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A Good Day for Chardonnay, Darynda Jones

A Good Day for Chardonnay, Darynda Jones

A Good Day for Chardonnay (Sunshine Vicram) by [Darynda Jones]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, I saw Darynda’s name and requested. I adore the Charley Davidson/Grave series, and stupidly didn’t realise until part way through this that there’s an earlier book. I think if I’d read that I’d have got “into” this story much quicker, instead of trying to puzzle out who’s who and how they fit it. Darynda does give enough info that I could work out the gist of earlier events, but I think I’d have got more from this if I’d read that one.
I reread the CD/Grave series recently and enjoyed the earlier books even more now I know how the story goes. I’m a fan of rereading good ( to me) books and adore a whole series to go through.

Anyway, what a great cast of characters. Sunshine reminds me so much of Charley, that same quirky sense of humour that appeals to me, the way she does the right thing regardless of personal cost. It always ends right, but via a somewhat tortured route, and brings in some chaotic events.
Levi ( swoon) feels like Reyes ( swoon again!!) and Aurora could be Amber. They share so many characteristics. I really enjoyed the story, a mix of humour, sensitivity, dangers and the pathos of growing up.
I adored Cruz, and the relationship between him and Aurora, he was so protective. And of course Sunny’s Parent talk, Mr Penis and the Devils Doorbell had me in stitches. I could just imagine poor Aurora’s face.
Under the humour and zany actions though are real events, dangers, bad, greedy people and then a bit of heartbreak at the end with Cruz’, beautiful poem and the way he read it. That gave me a tear.

Its a series I’m going to continue with, less pressuring in a way that the Grave books, no supernatural baddies popping up but of course humans can be pretty nasty too.
And book one is definitely going on my list of reads too. I think I know most of the background but I’d like to see it play out in real time.

Stars: Four, though I do think if I’d read book one it would have been a five. Its a great read, solid mix of plots, life events and humour.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

For the Wolf, Hannah Whitten

For the Wolf, Hannah Whitten

For the Wolf (The Wilderwood Books Book 1) by [Hannah Whitten]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

I was so looking forward to this but the beginning…well, I had to restart a few times because, honestly, it was a slog. Once past that though it was a fantastic read, I’m so glad I didn’t give up, and I really want the next book Now!

I loved the Wilderwood scenes, they really were the best part. The slow burn romance, the Fife and Lyra interactions, the other characters, descendants of those caught in the past, and of course, the Wilderwood. A wood like no other, sentient, but focused on survival at all costs, and that’s meant the deaths of second daughters in the past.
What I wasn’t keen on was the Neve, Kiri part of the story, at least in the early stages. When the end grew near the two parts melded and became one but until then it was as if I was reading two different stories, only tangentially connected. It was hard jumping from one story arc to the other.
There were some terrific characters here, some horrific moments in the Wilderwood, and lots of things to learn, superstitions and stories, some of which were true, others not. I hadn’t read the connection to Red riding Hood, thankfully, as I don’t like re-imaginings of traditional stories and would have not requested this. To me, the only connection really is superficial, Red’s name and cloak, the woods and Eammon being known as The Wolf.
Its a fantastic read, once past the beginning I was gripped. Its very intense at times, lots of gritty drama and details, and the fabulous slowly unfolding romance. I am so hoping its not long to wait for more!

Stars: Five, If you struggle at first, stick with it, its so worth it. Fabulous, dramatic, intense story. And a gorgeous slow burn romance.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

A Grimoire for Gamblers, (The Trove Arbitrations Book 1), Amanda Creiglow

A Grimoire for Gamblers, (The Trove Arbitrations Book 1), Amanda Creiglow


Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Sci-fi and Fantasy

This sounded unusual, and that’s good in a market saturated with so many fantasy reads that are almost copies…so I dived in.
The magic here is different, very different to the usual, and I liked that, it was good to read a protagonist that wasn’t instantly transformed into someone more skilled than others hundreds of years older. Magic here – for humans at least – relies on skill, practice, accuracy- and intention. I really felt that part was one of the things that sets this novel above so many others.

I liked Elizabeth, and understood her grief for her father even though he’d been trying to end his life for some time. Her curiosity – that would be me, I couldn’t leave such interesting papers and items alone either….The grief provides a convenient excuse for her not being at work too, which gives her time to sort out this mess she’s inadvertently involved in. I didn’t see the point of the boyfriend, Faisal, he’s away for most of the novel and doesn’t add anything. Their relationship doesn’t feel like a very solid one, there’s no real pull between them, they feel more like flatmates than lovers.

I did get a little confused by all the different magical creatures, and I’m still not entirely sure what/where the Gravelings come from. That kind of brings up the weakness in the story for me, I have several unanswered questions. I didn’t understand the relevance of some incidents, felt others were too slickly glossed over. Max seems almost manic at times, yet terrified of his masters – why? What was the significance of the train, other than to begin events? The solutions occasionally seemed a bit slick, though the end result, the big problem, worked excellently for me. Complex enough to make me think, yet with a logic that I could understand.

Overall this was a fun read, and the issues I had could easily be put down to first in series syndrome. Those books have a tough ask, delivering a story interesting enough to hook the reader, but a world wide enough to carry future books. I think its successful here, I’d certainly like to read more.

Stars: Three and a half, its a fun fantasy, but with some darker edges. Holds promise for an interesting series.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Midnight Bargain, C.L.Polk.

The Midnight Bargain, C.L.Polk.
Magic meets Bridgerton in the Regency fantasy everyone is talking about…

The Midnight Bargain: Magic meets Bridgerton in the Regency fantasy everyone is talking about... by [C. L. Polk]
Romance
Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy

I wasn’t sure about this book at first, but quickly became hooked and I loved it.
Its a mix, a magical world, but historical in the sense that women are property, and horrors, no matter how talented magically once married they lose that. As spirits can enter unborn children and take over women have to wear a collar to lock out their magic and therefore lock out any harmful spirits. Not just while they are pregnant, but from their wedding day to the end of their childbearing years. Beatrice is horrified, she is talented, thinks the system unfair and would fair rather keep her magic and remain unmarried. However her families future depends on her making a good marriage, thanks to some poor investments by her father, a fact she’s only just become aware of.
Poor Beatrice, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Her only hope is to continue her magical education in secret and get good enough to convince her father she can help mend the families fortunes that way…
There are some great characters here, a lovely mix of friendship and the usual Mean Girls, as Beatrice isn’t quite from the top drawer. I was surprised how things with Ysabeta developed, loved it, it wasn’t what I expected. Ianthe, who couldn’t love him. One of the few forward thinking men of the time, who was prepared to try to understand what Beatrice had issues with. Like most of us, whats accepted as norm isn’t questioned, and though he knew Ysabeta has problems with it he hadn’t really though about it from a woman’s view. Of course he’s in the minority, and his mother certainly doesn’t share his views.
The star for me was Nadi, the luck spirit. I adored her, she made the book really special, her relationship with Beatrice. They both cared about the other, where convention said spirits needed to be kept in place, and didn’t have those sort of feelings.
Its a gentle romance, beset with society problems and a really fun read. I loved the magic, loved the problems that cropped up, loved the gentle mean girls stuff. It ends neatly, everything wraps up with a neat epilogue, and I’d love to read more from this world, see how the things develop with these characters and maybe others a couple of years down the line.

Stars: Five, a really magical read and I love this world. C L Polk, please write more!

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Wild Sign, An Alpha and Omega Novel. Book 6, Patricia Briggs

Wild Sign, An Alpha and Omega Novel. Book 6, Patricia Briggs

Wild Sign: An Alpha and Omega Novel: Book 6 (Alpha & Omega 6) by [Patricia Briggs]

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy

Well, Patricia Briggs is by far my favourite author – in any genre. Her books are as fresh now as when I first read Moon Called back in Sept 2010!! I had to look that up, can’t believe it was so long ago…I’ve re read bother the Mercy Thompson ( Hauptmann) and the Alpha and Omega ones many times now. I discover things I’d missed in earlier reads each time, there is so much detail and subtle clues.

As these books have advanced in series I’ve noticed they’ve become closer, with characters from each series making cameo appearances in the other. Of course Bran, Charles and Samuel have always featured in both, and the more major secondary characters take appearances and get referred to, but now even the plots seem to be connected, and get referenced to in each story. I love that connection.

So having done my fan-girling about PB and these fab stories what about this book.
I made sure to read in daytime only, as one review mentioned parts verged on horror – and I’m a complete wimp. I get nightmares from the slightest things, My kids laughed when I couldn’t even watch The Mummy with them 😉
However I needn’t have worried, its got mo more “horror” in that the MT one with the Hardesty witches, and as usual everything here fitted the story line perfectly.

What I love is that its not just Charles and Anna, but others that creep in, and along the way seeds are sown for characters, plots in later books. With the story overlaps now, that could be in either series, its become a kind of game for me, trying to see people and events that may become more. One of my favourite “newish” characters from the MT series, Sherwood Post, makes an appearance here, not in person but as a character that’s been involved in the current plot in the past, and some of the mysteries about his past have come forward. I’ve a fleeting thought from this book of who he might be really, given he’s lost his memory and no-one knows – apart from Bran, who may know, but is saying nothing. That man is a real enigma.

Of course there’s the usual slow burn plot development, where things seem relatively simple, but turn out to be anything but, and Anna, Charles and Tag are in real danger. We’re introduced to yet another new supernatural entity, well two really, one is a group rather than one ..person? Creature? I wonder if the new group will take a greater part in later stories? I get the feeling by now that when PB introduces someone or something new its for a reason. Sherwood is a great case, he crept in fairly innocuously and yet he’s become a major, essential character in recent books. As a fellow one leg amputee I have a kind of feeling of kinship with him…though sadly wolf changing is beyond me. Leah features more here, usually she’s just the cold, unfeeling person in the background, the Alpha’s Mate who hates Mercy. PB did what I thought wasn’t possible, made me feel sorry for her.

Its a cracking read, and reminds me its been a while since I revisited the whole series. Over Xmas I reread all the Mercy novels and had a fabulous immersion into that world, so I think its time for an Alpha and Omega immersion, my favourite way to read books like this, allowing me to get totally lost into that world for a while.

And the end..what can I say about that? Nothing, sadly, without spilling too much, but its incredible, unexpected, though again the clues were set in earlier books from both series. Its not a cliffhanger, just a huge surprise ending. Bittersweet in that some folk are very happy and others will be very sad, and of course it makes me wonder whats going to happen about this new development..

 

Stars: Five. Another riveting, drama filled suspense from Patricia Briggs. A fantastic read, bring the series forward and setting openings for future plots. Thank goodness, what would I do if PB stopped now??

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Iron Raven, Julie Kagawa

The Iron Raven, Julie Kagawa

The Iron Raven (The Iron Fey: Evenfall, Book 1) by [Julie Kagawa]

Genre: Teens & YA, Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Oh how I wanted to like this story. I’ve not read any of Julie’s work, but have recently read several excellent YA books.
Sadly this didn’t work for me. Its very well written, and I can see that others love it, but I just couldn’t connect with it. I put it aside a few times and came back to it as I thought maybe it was this strange time we’re living in, that has affected my concentration and reading, but unfortunately it still wasn’t a good fit for me. 😦
I stopped about a third of the way through, knowing it just wasn’t going to suit me. I’m gutted, I was so looking forward to getting my teeth into a new trilogy, but that’s the way it goes.
Not all stories appeal, however well written.

Stars: Two, a story others love but which didn’t connect with me. NB: I only read to just past 30%.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Witherward, Hannah Mathewson

Witherward, Hannah Mathewson

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

What a fantastic read this was. Its very unusual, and at times I was confused about the different factions and how they interacted. I think with any fantasy though that devolves from the norm that happens, and I’m happy to go along with it to read something new, something challenging.
I loved this read, I just wish parts two and three were out now!

Ilsa is a perfect lead, and at times when her age, and that of some of the other leads, was mentioned I found it hard to believe they were teens. They’ve had to grow up very quickly, even though they’ve grown up in different worlds. Ilsa felt so very real, she’s struggled to get by, using her wits, all her life, so although she’s out of her depth in some ways in this new world, her skills she’s honed over the years mean she is well placed to assess what needs doing, what is happening. For other things she’s on a fast track tuition process, learning the skills that the others have has years to acquire.

I really enjoyed the story, there’s lots of minor plots besides the main one, and they all gel over the course of the novel. It was fascinating reading about the different sorts of magics, the benefits and limitations, and the history of the Witherward. I did have characters I liked more than others of course, but there were surprises in store for me, and I love that. When things happen that I didn’t anticipate, it makes the story so much more compelling. Some of the events are hard to read, its a hard, harsh world, and death is never far away for anyone.

Goodreads describe it as YA, don’t let that put you off. The main characters are young, but the story is certainly not any kind of simplistic one, in fact I found myself doubling back a few times checking people, places and acts. I’d highly recommend this to fantasy lovers. Roll on the next book. I know once I have all three books its going to be one I read back to back in a total Witherward immersion!

Stars: Five. Fantastic new, unusual, gripping, compelling, fantasy adventure.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Echoes of Germania, H. B. Ashman

Echoes of Germania, H. B. Ashman

Echoes of Germania: A Historical Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel (Tales of Ancient Worlds Book 1) by [H. B.  Ashman]

Genre: Historical Fiction, Sci Fi & Fantasy, General Fiction (Adult)

Its always a gamble getting a book from a debut author, there’s no past stories to give you a flavour of the writing style, so I went in to this somewhat dubiously. In fact I didn’t start it til about three weeks after receiving it, not convinced from the blurb I was going to love it, and yet intrigued enough to request. And then….once I delved in I was gripped. What a fantastic read.
I really, really hope that H.B. sticks to the planned timetable of books two and three being out later this year. That would be fantastic!
From the authors website: Echoes of Germania I (2020), Songs of Rome II (2021), Drums of War III (2021)

I really liked Amalia, and as the story unfolded the relevance of her judo skills and engineering background became obvious, and were very important to the story and her place in it. I love that she’s young, around 19 I think from memory, but strong in mind as well as body. She needs that when she finds herself not in some cosplay scene, but 2000 years into the past.
At first there did seem to be battle after battle, but once Amalia was drawn in as more than a captive, once she began to make her place I was totally fixed on her, and what could/would happen.
I loved the other characters too Arminius, who couldn’t love him, Germanicus and of course Marius. I love when we have some not so nice characters too and of course here with Roman power plays they abound. Livia, Julia, Lucius, Gnaeus, all were deliciously manipulative.
I enjoyed reading the day to day stuff, and learned a lot as I was reading. Few books I’ve read cover this period and my knowledge of Rome, Romans and the soldiers are really limited to films my late husband was addicted to. Spartacus, 300 Spartans, Gladiator, Troy, The Robe ( seems that one was out every Easter…) I’m not a film watcher, preferring my books, but you kind of absorb elements when they’re constantly in front of you.
There are useful additions about the Roman structures at the front of the book, and a glossary of main characters at the end and I found both of those very helpful.

Its an interesting story, bringing in the harshness of life, the strangeness of living in the past for Amalia. And of course the mystery of Seers, the white owl, superstitions and whether Amalia being there is just bad luck, predestined, or part of a plan formed by the Seer when past events occurred.

Its a great story, easy to read and yet complex enough to entertain and keep me reading. Some books are so light I end up flipping through, bored with the story. There’s a romance here too, and I do love those, but its only a small part of the story, though becomes a strong core to later events.

Stars: Five, a gripping read, one that kept me reading “just that bit more” and up far too late into the early hours! I’m really eager for the next two parts, and know this will join my back to back reading fest favourites. I love to totally immerse myself in another world, reading stories like this right through when all parts are out.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Mask of Mirrors, Rook and Rose Book One, M. A. Carrick

The Mask of Mirrors, Rook and Rose Book One, M. A. Carrick

The Mask of Mirrors: Rook and Rose, Book One by [M. A. Carrick]

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy

Having been caught before by trilogies that I loved – and series – which never got any further I contacted the authors to see if there were plans for the next two books. Hurrah, there are. Book two, The Liar’s Knot, is out later this year in November, with book three scheduled for November 2022. Given how complex and detailed this story is that’s good going 😉 It must be a nightmare to write, having to constantly check things, unless the authors have become fully immersed in the world they’d created.

I loved this story but…I almost gave up, its so incredibly detailed it took me well into the book before I began to get a sense of this world and its characters. I think I didn’t really feel familiar with the place and characters until about the halfway mark. I’m so glad I stuck with it. The end section with the explanations of who and how people fit together, and some of the terms used was incredibly helpful, I found myself referring to that many, many times! Read it before you start, and then keep checking back, it really helps.
If you’re struggling with the beginning as I did, stick with it, it really is worth it. I already know this is going to be one of my re-reader series, where I indulge in a few days back to back reading of all the novels.

Its really hard to write a review. Its a new world, with, pretty much like here, two main classes, the rich and the not rich….but within that there are different heritages, religions, and those groups are further divided with the ruling classes having a complicated and rigid structure in place and the underclass being divided further into different groups and knots.
For the ruling classes life is about appearance, never showing your hand, never showing or admitting to feelings, and under that there are the deals, the money making, the backbiting, cheating, manoeuvering, but all done with smiles and unseen.

Then of course there’s the actual story, with Ren and Tess being in for a long con, persuading House Traementis that she’s a lost relative, with Grey Serrado of the Vigils, wanting to find out who killed his brother, and who is stealing children from the streets, Derossi Vargo, well, with Vargo who knows what he wants, he’s like spider with bits of web touching everything.
Its seems everyone is hiding something, planning something or doing something they shouldn’t. Ren gets deeper and deeper, constantly involved in deals for different people, all the while pushing her claim forward, but along the way finding there’s much more to this society than she imagined, and finding she hasn’t left her past as far behind as she thought.
I wasn’t sure about Ren at first, but her loyalty to Tess and the things she’s been through make her what she is, and I grew to really hope for her. I loved Tess, clever Tess with her nimble fingers and ways of chatting to staff and finding out what she and Ren needed to know. They work together so well.
Donaia Traementis I really felt for, trying to keep the house together, keep up appearances despite lacking finances. Leatro, her son, I loved him. He’s on the surface all light and fluff but there’s a lot more to him. Then Giuna, his sister. We didn’t really seem to get to know her well, both her mother and her brother seem to keep her incredibly sheltered and I’m not really sure why.
Grey Serrado, one of the Vigil, a kind of police force, though mainly a corrupt force, was an anomaly there. He’s there to do right, to protect people and I wondered why he joined, knowing its full of corruption.
Derossi Vargo – who couldn’t be intrigued by him. And Peabody! He’s from the streets, has a fearsome reputation and yet he can be smooth and cultured when it suits. He’s got a fount of secrets, one of them huge and I really want to know how that came about. Sedge, one of his henchmen was a great character too, we soon find out he’s got more connections than he knew.

I did find some of Ren’s/Renata’s deals went a little too easily, given that the others had been struggling to get things done, but there’s so much else going on that it didn’t really bother me, it was needed to push events forward. At times I just continued reading even when a bit lost, til I found my ground again, the story is so complex that if I tried to reason every event I’d never get through it 😉 The dreamworld events, night of hells, was one of those. Its all made sense later.
I’d got a good idea of who The Rook was and was pleased I was right – that doesn’t happen often, and tbh I just got lucky!
The practice of Pattern and Numinatra was fascinating, I’d love to know more of that.
I loved the ending, wrapping up parts neatly and yet opening up a whole deal more. Yay.
I guess its time to stop. Hopefully I’ve not given anything away, its a really fascinating read, despite my first fears. Stick with it, if you love complex fantasy this is a perfect trilogy.

Stars: Five. Fantastic, complicated story. I really enjoyed it and know its going to be a long time favourite trilogy.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Charmed Wife, Olga Grushin

The Charmed Wife, Olga Grushin
A beautifully written, powerful re-imagining that picks up thirteen years after Cinderella and Prince Charming said ‘I do”

Genre: General Fiction ( Adult), Sci-fi and Fantasy, Women’s Fiction

Sigh…women’s fiction. Again. C’mon guys, its 2020 not 1820, men read books like this, men write books like this, lets get rid of this genre please?

So, having got that off my chest, what did I think of this book? Well, I’m not really sure, that sounds like a cop out but I’ve some very mixed feelings.

I enjoyed the idea of “what happened next”, the more in depth look into the fairy tale, and of course the way the story brought in so many other fairy tales, with the original endings, Grimm’s grim ones, not the sanitised Disney version. At times though that got just a bit too much, felt a bit overworked,. It reminded me of going to an art class years ago, where the tutor described when he was learning, and saw how a few highlights really brought his work to life. So added more, and more and then in his words “ it looked like Blackpool Lights instead of a gentle evening landscape” sometimes Less is More.
The mice suffered from this too, they were fun to begin, I really enjoyed them and their part in the tale ( or tail!!), but then it began to drag, getting so in-depth, tied up in yet more stories of right and wrong, and almost feeling like a moral lecture.
The Witch and the Fairy Godmother had some terrific lines, they really were great. Some of their interactions were the best parts of the book.
The main characters though, Cinderella and the Prince, well, we hardly met the Prince, mostly through secondhand stories and the odd interactions with Cinderella.
Cinderella herself, well, I wasn’t sure what to make of her. Was she always this meek and mild person, content with afternoon tea and telling fairy stories to the children, or did she really want more from life? As we didn’t know her before I couldn’t tell. And then slowly her discontent comes through, and she takes action, and the twists begin.

There are long journeys, a quest almost, and that’s where many of the other fairy tales get woven in. Cinderella isn’t totally blameless yet as the book says “ we’re all heroes in our own story”. That really resonated with me, its so true. How we see things isn’t necessarily how they are, and that brings me to another part that I’m uncertain about. The last twenty per cent maybe, everything gets turned on its head, all we’ve read and believed so far takes a different viewpoint, and though for others it’s perfect, it works, I felt kind of cheated.
I didn’t expect that, and for me it explained a lot but I just didn’t like it 😉 It reminded me a little of the Dream trope, and that’s one I really don’t like.

Stars: Three, I enjoyed parts, its well told, but for me personally it had too many issues, things I dislike but that others won’t necessarily, and I found it hard to really enjoy.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

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