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Truth Hurts, A captivating, breathless read, Rebecca Reid

Truth Hurts, A captivating, breathless read, Rebecca Reid

Truth Hurts: A captivating, breathless read by [Reid, Rebecca]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, Women’s Fiction

Moan: women’s fiction – why alienate potential readers? Men write books enjoyed by women and men alike, and they read the same.

Secrets, its a novel about secrets and of course they never stay hidden. I kept wondering: what was Poppy hiding, what was Drew’s secret? I was puzzled at first when we met Drew and Poppy, and then moved on to Agnes and Caroline….but it all comes together slowly, though the secrets don’t come out until almost the end.
Its told in past/present format for Poppy, but Drew remains an enigma, a man who adores Poppy, seems to be just too good to be true. Gina, Poppy’s friend certainly thinks so, but she’s guardedly cautious, after her first open enthusiasm about him.
I loved when Gina was staying with Poppy at Thursday house, and they do the makeover, transforming it in the few days Drew was away. Then Drew’s friends arrive for a weekend and that was fun, the old friends come to meet ( aka gossip and judge…) Drew’s surprise new, young wife….some great snark there.

It’s fun read, cleverly paced so you’re always wondering what did happen, what are they hiding. Was it so bad, was it what I suspect, why are the locals so unfriendly?
There are lots of little clues, but I was never quite sure where they were leading, or if I was down the wrong track.
Then all is revealed, very suddenly near the end, but that’s not all the surprises, there’s one last one that really caught me out, shocked me and changed how I’d begun to see everyone. I really didn’t like what happened, yet it was the perfect ending, really unexpected, and something that made me feel somewhat uncomfortable about it.

Stars: five, a cracking read, surprises all the way and an ending that caught me out. Its not one I’d reread, for a long while at least, knowing the secrets now but its still an amazing read.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

A Throne of Swans, Katharine Corr, Elizabeth Corr

A Throne of Swans, Katharine Corr, Elizabeth Corr

A Throne of Swans by [Corr, Katharine, Corr, Elizabeth]

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy, Teens & YA

Well…Wow, what an amazing read. It’s classed as teen and YA, but one of those rare few that really appeal to all ages, not just the younger generation. Like Vic James Dark Gifts, or Sarah J Maas a court of ….reads, they are reads to treasure, to reread no matter what age you are.
I’ve never actually read/seen Swan Lake but I guess everyone knows the basics, and I was hoping this wasn’t just going to be a retelling of the story. That doesn’t work so well for me, but I was happy that its Swan Lake inspired but has a story of its own. There were magical scenes, interspersed with some pretty horrific stuff. The Corr sisters don’t shy away from some solid hard facts in the world they’ve created, where those With get to do pretty much whatever they want to those Without ( flighted and flightless in the main). There’s some harsh rules in this world, some that feel almost arbitrary and yet for decades, centuries they’ve been uncontested.
I loved the world created, with its mix of characters, with its people that can transform into birds, with the sheer political intrigues, when grew almost faster than I could read them. Just as I was thinking one thing something happened that threw that chain of thought into disarray.
There were some fantastic characters. Aderyn’s clerk Lucien, tells her “trust no-one” but its hard for her. Lucien has been used to the cut and thrust of royal politics, of the machinations and intriguing that take place constantly, but Aderyn hasn’t spent time at court, hasn’t actually been anywhere since her mother was killed years ago and the injuries and shock left her unable to transform into her Swan shape. In this world that’s something that would get her removed as protector and could even threaten her life if it gets out.
When they first go to the Royal Castle Aderyn is just determined to find out who killed her mother, who was behind it, but the first day isn’t over before she discovers she’s treading on very thin ice, that she needs her wits constantly. Lucien had warned her but she doesn’t like him, and hadn’t realised just what danger she was in. She’s good hearted but at first had been so sheltered she’d never realised just what else was going on in her world, how the flightless were treated in other dominions. She assumed all were like her father, that they were treated fairly, but soon sees unhappiness and cruelty surround her. She grows up very fast, from that naive 17 year old we first meet, to the girl at the end of the story who’s had a sharp shock about the world she inhabits, who now realises just what it means to be a Protector.
And speaking of the end, what an incredible bounce of surprises those last chapters brought. They kept coming, one after another, after another! I hope book two is around soon, I am desperate to know just whats going to happen, how things are going to come through, and suspect its going to get worse before it gets better.

Stars: Five, an amazing read, full of a magical world, intrigue, politics, interesting characters, and one to reread when part two is out.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Intended Victim, Alexandra Ivy

The Intended Victim (The Agency Book 4) by [Ivy, Alexandra]

Genre: Romance, Mystery and thrillers

I’ve read a few of Alexandra’s fantasy reads, couldn’t recall reading a romantic suspense by her before though. I really enjoy her writing style and the way she weaves a story together.
This starts in the classic detective story way with a body. However what results from investigation is that this body has had surgery, to make her resemble an escapee of the serial killer known as The Butcher. She’s the only one to have escaped, though her father died in the attack, and Remi has lost her memory of the events leading up to it. She was engaged to Ash, but in the aftermath they grew further apart and now its been five years. I found that a bit of a weak spot, I couldn’t see Ash just letting go like that. Still, he needed to for the story. Now he’s back, his detective brother working on the current murder. Ash is scared for Remi, and determined to protect her.
Its a good read, neat build up of suspense, classic red herrings thrown in to keep the reader guessing. Although its romance, its more a pick up of past romance, and from the off its pretty clear that neither have forgotten the other, got over the love, so the bulk of the story is the suspense, the murders, the tracing of a killer.
I’m not a huge mystery/suspense reader but do like to dip into the genre on occasion and I really enjoyed this. * confession time: I sneaked a look at the end about halfway through, I just couldn’t take guessing “who dunnit” any more. For me though that doesn’t spoil a story, I catch things reading that otherwise i’d have missed. I often re-read favourite books, even knowing how they end. Some folk can’t do that, I do, I love to get stuck into a favourite series.

Stars: Five, Its a great read, genuine characters and actions, and neatly building up the suspense and alternate possible murderers.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Brimstone, The Metals Trilogy: Volume I, Justine Rosenberg

Brimstone, The Metals Trilogy: Volume I, Justine Rosenberg

Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

I was intrigued by the description of this, and as its a debut read there wasn’t anything else by this author I could see to check whether her writing suits my reading. So I took a jump and requested.

Sadly though what I missed is its not even 100 pages, just 92 according to goodreads. That’s far to short for me and the reason I never read novellas is I just find too much crammed in too small a space.
That proved to be the issue here. We’re dropped straight in the world, not knowing anything about they people and creatures that inhabit it, or even the world itself, and its all so very different that it makes it hard to follow.
I wanted to know more about Ava, not just the bare minimum we get fed, but more details about her past with the Knights, and how she became to work in the Paper Houses. Then there’s Sariel, and his people, who are slaves, the necromancers, the geomancers, and more. There’s not just this world either, but others, and places in-between worlds. It became an info dump of places, people and events.

It has so much possibility, but was so complex without any info on who and what was/could happen, that I just couldn’t get to grips with the story. To be honest, that’s not a lot. We meet Ava and Sariel, the knights are after them, and they make a run for it with a couple of others….that’s it folks, more to follow.
That’s not enough for me to engage with the story or the characters, and its a shame because from the style of writing I think this is a series I could enjoy. To me its not so much a novel or a series itself, as a serialised novel, a story broken into small chunks and though others like that, I don’t.

Stars: Two, sadly too much info in too short a space for me. Expanded it could be a story/series I’d love but as it is it just lost me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Boundary Haunted, (Boundary Magic Book 5), Melissa F. Olson

Boundary Haunted (Boundary Magic Book 5)

Boundary Haunted (Boundary Magic Book 5) by [Olson, Melissa F.]

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy

I love all Melisa’s stories about the Old World, and this one continues to engage my attention as much as the rest. Sometimes when a series continues a while the stories feel faded, same-ish but not with these. The Scarlett Bernard books follow the same lines as the Boundary ones, same Old World but different city, different issues. That means there’s always something new to bring to the story, and I love both series. I’ve recently done a reread of them all, so events were fairly fresh in my mind from the last book.

This time Lex has to travel to the South, where her talents have been requested. Maven says she doesn’t need to go, its outside the remit of their agreement, but she would like Lex to go, and hopefully persuade Beau, the Cardinal Vampire there, to join the parliament she is hoping to form. She needs strong allies like him, and Lex can see the value of helping him. She’s struggling though after the events of last time, not sleeping well, and hiding it from everyone as best she can. She’s worried about going back into a world that’s stuffed to the gills with Ghosts from the wars.
The first meeting doesn’t go well, dangers soon appear, and Lex has no allies except for a spy of Mavens who can’t be revealed of course. Quinn wanted to come, he and Lex usually work together, but its too close to his human life, where his wife ( widow) and daughter still live. The temptation to seek them out, or the possibility of accidentally meeting them, would be too much. He hates seeing Lex in danger though and boy, does she get into some here….

The story unfolds, opinions change, and the dangers stack up. Lex doesn’t really know where to look but slowly she starts to get a picture of events, although the culprit shocked her – and me. I Did Not see that coming!! I love to be caught out like that.
As usual there’s a mix of info we know and new things, new spells, types of witchcraft, types of ghost, and the world Lex is in seems to be ever expanding. I enjoyed meeting new characters, wasn’t sure about Beau at first, but came to really like and respect him in the end. Even though its mostly new folk we meet, we still are connected to the usual crew by way of Lex’ thoughts, talks with Sam, phone calls and other little means, so it all felt very much a part of the series, not just Lex in a new tale. I like that connection, like the the world is slowly expanding, bringing in more folk – and hopefully lots more stories!
Things happen here that throw light on some past events, and push the whole group further forward. If I’ve a criticism its just a personal one, I adore Quinn, I missed him, although I understood exactly why he had to stay away. Without him though Lex really will struggle.
I look forward to the next from Melissa.

Stars: Five, another cracking read. Roll on the next one.

Self purchase

The Familiars: Stacey Halls

The Familiars: Stacey Halls

The Familiars: The spellbinding Sunday Times Bestseller and Richard & Judy Book Club Pick by [Halls, Stacey]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

I hovered over this, had requested via netgalley some time ago but didn’t get it 😦 , sometimes they only have limited copies for ARCs. It sounded so intriguing after reading the sample that I bought it anyway. Yep, paid real money for this one 😉

Its a fantastic read, based around the real Pendleton Witches saga, and showing how helpless women were once accused, and how easy to was for grudges, and power hungry individuals to wreck peoples lives. Literally. That magic mix ( for me ) of fiction and reality, which I love to read.

I loved Fleetwood, only 17 but on her fourth pregnancy, hoping against hope that this time her husband gets his much wanted heir. Then she finds That Letter, and is devastated. As was I reading it, I so felt for her.
Richard seems like a really nice guy, shocking to me that at just 17 his wife is on her fourth pregnancy, but in those times marriage at a young age wasn’t uncommon. He’s away a lot on business but seems to adore Fleetwood and certainly allows her a freedom many wives didn’t have at that time. Then we learn something that shocked me. Not so uncommon but I just didn’t expect it and it coloured how I felt about him after.
Alice, poor girl, just caught up in things after trying to innocently help someone, and her involvement brings others into the ever growing web of people seeking the kings favour are weaving, knowing his vendetta against witches. Looking at the accusations and the “proof” from today’s perspective its ludicrous, but back then men were Gods almost when it came to determining who was innocent – hint, virtually no one. They seemed to see accused as guilty the minute someone laid a charge, and knowing the more “witches” they found, the higher the king would regard them was a powerful motive for those with no conscience.

Poor Fleetwood learns some unpleasant lessons about trust in this book. Alice too, helping someone injured ended up risking her life. She’d such a hard life anyway, and then doing something so innocent cost her job and brought her to the witch hunters notice.
The supernatural, the familiars element of the title is kind of elusive, certain animals could perhaps be familiars, and yet it could just be supposition, superstitious imaginings about innocent pets. Who knows, its never really clear but there’s enough co-incidences to make me wonder.

Stars: Five, a fabulous read, that mix of fiction rooted in reality and with a possible supernatural link, made it a riveting read for me. One I know I’ll re-read.

Bought novel!

A Madness of Sunshine, Nalini Singh

A Madness of Sunshine, Nalini Singh

A Madness of Sunshine by [Singh, Nalini]

Genre: Romance

I love Nalini’s Guild Hunter series and her contemporary romances. I so wish I could enjoy the psy-changling series, so many books I haven’t read. Maybe I’ll give them another go 😉

This time the story is as much, maybe more, suspense as romance. Its a slow burn relationship, it’s more getting to know each other tentatively and maybe starting something, than a full on romance. I enjoyed it even though I was expecting more romance from the tag.

The background of Golden Cove, and the issues of past and present was excellent. When Nalini writes there’s always that extra touch, scenery is always so descriptive I can mentally see it, characters that I feel I know, understand, even things like the coffee, I can smell and taste it from her words.
The suspense was cleverly done, a couple of main possible suspects stand out, and yet there are things thrown in that made me wonder “ but what about? Could they? ”
Its cleverly wrapped up, proper ending. I hate it when I finish a story and am left wondering what happened after, wondering about certain characters.
The reason both Will and Anhara were in Golden Cove were believable, I really felt for them both. There were other characters already there too that had some nasty shocks, life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, sometimes its just damn windy and stormy. Life’s like that for us all sometimes, throws in unwelcome surprises, things happen beyond our control, someone does whats right yet still ends up poorer for it. It made the story feel very realistic for me.

Stars: Five. I was pleased at the way things worked out in the ending. I like that kind of finishing the story and giving a hint of what happens to them in the future.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

City of Pearl, Alys Clare

City of Pearl, Alys Clare

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery and Thrillers

I’ve said before, this series so much reminds me of the Ariana Franklin books I enjoyed years ago, and I’m really enjoying getting to know Lassair and her world. I mistakenly came in late to the series, thinking its was an AF read, so I’ve yet to have the pleasure of reading the books from the beginning. One day – so many books, so little time…. 😉

Anyway, we start in the Fens, ( a place not many miles from where I live) but the story moves on a journey to Spain. It amazes me that some folk never traveled further than the next village, which feels usual for the time, while others like Lassair, Gurdyman and his family, and a few others, embarked upon what must have been scary and perilous travails, at a time when so little was known about where they were going, and knowing the journey would be fraught with danger.

Gurdyman has always been a man of few words, Lassair has learned to curb her impatience, knowing he will tell her what she needs to know in time, but even her patience was stretched here. I’d have been climbing the walls.
Clearly the unflappable Gurdyman has been frightened, but by what? Where exactly are they going, and why? Why go now when its the worst time to travail and Gurdyman isn’t in the best of health? Lassair though is feeling her losses, poor Rollo, who died in the last book, and Jack, who so curtly rejected her so she’s ready for a change, and thinks maybe that’s why he chosen now to travel.

Like many historical reads the book is really about the gradual progress to the end, enjoying the journey the book takes us on, rather than racing to the finish. That’s good because I enjoyed that more than the actual revelations at the end.
We find the place where Gurdyman lived as a young boy, and where he furthered his education. There are more hints of some things that are a bit more Magic, than straight Healing, a trait only a few have, and of which Gurdyman has taught Lassair only the briefest history.
There’s an undercurrent of danger running through the book, of mystery, of evil and maybe harm, of things unspoken but feared, and Lassair finds herself puzzling what, why, who, where are they going etc. She has so many questions but Gurdyman reveals very little. I would be so burning with curiosity, Lassair is a better person ( all round) than me.
She learns more about herself, and things about her mentor which are hard to accept, but in contrast to that harsh fact, and the trials that undoubtedly lie ahead for her, she has a moment of happiness when Jack follows her on that perilous journey to ensure she’s safe. He’d only do that if he cares? Right? So thinks she, and I, and I so hope we’re right 😉

Stars: 4.5 I’m hovering between four and five here, the main thrust of the story was fascinating, kept me guessing and engrossed, and felt so very real, I felt I was there in history and I love a story that can do that. Somehow though the answers to those questions Lassair ( and I) has weren’t as satisfying as I’d hoped. Though all was made clear it just didn’t really feel enough for me, and there were of course bits I wasn’t happy to read, disappointments in some people. That was just a fraction of the overall though so its a four and a half for me.

Arc via Netgalley

The Ex-Girlfriend, Nicola Moriarty

The Ex-Girlfriend, Nicola Moriarty

The Ex-Girlfriend: The gripping and twisty psychological suspense by [Moriarty, Nicola]

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Gah, women’s fiction: c’mon publishers, this category has no place in 2019. Men read romance, men write romance, stop trying to alienate a potential reader base.

Anyway, I found this book kind of slow at the start, and felt it was a little predictable. I was pretty sure what was going on and almost gave up.
Glad I didn’t though, once things picked up they rocketed along, with surprises way beyond what I thought would happen. Its totally absorbing, and so much more than I first thought, so although I found that first 30% a bit meh, a little obvious as to what was going on, once past that and I was gobsmacked, the story went way beyond what I’d thought.
What seemed like a simple story turned into a deliciously complex one full of unexpected events and long planned motivations.
The events had me mentally screaming “nooo….don’t” and I was so astonished at how seemingly unconnected events finally came together.
Its a shortish review for me, but its impossible to say more without giving away important events, suffice to say its a story that had me gripped once past that slow start.

Stars: four, it would be five but for that slow start. Still, for others its a five as it is so its perfect for them.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Lies Lies Lies, Adele Parks

Lies Lies Lies, Adele Parks

Lies Lies Lies: The Number One Sunday Times bestselling new domestic thriller from Adele Parks by [Parks, Adele]

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 loved it, though at the start I thought it was going to be just meh!

Daisy and Simon seem top have the perfect marriage, adore each other and their talented daughter Millie, both have good jobs, a nice home and long time friends that lead to a good social life. Then we see a few cracks appear, the friends have a few issues, Daisy carries a grudge against one of her college friends, kept it up for the last 15 years even though the parties have all moved on. Lucy had an affair with Daisy’s sisters husband, she’s now married to him and they have a child, and Daisy’s sister is also happily married but for Daisy its an unforgivable breach. They all still meet, having friends in common but Daisy avoids Lucy as much as she can. For me this characterises Lucy’s nature, she has strict codes of right and wrong, and is incredibly loyal. This loyalty spreads to Simon when he drinks too much, he’s a functioning alcoholic and for the most part is more or less in control, always the life of the party, always a fun guy and he adores Daisy and Millie. So much so that he thinks they should have another child. It took a while for them to have Millie though, and they’re older and seek medical help. After that his alcoholism really takes over his life and Daisy just doesn’t know what to do. I really began to dislike Simon here even though I felt sorry for him. I sympathised with Daisy, been there, done that and its tough. You love someone but don’t necessarily like what they do.
Gradually the issues get worse, until things go horribly wrong. Their lives all change irrevocably, and the secrets that have been stacking up increase, there are outright lies and untold ones, lies of omission. I so felt for everyone, and the people I least expected to help stepped up, showing the power of true friends.
You need to suspend believe a little to really get into the story, when the secrets and lies get revealed and the consequences come out, but then as they saying goes, Truth can be stranger than fiction, so who knows?

A gripping read, full of unexpected events and turns, and a fabulous story. The characters felt very real though in my head, their actions very true to form. I guess I thought of them very much as “Boden Catalogue” families. UK readers will understand that, the Middle classes, university, property owning families. I’m making that point as a fact not a criticism, its just a type of family, as real as the landed gentry type and the families that never get beyond renting homes, where a stable job is an aspiration. Adele herself makes the point that Simon isn’t the typical prisoner, and sadly she’s right in that some people seem almost destined for a life or crime. The prison section, prison life, how easy it is to become accepting, institutionalised, how the hierarchy of people like the Dales who run the prisoners and some of the guards, even though they are prisoners themselves was very realistic. She’s celalry researched the prison rules for visitors etc, I learned a lot I didn’t know about visiting rules. I find when authors do that research it leads to a much better reading experience for me, that I can enjoy the realism of the events more, feeling that this is the way life, and in this case prison life, works.

Stars: Five, a brilliant read, very emotional, very well put together, turning my feelings about characters completely upside down. The ending – a little hard to believe but for me it was what I wanted so I’m happy even if its a little stretching credulity.

Arc via Netgalley

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