying to get into the house, but being somewhat bigger than Levi it didn’t really work….
I loved reading about the renovation, about the jerk Douglas and his new lady ( hiss, boo….I really wanted him to see just what he’d lost. I hate guys – or ladies – who behave as he did )., about Alice her her dating issues and of course Lovely Luke. He was such a wonderful guy, quiet, strong, unflappable and his was a sad story.
I liked the slow burn of their romance, though maybe a little more action would have been nice 😉 Its not one of those where they get together after a couple of chapters, in fact it takes pretty much most of the book before they get to a first kiss. You can feel how they both are attracted and yet they both weigh up what they would lose, should they move forward, is the time right, are they ready? They’re all questions Real people have, most of us are cautious by nature and this book felt so very real in the romance side. The renovations? Well, in contrast to the romance a lot happens in a short time 😉 . I’m not so sure it would work like that in real life, but it made for a really enjoyable story, and the endings was just so perfect.
My only reservation is that for me it seemed a slow start, I felt like I was reading but not actually getting to the meat of the story for some time. Its all scene setting though, its easy to criticise and others will love that gentle, gradual progression.
Stars: Four, a really magical Christmas story.
ARC supplied by author
Fight or Flight, Samantha Young
Well, I’ve read lots of Samantha’s stories now, On Dublin Street is still my favourite, she does the Scot guys so well. Usually. This one, Caleb, well, he’s a shallow jerk. I was infuriated at his arrogance, his lack of manners, his overall high handed, judgmental self. I almost stopped reading, he was so obnoxious.
Luckily Ava kept me going….I loved Ava, she seemed like a typical “blonde” stereotype, pretty, always well dressed, full make-up, perfect hair, and yet she’s so much more. Awful parents, betrayed by her two childhood best friends, yet she’s got herself a good job, her own home, and a few good friends. Harper, her best friend, is wonderful and I hope we see more of her in a later book. There seems to be an opening later in the book with someone….
So, I ploughed on and slowly began to understand Caleb, but though he has a past that made me understand why she initially judged Ava, he’s human, we all fail and make mistake, he seems to continue to judge her in little ways even when he knows her better.
I did warm to him but I can’t say he’s my favorite person in Sam’s writing. I enjoyed the story but again its not one to really tug at the heart, I felt sad about what had happened to Ava, was sad for Harp when things went wrong for her but it didn’t have the huge drama I’ve come to expect from Sam. Having said that when things did go wrong it was really well done, drawn out over a period of time, lots of angst and wondering, lots of will they make it through ( yes, I know they will but I still need to feel as if the possibility is there that they won’t). so many books wrap the break-up and getting back in just 2 or 3 pages and for me that just doesn’t cut it. I want my characters to really feel devastated, to really hit the bottom and here both Ava and Caleb do. Ava is so brave when she faces her fears and tells Caleb how she feels, and then gets That reaction, but by now I understood Caleb more and it made me angry but not as furious as it would when I started the book. Even Ava understands why he has that reaction, but she’s grown so much in confidence, she’s heartbroken but knows that its not her fault, compared to how guilty she felt over Nick and Gem.
Some reviews mention the Scots accent. I hate written dialects for just this reason, done badly they can ruin a novel. I’ve seen too many Doona, dinna, nay lassie, och the noo etc….and so often they use language that would have been common a couple of centuries back but now, no way. I’m from Norfolk (UK) and we know that when a TV series features folk from here they all speak in some kind of generic Summerzet accent.
If I’m reading a novel and I don’t notice the accent, except that it reinforces a characters background, then I know the author has it right. Sam’s a Scot, she does that accent well in her writing IMO, it adds to and not detracts from the story.
I’m finding it hard here to put a rating, it started badly for me, but the drama of the ending really was perfect.
I still think the actual story holding things together was a bit flimsy, I felt it wasn’t really strong enough to hold the whole novel. Maybe if we[‘d seen it a bit more in a past time-frame, from Ava’s POV it would have more impact, but I felt for her but with the “ horrible folk, awful thing to do but move on now Ava”, rather than being so upset I understood why it coloured her life so much. Sometimes it is tiny things from the past that impact on us, but we need to see just how awful an effect those words or actions were to understand properly.
Stars: Well, hmmnnn…tough one. I think its going to have to be a three, not my favourite of Sam’s books.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
Last of the Summer Moët, Wendy Holden
Genre:, Women’s fiction, General fiction (adult)
Women’s Fiction? Once more – why? Why alienate a good section of possible readers.
My bad, I missed that this was a part two, and that I’d read the previous book about Laura. That was a three star for me, and I noted that though I enjoyed Wendy’s stories years ago either her writing or my tastes have changed.
This story is if possible even more OTT, frenetic and at times plain silly. There’s a point when poking fun at a selection of folk in humorous, and then there’s trying to ram fun down readers throats( you Will laugh!! Everyone else has… ) that’s the vibe which came across here, I like subtle humour, what this book delivers is a thin story peppered with not just oddball eccentrics, but totally off the wall unreal characters, and situations that are so extreme as to be impossible to believe. If that’s what you like in a story good for you, you’ll love this book. I don’t. I gave up at about 40%, skimming through to see if there was any change but not finding enough to hold my interest and continue.
Stars: Two, a DNF for me. If you like overdone humour and situations that are really OTT you may love this story, I can see others already do. My taste doesn’t run that way though so it was a fail for me.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
The Plus One, Sophia Money-Coutts
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Gah! Once more “women’s fiction”, and as usual I have to have a quick moan – why do we do this – cut off potential readers? Who says men won’t/don’t read romance, they certainly write it, so why exclude them this way?
So, the book. A debut novel and one that’s really well written, and I loved the dry humour, and the realness of it.
Loved Polly and her friends, her job at the magazine, very typically British Tatler style 😉 Poor Polly is approaching 30 though and feels that her time is running out, she wants a husband and family, but fears she’s destined to be the mothball scented, elderly, maiden aunt…especially now her bestie is getting married and she’s Matron of Honour and doesn’t have a Plus One.
I loved her relationship with her mum, and her support when her mum gets ill, the fears they both have that anyone who’s been ill can understand.
Its a fun read, made me smile in parts, sad in others and very very typically British. As a Brit I love that, we seem to have a slightly different sense of humour and the more subtle approach as here worked so well for me.
Sadly the about turn at the end didn’t work for me, I didn’t feel it was real, hadn’t got a sense of it coming throughout the novel, and TBH really let it down for me. With a different ending, the one that I kind of felt had been building I’d have given this a five, but as it is that change really let the story down IMO. Not the resolution I wanted 😦 I felt kind of unsatisfied, and cheated of what I’d expected it to be. Surprises are good, this one was just too much of a shock, IMO, and didn’t gel with the rest of the story.
Stars: Three and a half, a terrific book right up to that turnaround at the end!
ARC by Netgalley and Publishers
Girlfriend, Interrupted, Patricia Caliskan
Genre: Romance, Humour.
I hate it when book blurbs promise “you will cry with laughter/hilarious/laugh out loud” etc. Too often I find its forced comedy at best.
This book though is different, the humour was perfect, typical British understated, so carefully tucked in I almost missed parts 😉 and that’s what I love. Subtle humour, words and actions that make me smile, while still delivering a story that’s interesting.
Its a slice of modern day life, “blended families” as the self help books and Sunday supplements so often say. What they mean is that part where families break up, parents meet new loves, kids are caught between two homes, two sets of parents, and can play the emotions to their best effects sometimes. Its tough, my mum used to have a saying “you can’t do right for doing wrong” and I guess that fits these scenes. Whatever you do is wrong with someone.
I loved the characters, so very real, not perfect despite first impressions, and I could see this story happening easily.
I so felt for poor Ella, she loves Dan, is trying so hard to be what the family need, to help the kids, to push her career at work, to be a good friend and sometimes it seems there just aren’t enough hours. Among all that where’s the time for Ella?
Pippa, Dan’s mum, delights in encouraging the kids memories of idyllic times with perfect Bryony, pulls out perfect family photos, refers to the home as Bryony’s still, but time sneaks in the truth. Perfect Bryony though is struggling in her new marriage. Then Ella’s mum and the wonderful Jeremiah, I want to be her….and maybe have a toyboy like him 😉 The kids, Ethan is a great lad, so loving and accepting while like so many kids his sister, Grace, is struggling. Of course she wants Bryony and Dan back together, most kids want their parents together, and its beyond their understanding why that can’t happen. She’s awful to Ella, who tries valiantly to step forward, to help her, to hold the kids weekends as something precious. Ella however spends so much of her time flying round, mending events, picking up pieces, arranging things others have dropped, forgotten, ignored, and runs herself ragged trying to be all things to all (wo)men.
Then there’s Dan. Oh how I wanted to slap in at times, he loves Ella, loves his kids but seemed blindly ignorant to just how hard it was for her. The chaotic party was so illustrative of everything she was fighting. It made me wonder how often scenes like these play out every weekend.
Its a fabulous story, subtle, perfect humour, so much emotion, a feeling of real love between Dan and Ella in danger of being broken by the pressures of step parenting and fractured families. The only part that stops this from being a five is the end, its too quick, too rushed and for a romance I need, if not a HEA, then at least a very, very solid HFN. This ending suggests things will work out but I need it to be written in stone 😉
Stars: Four, a little more on the ending and this would be a five.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers