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Killing Beauties, Pete Langman

Killing Beauties, Pete Langman

Killing Beauties by [Langman, Pete]

Genre: Historical Fiction

I liked the sound of this, fiction but about real people, and in a period that intrigues me, but which I know little of. Sadly the story just wasn’t a great fit for me.

I’m not sure why, perhaps its because I failed to really connect with the characters, perhaps its just that events seemed muddled at times. I need to empathise with someone in a story, but though the setting felt real the characters just didn’t ,and I wasn’t really concerned with what happened to them.
Kudos to Pete for taking on bringing female spies into the public eye, sadly historically women were treated badly, as secondary to men, and even now the word Spy evokes a man, rarely do we think of female spies. They existed, though, did a hard and dangerous job, even more dangerous because women then were really regarded as unimportant, disposable.
I might come back to this another time, its a well written book, and I’m guessing well researched, certain historically it feels accurate. We’re in the throes of Covid19 when I’m reading this, and it may well be my issues, the unsettledness we’re all feeling that have affected how I felt about this story. Possibly in a different time I’ll get more from it?

Stars: Two, a good story for others but I failed to connect with it.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Pivotal Decisions, (Moonlight and Murder 2), Reily Garrett

Pivotal Decisions, (Moonlight and Murder 2), Reily Garrett

Pivotal Decisions: A suspenseful mystery thriller (Moonlight and Murder Book 2) by [Garrett, Reily]

Genre: Romantic suspense

Murder and bodies, swamps and alligators, guns and bang sticks ( never heard of them – I want one !!), drones and tech, none of which I know much about but it didn’t matter for the story as it was kept loose enough for me to keep up and enjoy. Some suspense novels get very heavy on the detail and I end up skipping pages, this had just enough to interest me and let me follow how the story fit together.
I loved Sabine – and Heath. That dog was the real star of the book 😉 Coyote too was great, it was hard seeing little Sabine all grown up, and he was struggling to keep his hands to himself. Of course Sabine had always been attracted to him so she wasn’t worried when he didn’t…. The secondary characters too, Augie, Sabine’s bestie and Coyote’s work partner and GF and sister were fabulous. Poor Nolan, Keiki was one determined lady.
The girls together brought some much needed humour among the seriousness of the story. The guys were all macho protection, Augie warning Coyote not to hurt Sabine, Coyote determined to keep her back from the danger, Nolan all het up in defence of his little sister and his girlfriend, and the girls all running rings around them equally determined to not be kept out of the action. Lucky they did, it needed all of them.

I understood the potential financially of what poor Jinx had been working on, and could see so easily for many the murders to get their hands on it would be nothing. Sadly that’s the way of the world, dominated by money and the desire for more of it.
I wasn’t entirely convinced over the capture and rescue of Augie’s lady, it seemed a bit too simple and why leave the VR goggles? Maybe its just me missed some essential connection but I really struggled with the relevance of that bit.

Where the story fell down a bit for me was the last section, the end, and the reasons for all the murders seemed to just almost fizzle off. Somewhere I even missed what happened to one of the bad guys, one moment there was still one accounted for, and then it was the end and clearly I missed how he got caught. There were times when the actions stretched credulity but not too much and after all this is fictionland 😉

Stars: Four, a fun read, humour to offset the murders and a great bunch of characters.

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Red Hatchet Falls, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 7), Susan Clayton-Goldner

Red Hatchet Falls, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 7), Susan Clayton-Goldner

Red Hatchet Falls: A Winston Radhauser Mystery: #7 by [Clayton-Goldner, Susan]

Genre: Mystery and thrillers

Each time I finish a Radhauser novel I’m in awe of how Susan manages to pull together a story, including so many side plots full of interest, taking me on a journey to find who’s responsible for the awful things in that book. She makes me think its one person, then doubt myself, as Radhauser does so often.
This book is the perfect example of when there seems like a straightforward murderer, all the clues and evidence point to that person, and yet Radhauser feels its too easy. As usual his gut feeling should have been listened to, although hopefully here that mistake will lead to future good.
I really didn’t suspect who the person was, Susan hides them with only the most subtle of clues that only make sense when we reach the conclusion.

It was good to catch up with not only Radhauser and his family, but also his work colleagues, characters from other books ( yay for Rodney!) and meet new ones.
In among the main crime there are plots about bullying, racism, domestic violence, and of course we see just how pervasive racism is, how easy it is to prejudge someone purely on looks. That happens here to an Islamic family, who have made America their home. Of course even now the fall out from 9-11 hits them, they are hated by some people, feared by others, simply because of their religion, which a few extremists used as an excuse for horrific actions. Y’know, Christians have done that too, in history and probably recent times too.
Poor Ahmeed, Daria, and their little son Kareem go through things no family should have to, and I have the feeling that this happens in real life too, from those supposed to protect them. Racism reaches all occupations, being in a “responsible” profession doesn’t stop bigots from using that position for their own ends and I could see the results of Ahmeed’s shooting ending just as Radhauser suspected it would. And that made me sad – no-one ever learns when actions get hidden.
I think In the same way as Radhauser is learning from Heron, the ME, I’m learning the way Radhauser’s mind works ( or Susan’s!). I start looking for evidence, mulling over actions, wondering what comes next. Of course its not all crime all the way, there’s Radhauser taking Lizzie to sports, talking to Gracie ( I love her), fussing his beloved horses.
I felt so sad for the kids in this book, some bullied by adults, some by kids following adults examples, but they were hurt by those actions, and of course that impacts on the adults they become. Its well known that abusers were often abused themselves. That doesn’t excuse it but does sometimes explain it, the anger comes out in odd ways, they don’t have that loving family role model. Its something I get so angry about, children missing out on the fun, secure, loving childhood they should all have. Sadly a percentage never get it and others only part of it. Horrible reflection on us as adults. I remember my own son at five being told by his then best friend he couldn’t play with him any more because he was “ a black’un”. Jay had dark skin, dark hair and big brown eyes, and clearly his friends parents had looked at him, looked at the name Zelos and decided we were foreign. We’re not, but it gave me an insight into how cruel adults can be, how easily they influence children. He was five, didn’t understand what his friend meant, and it was tough explaining bigotry in a way he’d understand.
And as usual I’ve rambled here, but the gist it, once more Susan has knocked out a five star read. Meticulously researched, everything makes sense, there are no lose ends, no stretching of credulity but a story that could so easily be real. Sometimes as series continue they get tired, feel stale but Radhauser has a long way to go yet. Each story feels fresh even though the characters feel like old friends. I was looking back after finishing this at the early books, I started with book two, maybe its time I read book one, see how it all started.

Stars: five, long may Radhauser continue his investigations. Each book feels like the best yet, and then along comes the next which is even better.

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Smoke Bitten, Mercy Thompson Book 12, Patricia Briggs.

Smoke Bitten, Mercy Thompson Book 12, Patricia Briggs.

Smoke Bitten: Mercy Thompson: Book 12 by [Briggs, Patricia]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, wow! This series continues to grow, each book building upon the whole story. With some ongoing series its clear at a certain point they’ve run out of steam, but this one has plenty of potential stories yet.
Patricia Briggs is my favourite author, this series my number one closely followed by her alpha and Omega novels. I could – and have- read them over and over, seeing this I missed each time. This twelfth book still feels as fresh as the first one.
There are so many fantasy reads out there in book-world, some excellent and some ( only imo of course) are just dire. I’d love if Patricia could write faster, I could devour everything she puts out, but what makes these books special is the realistic characters ( even though the are anything but real!), the solid story, the multiple plots, the carefully woven links that grow through each book, and that takes time. I’d rather wait and have quality to read, than for the series to have more books but devolve into some of that dire writing. Actually I don’t think Patricia could ever write like that, its just not in her. Thankfully.

Well, another puzzle for Adam and Mercy here, and as usual there’s not just one plot but multiple ones. A weird and incredibly dangerous creature no-one knows much about, that may have escaped through the door Tilly opened in Mercy’s back yard, some strange werewolves in town, and problems between Adam and Mercy, not with their relationship but which could affect it.
Its always a treat trying to work out just how Marcy and Co will resolve things. Because although Mercy is always the driving force, she’s aided each time by her pack, her friends and somehow she always ends up in the firing line.
I love that we see so many of the old characters here, along with the new ones. I can see how things from earlier books have led to relationships – not friendships but those kind of connections that prove very important when Mercy needs them. As well as the tension and danger, there’s the usual fun and games, the day to day issues that make the story feel grounded and balanced. Fae bargains have to have balance, and for me books need to have balance too…
With some authors I feel they write themselves into plots that only magical solutions will get them out of, and when they just pull those out of a hat, do things no-one has heard of, that have never been mentioned and don’t have any real connections and – bingo- everything’s fine, I feel cheated. With this series though the magic is part of it, and though Mercy has no magic per-se, she has those connections, the Fae, the vampires and of course Adam and the pack, with the Marrok always in the background, and of course her own special heritage from Coyote. When there’s magic involved it always follows set rules that have been brought up in earlier books, so I don’t feel its some new, unheard of superpower solution. Mercy and the pack bonds feature strongly here, and her being pack but not pack, being coyote and something different, means her pack bonds are different too. I found that part really interesting, had me visualising what Mercy was seeing.
I love that Adam has some problems here. I adore the man, the perfect mix of gorgeous, charming, Gentleman and sex, and sometimes guys like that need a few issues to make them real. There’s one point where I was really almost tearful at events, very much moved, and also very much angry that things had gone so far.
Once more its like meeting old friends, and knowing their individual strengths and weaknesses ( Aurielle and Christy!) I can see how they will work in the story. I guess my big fear is that the constant dangers to them mean each book maybe is the last for some of them. We’ve seen people die in previous books, it happens with the constant pressures, it can’t be just the bad guys that die, that would make it unbalanced. The fact so many have died or left the pack because of the dangers is brought up here. The Colombian Basin pack is noticeably smaller, and that brings in vulnerabilities. My heart was heavy that it might happen here to two longstanding characters, and that fear is what makes it real. And I’m not saying if they died or not 😉
So, I finished this yesterday and am already thinking – read again or go the whole hog through the series – I know that these books can stand that constant re reading. Maybe I’ll do both 😉

Stars: five, a cracking read, perfectly paced and balanced, and gave me a story to lose the real world for a time. I adore these books, fingers crossed there’s many, many more to come 🙂

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

You Let Me In, Camilla Bruce

You Let Me In, Camilla Bruce

You Let Me In by [Bruce, Camilla]

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

I loved this book, was blown away by it, transported to the magic world of good stories. It’s fairies, but not as we know them Jim, to misquote Mr Spock 😉 These fairies are very different, made of nature, some are centuries old and have lost what humanity they ever had. They live off energy, human, animal, nature such as trees and rivers and take on those characteristics. That’s if you believe they are real of course….

I guess that’s what made it so great for me, there’s a part of me that is convinced that just maybe there’s more to this world than we know, that maybe we aren’t the only inhabitants…after all think back to history, pre car, trains, electricity, mobile phones, PCs and TV. Talk to someone the other side of the world, see them? Listen to people who’ve now died? Travel faster than the fastest horse? That would have been scoffed at as impossible back then, but really it was always potential, always there, just not yet discovered.
You need that kind of openness to fully enjoy this I think, to believe that maybe, just maybe Cassie was telling the truth.

We start a year after she’s disappeared at 74, no trace of her and before her nephew and niece can claim her considerable estate she insists they read her story, her memoir if you like. Tucked away in it is the password they’ll need to claim. Like many gifts though this one may just have a hidden side.
I so felt for young Cassie, where her mum dotes on her golden sister and seems to dislike Cassie. It made me wonder, what was she like before she met Pepperman, did her mum dislike her even then, or was it the result of Cassie interaction with him? Were he and the others real or were they, as the doctor her mother insists she sees, products of a trauma induced psychosis?
What happened to Tommy Tipp if her story about him isn’t true? The same holds for her father and brother, she gives us an explanation, her mother and sister as always blame her, but how could she have physically done those things without help, and she had no friends, no-one who would have helped her?
Its perfectly paced. I can remember thinking “ who IS Mara?” as she kept cropping up in conversation, and then just as I was about to flip through book to find more the next chapter opens with something like “You may be wondering about Mara”. If I’d known earlier it wouldn’t have fitted as well, it needed that build up.

Its a complete story, but much like the book there’s possibilities in the ending, its not neat and tidily wrapped up but leaves readers wondering. Its one of those stories where it seems impossible to believe what she’s saying, and yet there are so many things that just don’t add up it feels like maybe, just maybe the impossible is possible. Then at the end, where is she if not in the mound?
I like to think she’s there, living happily with Pepperman and her friends, hard life though it may be. She had a tough enough “real” life, disliked by family, no human friends, always in trouble for things Pepperman did ( or was it her all along?). Mocked and ridiculed at school, dragged to doctors in the hope of making her “normal”. Did she just have a vivid imagination that took her way from the horrors she was living through, or was it all real? She deserves to be content now whichever.

Its one of those stories that stay with you, make you wonder, and I’ll be looking out for Camilla’s next work.

Stars: Five, amazing read, full of questions and possibilities, very realsitically written.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Raven’s Glen by Nancy E. Polin

Raven’s Glen by Nancy E. Polin

Raven's Glen by [Polin, Nancy E.]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, Romance

I almost didn’t read this, Nancy mentioned it had elements of horror, and its a family joke that I am a real wimp about that. I have such a vivid imagination that my dreams tend to be complex, and sometimes scary, so anything horror tips the balance…but it wasn’t that sort of horror, more the unpleasantness that comes with certain elements of the supernatural. It was a bit spooky, but not scary.

I loved Skylar and her brother, he’s so protective and has been looking out for her since they escaped a horrific home situation to live with their grandmother, their beloved MawMaw. Now she’s died, they both miss her badly but are still very close. Skylar has accepted a job that happens to be in the town they escaped from. Her brother is Not Happy, to say the least, but Skylar seems to be drawn there with a slightly unnerving, unexplained pull.
She’s settling in well, enjoys her job, when she meets Jack at her workplace. She’s already bumped into him at her interview, then again around the town. He’s gorgeous but not on the lookout for a new relationship. He’s drawn to Skylar though, they seem to keep coming across one another and he finally asks her out.

Stephen has never talked about the horrors of the night they left, never told Skylar what happened, and she seems to have blanked it from her mind. Now she’s back though it seems the past isn’t quite finished with her.

Its a gradual build up, first the attraction between Jack and Skylar, then slowly she gets integrated into his family. Skylar is in for a shock though when she goes to his home.
The tension ratchets up gradually, building on little things, more references to the past, more secrets being revealed, and the dangers slowly come to light. The more Skylar learns the closer the past becomes, and its a question of should she outrun it and leave the job she enjoys, the man and his daughter that she loves, or should she just face up to the past and try to beat it?
I really enjoyed this, just enough spookiness to keep me reading, not so much that it gives me nightmares. I live alone, I hate nightmares, when everything seems more believable that in the light if day. The Native Indian setting works really well, they are very in tune with nature and the supernatural, and really helped the story to feel genuine.

Stars: five, a fantastic read, not too scary, and very engaging, making me wonder just what was coming next.

Arc via author

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

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