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Owl and the Electric Samurai, Kristi Charish

Owl and the Electric Samurai, Kristi Charish

Owl and the Electric Samurai (The Owl Series) by [Charish, Kristi]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

I loved the first two novels but this one was, to be honest, a bit of a slog 😦
I’ve loved Owl, her kind of skewed world views, and yet underneath you know she cares deeply for her friends, that she’s moral, will always do the right thing, for people anyway even if artifacts are a bit of a grey area….but in this book she came over as a bit self centred, kind of blowing off issues that her best friend Nadya was dealing with, acting pretty cold towards Rynn at times.

I love Rynn, but in this book they felt more like two people working together who didn’t really like or respect each other, and though its clear Rynn cares deeply for Owl, would do almost anything to keep her safe she really wasn’t looking out for what was going on in his life, seeing his POV, seeing what he was worried about, didn’t really take Nadya’s issues seriously, only as far as they affected her.
This book seemed to be Only Worry About What Concerns Owl…and I didn’t like that, that wasn’t the person I knew from book one.
Then too there’s the whole Electric Samurai…its not Owl V the ES, its Owl searches for the ES. The Electric Samurai itself doesn’t really come into play til the end.

I had issues with Owl and Rynn jumping form one hot-spot to another, escaping by the skin of their teeth, jumping from country to country, and the non stop action that was hit, done and over just in time for the next issue got dull.
I wanted more in depth detail, to know exactly how they did things, how they escaped, not toss in a few whiz bangs and they’re out, but that’s how each drama began to feel to me. Just more of the same, another place where everyone wants a piece of Owl and she escape barely to fall into the next drama.
I’d have liked a bit more day to day details, more conversations that didn’t just involve “how are we getting out of this mess” type of thing. Less skin of teeth and bombs, less Carpe doing some amazing tech stuff, characters suddenly dropping in unexpectedly and a little more reality.
Back to one of my bugbears, the This just couldn’t happen problem. There’s an IT Acronym IFTTT (If this then that) where if one thing happens its the trigger for another action, and when I’m reading I want to believe that if this one thing/action/event is real it could trigger a defined reaction, but too often in this story I didn’t feel the first issue could be real, it lacked that believability factor, which meant that the action that followed felt wrong to me.

There were parts I enjoyed, and the whole story is so unique that it was really refreshing to read when the series started, but now its seems to have moved away from that and I just need a little less action a little more conversation….A bit more reality even though its fantasy.
How does Owl get from country to country without getting stopped at usual channels ect, without ever having any luggage? She never seems to eat or drink, need to shower, sleep, feed Captain, you know, all the everyday dross that makes a story feel real.
I don’t need loads, just a little to ground her, make things feel real.
She just flips from one country at the end of a chapter and on first page of next chapter she’s where she needs to be, and I’m thinking “but how??” Especially given Captain is with her. Travelling with a huge cat isn’t easy…and where does she keep getting cat carriers?
It is a very complex world blending real world with the fantasy game playing base Shangri-La, but it felt increasing detached to me from the characters and settings we started out with in book one.

Then the ending…no………How could Kristi leave us like that? I’d almost decided this was it for me, wondering whether I really wanted to continue with the series but I can’t stop at this point, I’ll have to see how it plays out and hope a return to the styles of books one and two are forthcoming.

Stars: Three, a bit hard going this installment. Hopefully book four will bring a return to the style of the first two.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Obsession, A shocking psychological thriller where love affairs turn deadly, Amanda Robson

Obsession, A shocking psychological thriller where love affairs turn deadly, Amanda Robson
Obsession: A shocking psychological thriller where love affairs turn deadly by [Robson, Amanda]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult) , Mystery & Thrillers

This is an amazing debut book but a very, very uncomfortable read. The characters are not exactly likable, yet at the start they could be any of us, they’re fairly ordinary types, there’s nothing to suggest just what is going to unfold, how dark their lives are going to turn.
Its not a happy ever after read, so take note! It is a rivetting read though, I found myself saying internally “just one more chapter” as I just had to see how things would progress. And of course that led to one more and then one more chapter after that 🙂

We meet Carly and Rob on holiday, he’s a GP, she works on the practice part time and looks after their kids with her mother Heather’s help. They seem innocuous, though its clear Carly doesn’t feel motherhood particularly satisfying. there’s lots of parents like that though, its not all Johnson’s baby powder and sweet kisses in real life, and not everyone is cut out to be a full time parent.

She’s an odd woman is Carly, feels a bit…brittle and insecure though pushes this outward appearance of being very confident and capable. Then she asks Rob That Question, and the answer has repercussions you just can’t imagine. Would things have turned out differently if he’d answered another way? Would something else have been the catalyst, and events happen regardless?
There’s any number of points where looking back one of them could have said “if only I’d done/hadn’t done… ” Hindsight is a wonderful thing as the saying goes.

I didn’t really like Carly but I did feel for her unhappiness. Rob was just a typical busy parent and didn’t look far into what was going on underneath. Like most people he was satisfied by the surface appearance of everything and assumed they were all happy.

Then there’s the second couple, Jenni and Craig. Jenni, she seemed such a gentle, quiet soul and deeply adored her family. Is that love or smothering? Was she as she seemed, content, happy to be a parent, basking in husband Craig’s adoration?
They were two very different people – Jenni was quiet, shy, strongly religious, while Craig was handsome, outgoing and a real play -the-field guy. What brought them together? And could they have stayed in that same happy state they seemed to be when we first met them or were threads already unraveling?

Its a tough look at human nature and behaviours, depression, family life, how we’re all tightly knit in groups and one thread unwinding affects the whole group. Like I said its really uncomfortable reading. I kept thinking “no, she/he wouldn’t do that” and if we’d been plunged right into those dramas I could believe it, but we’re led carefully and slowly down a path of destruction, til almost without realising everything we thought we knew about the characters had changed, and I really couldn’t predict how things would pan out.
Stars: five, a fabulous debut, but its dark and definitely not a HEA! Its not one I’d reread, tending to only read again the lighter, happier ones. there’s enough dark in my life without reading it too often!

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Asher Black, Parker S. Huntington

Asher Black, Parker S. Huntington

Asher Black: (Book 1 of The Five Syndicates Series) by [Huntington, Parker S.]

Genre:  Romance,

After reading this I was looking for more info on author, and astonished to read that its her first book and…she’s only 21! That came as a real shock as IMO its a very well written, polished novel, and I can only imagine what Parker is going to produce with a bit more experience! An author to watch.

So…I rarely read Mafia/biker/MC type novels. I just find usually they’re a combination of pet hates, grunting, monosyllabic alpha males and improbable story-lines.
I don’t mind a bit of artistic licence, a small leeway in what’s credible, but find these tend to stretch my beliefs too far.
Then there’s the Mafia type ones, where the MC kills indiscriminately all the way through but – hey he’s very good looking so we’ll just ignore all those dead bodies…that really annoys me.

Parker contacted me though and offered an ARC.
As I have KU I chose to read it that way, feeling as its a genre I wouldn’t usually choose that was fairer than accepting an ARC and writing a low review if I didn’t like it, when I know that its very likely it won’t be a read that suits me.

And I was wrong, very wrong.
Yes Asher is Alpha male, but very literate, very intelligent and not prone to the grunting commands I so hate. His decisions are thought through thoroughly, he works hard at his business, has built it up from nothing and is careful about his position.
There are rumours about his Mafia background, it suits him to say nothing. He’s killed in the past, had Mafia connections but as he explains to Lucy, that’s not who he is now. Even the murders when explained I could understand. I don’t need to agree always with a characters actions, but I do need to understand the motivation, the reason why, before I can say – OK that’s in the past and get behind him or her.

The plots in this book are pretty well set out, easy to follow and felt credible, maybe stretched what’s acceptable a bit much at times ( the way he can sort Anything, literally anything it seems, whether its a parking ticket, ticket for something sold out, Lucy’s school issues or just having the cops help him cover up or gloss over an event) but somehow it all worked out and felt good.
So yes, the reason he’s needs a fiancee isn’t that original, but it works, and with so many stories around there’s always an overlap of some plots.
For me Parker made this story work, caught me up in the tale, anticipating events that played out, getting caught out by ones I didn’t see.
I love drama, its the one thing that Mafia/MC reads do well and I enjoy. Its just the rest of the plots that usually have me avoiding them. Maybe I need to take a closer look at some in future 😉 Here Parker got plenty of it in – and I loved it. I would have liked a bit more downs towards the end, I do love sad parts too so long as I get a HEA!

There’s a great group of characters here, and I love that Parker includes some nasties, some real bi tch ladies. They always add to the fun for me, I do love to see them built up then brought down 😉
There’s some great heat in this, some serious sensuality that’s well done. I hate when sex overtakes a story, here Parker has the balance just right.

Overall its a book I loved, totally against what I expected. The Mafia connection is mainly in the past and really only a small part of the story, and there’s so very much more to this read than Mafia murders…

Stars: five, a really fun and sensual read, a romance I thoroughly enjoyed. Perfect drama for me 😉

Read via KU at authors request.

Beneath a Burning Sky, Jenny Ashcroft. Cask Strength, (Agents Irish and Whiskey), Layla Reyne

Beneath a Burning Sky, Jenny Ashcroft

Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Genre:   Historical Fiction

This read reminded me very much of Dinah Jeffries – Before the Rains, a story I really enjoyed. Jenny writes the same vivid scenes of life in the past, in a searingly hot country, at the time of the British Empire.
Its an era when many of the men posted there from Britain saw themselves as of major importance, thought they were like little kings. So many treated the natives as simply lesser, disposable almost, and every time I read things like this I marvel at the arrogance that allowed this to happen.
But it did, its not fiction, things that happen in these stories really could have occurred then, events played out like this.

I so felt for Olivia, she’s had an awful childhood and now forced into marriage to a cruel and vindictive man. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with Edward, doesn’t expect to get embroiled in a dangerous mystery, a search for her abducted sister that has deep roots and from which the ripples flow out involving more and more people and putting her life in real danger.

Its a fabulous read, I could feel her despair, feel her anger, and the tenderness that grew between her and Edward – oh, I so wanted them to find a way to be together , they were just perfect for each other.

I thought I’d worked out a bit of what happened but it was far more involved and complex, and there’s no way I could have worked it all out. I did find the large cast of characters meant i had to keep checking back on exactly where each fitted in, and how they were placed in relation to others.
There were some parts where the mystery got so complex, involved so many characters, that I had to stop and work it all out. That spoiled the flow a bit but I can’t see any other way of writing it without dumbing it down, and I’d rather take time to recoup that that. So many books seem to be written for simplicity and speed reading 😦  so its a treat to get more convoluted ones that tax the brain, make me work for the story!

Stars: Four, a solid story, beautiful romance and a real feeling of history.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Cask Strength,  Layla Reyne

Cask Strength (Agents Irish and Whiskey) by [Reyne, Layla]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

Well wow – I loved book one, and this second part was another fast moving, sensual read. There’s a couple of things that bothered me, I’ll get them out first, they didn’t affect how I feel about the book overall but need a mention.
Acronyms…Gah, I hate these and yet all books seem to be full of them. I’m not sure there’s a way round them, can’t write everything about each into a book or it’d get too unwiedly and dull, but mabye a glossary?
As a UK reader I’m not familiar with US legal systems and what the various alphabet agencies actually are, who does what, which takes precedence etc. and then dammit more acronyms crop up in the sports part of this book too.  Baseball/basketball/ice hockey all make up a huge part of US romance reads, and seemed to be filled with abbreviations that I’m unfamiliar with and don’t know what they mean.
Its bad enough trying to work out the plots, who’s who in the police dept, how the US college/uni system works, drafts, boosters and then for this read, betting systems. There are so many characters here its not easy to keep track. When everyone and every organisation ( or so it seems) are described with a mix of letters denoting who and what they are and do I tend to get just a wee bit confused 😉 Thankfully the paperwhite look up dictionary function can explain a lot!
Still, none of that stopped me loving this story, I could kind of guess many of them and got enough context to work most of it out. The storyline is strong enough to carry a few confusions without spoiling 😉

Aiden, he made me so angry last time, I understood very well his grief, but dating others, determined to keep Jamie as casual when the tension between them just sizzles off the page, when he’s furious when anyone else looks Jamie’s way. C’mon man, just give in!
Then there’s Jamie and boy, he is one hot man. I love his intellect, his passion, both for his job, for IT and for sport, and we get a good dose of all here. He’s so good at what he does, yet manages to be sort of self effacing so he doesn’t come over as a braggart, except in times of humour.
Its clear he’s head over heels for Aiden, and very hurt by being kept at arms length. He’s been through a bad breakup before, and yet he’s willing to try again. Now he and Aiden are back in his old stomping ground, back in the sport he loves, and there’s a surprise for both of them when an old ex turns up.

There’s a lot of technical stuff here which went over my head for the most part… but which I understood enough to get the essence of what was going on and why.
The plot from book one that was running through as a secondary carries on here, and dammit – that ending! Just when I thought it was safe to stop reading Layla drops in a couple of lines which have me all upside down in my thinking once more.

Terrific storylines, great characters, serious heat (oops, typo spelt out head there at first, real Freudian slip that one!!)  – its a story to love!

Stars: Five, a great suspense, and sensual romance. roll on book three.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Blade Bound, A Chicagoland Vampires Novel, Chloe Neill. Eternal Reign, Melody Johnson

Blade Bound, A Chicagoland Vampires Novel, Chloe Neill

Blade Bound: A Chicagoland Vampires Novel (Chicagoland Vampires Series) by [Neill, Chloe]

Genre:  Romance,

It seems aaages since i read the first in this series, pre-kindle when I could still read text. I loved it and reread it and the other very early ones several times. Then That happened, the Ethan Disaster which spoiled it for me, I didn’t think I’d continue but saw from reviews of a later book that he was back! So I picked it up once more and continued.

I’ve always had an issue though with this and similar books where the main character is a new supernatural of some sort and yet manages to do all the things that the old, hundreds of years old, others can’t. How? Why are they so different? How come they never have all the stumbling blocks new vampires, werewolves, dragons et al do?
And that’s what got me a bit irritated, that it seemed like each story was Merit Saves The Day Yet Again * Sigh * and I stopped. Then saw this on netgalley, wondered how the series would end, got approved and needed to play catch up and buy the previous four books I’d not read #slappedwrist

Reading the last five back to back it felt very much as if I was reading the same story, just tinkered with…and that brought back memories of Sookie S when I felt the same 😦 that perhaps the series would have been better cut back a few books. There’s only so many new discoveries two new supernaturals like Merit and Mallory can make. I guess its down to two sides, group A wants more about Ethan Merit and the crew whatever the issues, they just want to read more and don’t care about the feeling of repetition. That’s lots of readers, I know from other series some just don’t want to let go of a group and will read anything connected to them. then there’s group B, where I fall, that wants stories that are believable and different, even though its fantasy it has to feel that if a happened B could result. the early books were exactly that for me, and maybe f there’d been a longer story timeline rather than the just over a year between book one and the last things may have felt that way for me.

So here we are, full circle in a way with Gabriel’s prophecy still hanging in Ethan and Merit’s minds. Actually the way that got explained/came about was well done IMO, something that made sense in the way that magic and fantasy can make a kind of sense. That bit of fantasy-reality that has you thinking “oh yes, so that happened, and therefore this was able to come about”.

We start this book with pre wedding celebrations, and from there its yet again another magical puzzle to solve, Chicago under threat, calls for supernaturals to take all the blame, humans decrying it’s Not Their Fault, let the supes take the blame. They’ve short memories when it comes to recalling that many of the past problems came about through human greed, and the supernaturals risked much to save human lives.
So much felt like I’d read it all before in those last few books. It was well written, tightly plotted and made sense in the way it played out but….it didn’t feel fresh, unique, the way those first ones did.

There’s lots of drama once more, some of Mallory’s on-the-fly magic combined with lots of theory and Catcher’s voice of reason – I love his character.
We haven’t seen much of Gabriel these last few books, he’s here but in very minor position, and I’d really have liked all the supernaturals to have pulled together for the Big Battle.
Finally the RG get more involved but once more looking back to the beginning I always thought they’d play a greater part.
I guess I’d just have a better chance of believing things will work in the future for everyone if they’d all been working on the solution, rather than Cadogan house, Mallory, Catcher and the Ombuddies.
A year of manic mayhem, scary deaths, tragedies, violence, disaster and suddenly everyone will live peacefully? What happens when the next issue arises? Will Ethan and Merit pick up their Katanas once more and wade in or claim other responsibilities, let someone else sort it?
If all forces had joined in this last book and been part of the solution I’d have believed they’d have a better chance of peace. Still, its fiction, the series has ended and it’ll be perfect for many readers 🙂

Overall the series starts off a five for me, with later books dropping drastically and I guess comes out a 3 to 4. This final book assessed alone though is a four for me, maybe a four and a half, pretty good but could have been better.

Stars: Four, pretty good but at times felt a little repetitive, and the final solution could have been better IMO.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Eternal Reign,  Melody Johnson

Eternal Reign (The Night Blood Series) by [Johnson, Melody]

Genre:  Sci-fi and Fantasy

Cassidy has come such a long way since the first book, yet its only been a few weeks. From knowing nothing about Vampires, she’s now gained so much first hand knowledge and yet still I get the sense she’s far more to learn.
Dominic is facing his levelling, a vulnerable time when usually his second would be there for him but Gillian isn’t, she betrayed him recently and she’s looking set to take over from him.
She’s amassing an army of Damned vampires, fierce, blood thirsty creatures that have little reasoning, just an instinct to kill and feed.
People are dying each night, the police have no idea what they are facing, Cassidy can’t reveal all through her reporter job, much though she’d love to, and if it continues the city will face an onslaught of deaths that makes the current ones look like nothing.
Dominic is losing his powers fast, but having to hide it from the coven, vampires gravitate to the strongest and he needs as much support as he can against Gillian, Cassidy isn’t a night blood anymore after her last injuries, and the battle is looming up.

Its another fast paced story, death, blood and gore, but with enough strength in the characters to lift it for me from a horror to something I enjoyed. I can’t take blood and gore if there’s not some way of lightening the story, some romance to balance all the hate.
Dominic clearly has feelings for Cassidy but she’s not admitting hers to him, or even to herself.
Now in this novel she needs to make some hard choices, about her job, her friends, her feelings for Dominic. I love the way Dominic treats her with respect even when he must find her incredibly frustrating – I know I would, with her insistence on “the people’s right to know”….knowing what faces his people if knowledge comes out.
Historically humans have sought to destroy any one, any group they feel aren’t human, looking at what we’ve done to witches in the past, and of course even those of a different religious persuasion and yet she seems to think that nothing bad will happen if vampires are exposed. I can’t decide if she’s deluded, naive or just plain stupid 🙂

Dominic has a typical vampire regard for humans, they’re just not important compared to his coven, he’s out to protect them at any cost even if it means killing people.
He doesn’t kill indiscriminately, doesn’t kill to feed for example, but thinks nothing of killing to protect his people if he feels there’s no other option.

There’s so much going on here, the story of the Levelling, the quest for Master of the city, the Damned vampires and now the Daywalker involvement, and among all that there’s the romance that’s slowly developing between Cassidy and Dominic.
Its another story I was glued to, really enjoyed and damn it, that ending…arrgghh…I hate when authors do that. #nocliffhangers

Stars: Five, another terrific read and c’mon, after that ending, I really hope the next book is soon!

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

You’re the One That I Want, Giovanna Fletcher. The Theatre, Marsha R. West

You’re the One That I Want, Giovanna Fletcher.

You're the One That I Want by [Fletcher, Giovanna]

Genre:  RomanceRomance, Sci Fi & Fantasy

Ah, I so wanted to love this, but was sadly disappointed.
I’d actually BOUGHT Billy and Me. Yep, it wasn’t a review book, wasn’t a KU but one I bought – and I loved it, so when I saw this up for review I was hoping for more of that angsty, heartfelt drama and fabulous characters I found in Billy. Sadly they aren’t here IMO 😦

The whole format is very, very differently written. Amost diarised from mainly Maddiy and Ben. Little from Rob though.
It starts very briefly with almost the end of the story, and then goes right back to the three lead characters age 5.
Then probably the next third to half of the book covers them up to about 16, told in Maddy and Ben’s POV, with other little flashbacks. That didn’t work for me, I don’t want huge chunks of the story to be what they did as kids, even if it is giving me an insight into how they acted as adults.
Even when we do get to them as older kids, 16+, it felt just too repetitive, and it just didn’t work for me. There was so much indescision, second guessing, wondering what if etc.
I think the main issue for me is the whole format wasn’t what I expected, I wanted to read of three adults in a who-will-get-the-girl saga ( yeah – both of them!! I wish …) with maybe some dating with both or something.
I felt what I got was lots of seeing them as kids, a bit of Ben’s hankering after her from a distance as they left school, and we didn’t really hear anything from Rob. That felt odd as he’s such a major character.
I did get so bored I was flipping forward, skim reading especially when it covered them as kids.
Then there’s a short epilogue five years or so on, and  😮 I just felt it didn’t really fit with any of the novel except for the fact all three characters were in it. Odd.

Just not what I want in a romance but as always that’s just me, and I can see there are others that love this story. Horses for courses once more.
If it had been my first read of Joanna’s work I’d have probably never tried a second, but Billy was written so very differently and I loved it so I’m hoping this one is the blip and she’ll write/have written more like Billy….

Stars: Two, just not my kind of read.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

The Theatre, Marsha R. West

The Theatre by [West, Marsha R]

Genre:  Romance, General Fiction

Sometimes you get a book that’s potentially a great story for others, but just doesn’t resonate for you, and that’s what happened here.
I did finish the story, but it was a bit of a slog. I can’t really put my finger on reasons, there’s nothing obvious, its more a fusion of many tiny issues.

Kelly, talented, gorgeous, barely eats, actress come choreographer is back in her home town for the summer. Everyone knows her and most love her. Her parents are kind of throwing her in the path of Josh, divorced son of their friends.
He’s the local Police Chief, tall, blonde and handsome, and though they don’t start off on the right foot they’re very attracted to each other, and soon sleeping together. Or not sleeping 😉

Both hers and Josh’s father have dementia, Kelly has a stalker, the gays in the theatre have bigoted haters, and that spills over to the theatre itself.
Somehow there seemed lots going on but it felt very stereotyped, very cliched. The good guys were very good, the gay guys were very “gay” and the bad guys stood out clearly.
I didn’t really like the way Kelly faffed about with Josh, didn’t really feel anything towards Josh and overall its a story that just didn’t work for me.
That’s just my opinion though, I can see for others it was perfect, and that’s how it should be, everyone wants something different.

Stars: Two and a half, there were a few parts I enjoyed and I didn’t dislike the book, just didn’t feel pulled into the story as I am when its one I love.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Fallen, P.J. Fox

Fallen, P.J. Fox

Fallen by [Fox, P.J.]

Genre:  Romance, General Fiction

I wasn’t really sure what this book would be about. Seemed to be some kind of dystopian/futuristic romance read, and as I’d not read any of PJ Fox’ work before I decided to try it.

I’ve finished now and TBH I’m still not really sure what it was about….A very strange romance between Dane and Ani, a weird society who have one might a year when everyone is free to kill who they want without reprisal, and some very odd behaving characters.

That’s about it for me. I didn’t really understand the story, didn’t get a sense of who and what the characters were and what the whole thing was about.
The idea that the free-for-all Purge kept society working better than imprisonment was just plain weird and of course open to all sorts of abuse. Some of the characters didn’t want justice, just wanted a chance to kill someone, anyone, just for “fun”.
I hold my hands up and admit I skim read the last third as frankly I was floundering and just wanted to get the book finished.

This is probably one of the shortest reviews I’ve ever done but even though I read the whole book I still can’t understand what it was about, what the point of it all was and whether or not I actually wanted Dane and Ani to end up together.

Stars: Two, a book that just didn’t work for me. Might be one you love – who knows? for me though it was a fail.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Learning to Love, Sheryl Browne

Learning to Love,  Sheryl Browne

Learning to Love by [Browne, Sheryl]

Genre:  romance, women’s fiction

I hadn’t read any od Sheryl’s novels before but this sounded fun, and its published by ChocLit, and I’ve found from experience that they publish books I enjoy so “click Request”….

Its a great fun read, moments of almost slapstick humour, entwined with some incredibly subtle comedic interludes.
Drama abounds right from the start when poor Andrea gets stood up by Jonathan, and it widens out into a story filled with humour, drama, neighbours that are helpful one moment and snide the next, and kids that were just so wonderfully written.

I love so many things about this book, poor Andréa, doing what so many are, trying to run a home composed of teens and toddler, partner, elderly parent and keeping a full time job going too.
Its a small village, one of those where everyone soon knows everything that’s happening – and a few things that really aren’t!
I got really irritated with her fiancé to be, Jonathon, he was an odd sort, not really supportive, and at times I wanted to scream at Andréa “ask him what/where/why” when he was being evasive.

The kids were brilliant, toddler Charlotte, teens Sophie and Ryan, and David’s ten yr old Jake. They spoke and acted as kids do, bickering one moment but helpful the next, eye rolling, ever empty stomachs in the case of the lads – reminded me so much of my own kids at that age.
I loved the way Ryan took Jake under his wing, and didn’t let things pass from David, helping but guiding him too.

The way the locals rallied round after the fire was good too, even down to the clothes donated that some of which was just real jumble….yep, that happens.
I enjoyed the way they were always in and out of each others lives, the way Dee, Andrea’s slightly batty mum , and Eva, one of the more senior residents of the town were always bickering.
Good too to see a teen that’s in a wheelchair, who’s still a typical teen, not some sanely type, and living a normal as can teen life. She was a great addition and as a wheelchair user myself I love to see all types represented in books, not just the able bodied.

The way the story unfolds is perfect; it’s got romance but not Just romance, there’s
drama and mystery, lost dogs,  modern day family life with all its chaotic stumblings, a snippet of small town life, all the dramas and incidents that make a story so real. Add in the mystery that’s fast gathering pace and I was wondering just how it would all work out. There’s a surprise too that I didn’t see coming, and I so felt for all involved.

The only criticism I have its that its all happening in a very short space of time, David goes from surly to perfect, from disliking everything to in love, Andrea goes from being – well maybe not “in love” but certainly still trying to keep up her fragile relationship with Jonathan, and then suddenly its all David, and he’s front stage in her thoughts. All that happens over just a few days….but there’s so much packed in that it’s a small thing and easy to ignore.

Stars: Five, a fun, engrossing read that made me laugh at times and tearful at others.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Home Fires, Common Law 4, Kate Sherwood

Home Fires, Common Law 4,  Kate Sherwood

Home Fires (Common Law Book 4) by [Sherwood, Kate]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

This is an amazing wrap up to what’s been a beautiful quartet, fabulous characters, not just Wade and Jericho (Jay) but so many others, plots that feel so real, and events that are characteristic of small town life.
I’m really sad to see these guys go, and yet I guess there’s potential for Wade and Jay Mark 2. Somehow though I think maybe best to stop at the top – I’ve felt not ready to leave characters before and then author has written more books and they never seem to have that first magic.
Kate is certainly an author that gets searched for now by me, I really enjoy the way she puts a story together, and how each of these reads has ended without cliff hangers (my bugbear) but still had me wanting the next book.
I was really lucky here getting ARCs, as I got the last two together so Tuesday saw me finishing third book, Wed I wrote review and cracked on to book four. With everything fresh in my mind it was such a  great read.
I love to read whole series in one back to back sweep for that very reason, total immersion into the story and characters.

What could I pick out from this book? Wade – I’ve loved him from the start, he’s so enigmatic, so quiet and yet so clever he seems to know what’s going to happen, when and what to do about it.
I get the feeling he’s not exactly a criminal, though the law has been trying to tie him to many crimes, but that he’s one of those guys that sees what needs doing and gets on with it. If that means crossing a few legal issues so be it. Not in the vigilante style, he’s more of a preventative person than a pursuer of justice, if that comes along then great but if not, well he’s not worried.

Jay – a staunch believer in the Law, he’s been in the Army and seen service in some terrible places, been a city cop where life was always busy and he didn’t have time to ponder and worry, and now he’s back in Montana, wondering if he and Wade can have something together after all this while.
He’s learning to trust Wade too, to see he’s not just the criminal in waiting his colleagues seem to think.
The sensuality between them is incredible and yet for most of the while its just been looks and quick touches, though it finally heats up here when Jay decides he doesn’t care any more, he wants to be with Wade, and isn’t bothered who knows it.
He’s always been open about his sexuality, but with Wade there’s the history they share – along with Kayla – and the little fact that most of his colleagues feel Wade is on the opposing side of the Law to Jay.
What I love is they’re just ordinary guys, people we could know, live with, work with, meet in the pub. There’s no big I’m Gay placard hanging over their mannerisms, no cliched Tells as so many books make. That’s what I love, it emulates real life where sometimes its obvious someone is gay through their actions, in the same way sometimes its obvious someone is a bigot, but most of the while people are just people, gay or not is just another facet of their character, not the defining one. And I’ll stop drum banging now 🙂

There’s some real action in this book, a few deaths too, and a feeling of satisfaction tinged with sadness when its over.
As so often happens maybe if things had been done differently, if the top brass listened to the locals….but life is full of What Ifs, and speculation can’t change results.
I love the mix of small town policing v out of town Important Top Cops ( well seems to be how they regard themselves)
There’s a point where the out of towners, the alphabet cops, are busily engrossed in stopping an upcoming conflict, a mass rally of MC people with guns, rockets, tanks even, and they’re keeping the locals out. Jay is so irritated and Kayla says words to the effect of “go and do some paper work”, or “see if Mr x is trapping the neighbours cats again”, somewhat sarcastically. They know the others are being hoodwinked, yet all their efforts to say so get ignored with a “leave it to the pros “ kind of pat on the head. Kayla and Jay are so frustrated and using irony about the realities of small town policing. Probably for 99.9% of the time it is like that, but when it really matters, and they have the local knowledge to make a difference, save lives, pre-empt disaster and they’re being shut out they’re both upset but stuck.

A perfect quartet of novels for those readers who want a tender and sensual romance, action and drama but situated in a small town with locals involved, plots that are full of characters that feel real, that have connections, where the law isn’t black and white but shades of grey (50?? Maybe… but no sex accoutrements here. Just solid characters with real emotions).
Each book is complete but together they make up a wider story. I’ve just reread my review of the first book, and my thoughts about the series back then are interesting, and have pretty much played out as i expected.
Its been a series that will definitely be a re-reader for me.

Stars: Five, a fabulous end to the series, perfect wrap up.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Almost Missed You, Jessica Strawser. Love With An Imperfect Cowboy, Ann Major

Almost Missed You, Jessica Strawser

Almost Missed You: A Novel by [Strawser, Jessica]

Genre:  Women’s Fiction

Edit: Price wasn’t available when I wrote review – I’m pretty shocked its over £9 for a debut read…..I think twice about paying that for an established author but I’ve noticed more eBooks creeping up to the ten quid and beyond mark. when there’s still so many free/under a fiver or on KU then I can’t justify spending that unless I know its one I’ll reread several times, and with a new author I simply don’t know that. For many readers this book is just that but for me its not and if I’d paid £9+ for it I’d be a bit apprehensive about taking the risk next time.

OK, this is quite a hard book to review. I loved the idea of it, was on tenterhooks thinking why on earth Finn would do that, especially from the fragments we saw of how he was with Violet and Bear just beforehand, but the constant past and present flipping made me feel in danger of whiplash.
Its not a format I really like, I’ve read a very few where it works for me, and too many more where it doesn’t. Just as I’m engrossed in the story of the past it flips to the present, and then I’m suckered in to whets happening and bam…its back to the past.
I’ve read books where that works well for me, but with this one it just left me really frustrated, flipping back and forth right when there was a huge question needed answering. I guess there’s an argument that it kept up the suspense of the secrets and let them out at  optimum time for that but for me   it just was really annoying, and spoiled the story.
I ended up skipping and flicking through to read past, past, past, and then all the present bits, as I was getting so irritated at the flipping of times. Oddly enough I’ve just read another laid out exactly the same way, where from about 1/3rd in I did the same thing….Leah Mercer’s novel Who we were Before. Another that’s really emotional at times, where the past and present collide creating a huge rift between a couple. If you love this book look out for that one.

As to the story and characters, well TBH I really only liked Violet and Bear.
I understood why the other characters did what they did, but I was amazed at how easily it seemed to come to them, how they didn’t think beyond the immediate actions.
Its kind of hard to write without giving things away but all the characters lives were so closely intertwined and the secrets had such a huge impact.
I didn’t understand why some things weren’t told earlier, of course the book would have been different if they had 😉 so as that needs to be kept for me there needed to be a better reason for the actions and the secrets.

I did feel for Finn when it all came out, but enough to forgive him the awful thing he he to Violet?
I don’t know – she loved him but did she ever see the real Finn, or was she in love with the person he presented to her? Or is there really any difference, maybe we’re all more than one person, maybe the way life hits us makes us what we are?
He had some pretty awful thoughts between Violet and his past, that made me really feel for her and get cross at him, but then again we can’t actually control what we think, what we feel can we?

I did feel too that some of the events towards the end got a rather poorly explained and slick conclusion, that didn’t feel as if that would have happened in reality, and that niggled at me.
The ending was a little ambiguous, but it left the way open for a HEA and for me that’s OK, I can imagine one for them, for Violet needed that, wanted that and I loved her.
I’d really have preferred a more concrete happy ending though – I’m a sap I know but I love things to end well.

Overall though I felt I was interested in the story, wanted it to end well, but the present/past/present/past flipping format was so annoying to me. I wasn’t totally gripped by the story and I think that was a huge reason why, and maybe in a different format I would have enjoyed it more. The plot is perfect, real, and one that made me think, its just the execution that didn’t work for me.

I felt there was one really poignant part, when Violet says something along the lines of “ I wish sometimes I’d never met any of you,” and I really understood her then, in that moment.
She’d been through so much, and was such a loving, generous and kind person she didn’t deserve that further heartbreak she got.

Stars: Three, it was an interesting read, made me think how much of what happens in our lives affects us mentally as well as physically, how many secrets we all hold and what happens when they come out – they always do at some point.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and publisher

*********************************************************************************

Love With An Imperfect Cowboy,  Ann Major

Love With An Imperfect Cowboy (Lone Star Dynasty Book 1) by [Major, Ann]

Genre:  romance, Women’s Fiction

Well, Ann’s written many, many stories, yet this is my first one of hers! I wanted to love it but I’m really in two minds about it, I enjoyed parts of it but there was more that I just didn’t like, and overall it’s a miss for me.

I liked Hannah, really felt for what happened to her, she must have been devastated, so her running away felt a very genuine reaction. Likewise Liam, he’d been through some awful tragedy and I understood why he shut himself away as he did. As characters they were both very real feeling and easy to belive in.
What I struggled with was the way the two reacted when they first met. It didn’t go well, and they were both so rude to each other and that just didn’t sit right with me, felt out of character for both of them.
I know something along those lines was needed to get them to where they had to be for the story to fall into place but that just felt wrong.

Then there’s the filthy cabin, there’s no way a rich lady, who would have had staff to do the housework, laundry etc, would have been able to do what she did to it in just one night. Where did she get all the cleaning stuff from for instance? It just couldn’t happen. One room maybe, all the laundry maybe, but that and the whole house?? Nope. can’t be done.

They go from that early animosity into a strange kind of respect and friendship, and I’m not really sure how and when that happened. Then of course the past pops up, and though Liam’s past felt real, and the things around it now, the emotions he felt very natural and understandable, when it came to Hannah I just couldn’t see it unfolding like that. It just jarred, I couldn’t see all those people being there and for me it felt wrong.

Stars: two, overall a story that had more that didn’t suit me than it did. As ever though that’s just my take, others love it and you could too. Reading tastes are very individual.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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