The Ex-Girlfriend, Nicola Moriarty
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
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 Why do we insist on having such an outdated category?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
Guilty Not Guilty, Felix Francis
Genre: General Fiction ( Adult), Mystery and Thrillers.
I used to ( still do ) love Felix’ dad, Dick’s, novels. Being a horse mad child that grew into a horse mad adult, with a love of reading his books have kept me entertained for many happy hours.
Felix writes in a similar style, believable characters, a story that feels genuine, where you could place yourself in that setting and see it happening in real life. And of course there’s always the mystery of who the culprit really is. Its not a copycat of his dads style though, Felix has his own spin, his own way of writing and I find it very easy to follow, perfect for me.
I like to be puzzled as I read the story, but not so confused that I switch off. Felix lays out clues for the reader to pick up – some I got and some I missed. His books are set with a racing background but less intensely horse orientated, so this book we meet Bill as he is acting as a Steward at the races, having been a former jockey, but apart from a couple of race meets and his background in stewarding that’s the entirety of the horse content.
I felt so sorry for Bill, his wife has died and yet he can’t grieve properly because the police are convinced he killed her. With his family background its quickly become quite a high profile murder, and I guess there’s pressure on the police to find the killer. Bill has been neatly served up as culprit by his brother in law, once a friend but for the past few years he’s been viciously cruel to Bill and Amanda, his wife, causing her intense distress with his vile innuendo and threats. He’s now playing the part of devoted distraught brother, which makes Bill suspicious of him.
Bill is vilified in the press, made out to be guilty by them, and his former friends and neighbours almost all believe it. Only a handful of friends and family stand by him, one of them advising that the best way to clear his name is to set about proving an unquestionable alibi. Bill is rightly worried the police aren’t going to look further, as the way his brother in law has placed it he does look guilty, although of course there’s no real evidence, only suspicion and possibilities.
Its a raging paced read, racing from one drama to another, and I so felt for poor Bill. Once more fiction shows up the worst of the press, they do behave in this revolting way, dragging out any and all possible salacious details, spinning possibilities as fact, caring nothing for someones grief and sensibilities in their quest to be first with new details. The poor guy is mired in their web, damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. Advice is say nothing, but how hard when you know they are spouting total rubbish..
I loved this read, know I’ll re-read it, and there’s a twist at the end that completely caught me out. I Did Not See That Coming!
Stars: Five, a cracking paced read, full of wonderful fiction that felt incredibly real.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Unearthed, A Death Seeker Novel, Cecy Robson
genre: General Fiction (Adult), Sci-fi and Fantasy
I love Cecy’s stories so was keen to read this but…I did find it confusing at times. Its got that “first novel in series” issue that often happens, where there’s so much to deliver, story, world building, type of character and what magics they have, that it can easily get confusing.
Everything here is so very different, for example Olivia is a pixie, but living among humans as so many of the Fae are, but undetected. She has magic that’s so far unknown but when it does come its kind of typical Olivia, she of the rainbow coloured hair has pink magic, deadly, dangerous magic, but pink.
I really liked Olivia’s spark, loved the humour in the book, the loyalty she inspires. I loved Jane, a fellow magic user, an Elder, but who communicates in somewhat different ways. Then there’s Ryker…swoon…who turns out to be more than just a heart throb top legal expert.
There’s a terrific cast overall, some much needed humour at times among all the death and destruction that lifted the tone just when I needed it. I had a hard time believing that all that devastation could go unnoticed by humans though, and it wasn’t really explained that well. A couple of times early in the book we get to hear what story has been put out, but later on when the destruction is massive, I didn’t find any explanations of how humans wouldn’t have noticed, or what they would have thought.
I did find the constant battles with the hell hounds a bit wearying, and too graphic for me. I know it wasn’t easy killing them, I know the deaths they caused weren’t pretty, but after the third time of reading just how they dismembered victims I got the picture, didn’t need a blow by blow account full of gore and detail every time. I ended up skipping those parts, and of course there lies the danger I may have skipped something that’s later a major part of the story.
I enjoyed this story but wasn’t riveted to it. I think its one I’ll come back to further on in the series when I understand more, and get much more from it. For now I just feel a bit overwhelmed by such complex events and characters. Its a three star now, but I suspect when I’m more into the series it’ll actually be a five star read. I’m just still a bit confused and bemused…
BTW thanks Cecy, no awful cliffhanger, my bête noire . This story ties up with indications for future books and that’s just how I like a book in a series to end.
Stars: Three, a story that’s complex, and I found a bit too packed with world setting, new events and characters. I feel when I understand more of this world I’d probably rate this a five but for now its a three.
Arc via Netgalley
Reveal, K. Bromberg, Wicked Ways book two
Genre: romance, general fiction (adult)
Confession time: I loved KB’s Driven trilogy, which I read years ago, and I’ve enjoyed several of her follow up novels, so when I saw she was the author of this book I dived in and hit request. Wasn’t til it was on my kindle I realised it was second part of a duet. Luckily book one was on KU so I borrowed that – loved it BTW – and went on to this.
What I love in a story is romance, but I want a novel that delivers more than just A meets B, and after a few struggles they live happily ever after. I want my characters to really get put through the mill and KB delivers all that in spades.
I loved Ryker, the type of guy you hate until you see beyond his surface, and when he meets Vaughn he’s hooked, though he doesn’t yet realise it. When we learn about his background its easy to see how that has influenced not just his career, but his whole way of living, and until he meets Vaughn he thinks he’s content. Now he’s seeing that he can have more – if he’s brave enough to try. Vaughn though, that girl has some real problems….
I adored Vaughn, been through so much with the loss of her sister, with the awful family situation they had, and now she’s determined to get custody of her niece Lucy, who has learning issues. Lucy is just adorable and loves Vaughn so much you just want things to work out for them, but life is stacked against them. Its hard already with Vaughn working two jobs to pay off the huge debts she ran up for her sisters medical care. Of course one of those jobs has to be kept quiet, hidden from social services, but that’s the one that’s bringing in the money.
Slowly the worlds she tries to keep apart start to collide, problems from her secret job start to create real issues to her custody application, and to her safety. She has secrets on all her clients, but some are bigger than others, and one in particular is bringing her into real danger. She can’t trust anyone, she thought she could trust Ryker but the events at the end of book one threw that into confusion, and left her distraught and feeling so alone.
This book is action packed, full of drama, of secrets, of issues that seem to come between her and Ryker, even though its clear they are totally in love ( and lust!!!) Can they make it through, will her adoption of Lucy work out or is it all doomed to fail?
I had anticipated a few events but there were some that really threw me out completely, and the action – bam, bam, bam, with scarcely a break before she gets hit with the next problem. I so felt for her, I don’t know what I’d have done in the same situation to determine what was the right for her, Lucy and Ryker, but I was so holding out for them.
Stars: Five, a cracking duet, full of scorching romance,and non-stop suspense
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Irish Princess, Her father’s only daughter. Her country’s only hope, Elizabeth Chadwick
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Sometimes I just want to immerse myself in times past, and Elizabeth Chadwick is one of my “go to” authors. She can make me feel as if I’m there with the characters, living life like an unseen part of the cast.
I know only what I’ve read in fiction of this period in UK history. I hated history at school, shame it wasn’t taught this way, I’d have got far more from it. Plus it tended to be prehistoric times or the Tudor period and there’s so much more to read than those two eras.
Its a tough time to be alive, wars are constantly being fought over land and titles, a new king often means they’re removed and given to a favourite or bargained away for the king’s benefit. Into that scene comes Aoife, born a daughter of an Irish King, the traditionally weaker sex when kings wanted sons. Aoife is strong and soon carves her own place into her fathers heart, and does what she can to shape her own destiny. Tough, when ladies were married off at men’s whims, money, position, for political expediency. Fortunately the husband Diamait wants for her is Richard de Claire. Richard is a strong ally to have. One Diamait needs, with the men and arms he controls being a valuable asset much needed after recent losses. If Diamait is to secure his ambitions he needs them, but he’s wily and puts all sorts of constraints on the marriage to ensure he gets what he wants.
Back in England Henry ll has been helping the family ( at a cost of course, nothing ever comes for free in this time), exiled after losing their lands. Henry admires Aoife, and that time spent together forges a bond between then. Henry’s a King and always conscious of that he works ceaselessly to bolster his strength, courting men and always with an eye as to what benefits him and his heritage. He plays a tricky game in Diamait’s plans for Aoife and Richard. There’s never any real rest, the threat of wars are constant, and security is fleeting. Aoife grows up seeing that first hand, and determines that she may be a woman and ultimately not in charge of her own destiny, but she also has her own skills and she works hard using them to secure whatever she can for the benefit of herself and her family.
I loved Aoife, a strong lady, intelligent and able to plan for her family, something much needed in these times when life can change daily, when one can be landed gentry one day and have nothing the next. She shows just how ridiculous this notion of men as the only ones capable of planning, organising etc, and we see just how much work she’s doing in her clever way, to get what she wants but in such a way as the giver doesn’t realise its not their own idea. Its a dangerous path, but Aoife is determined to protect her family, and fortunately in Richard she has a husband who values her brain. It takes a strong man to have a successful, happy marriage with a woman like Aoife, but they each value the others intelligence, and the love and respect between them is deep.
There are so many great characters here, so many battles, times when its all changed by another loss or win, and we can see just how hard life was, not just for those at the lower end, but for those who rule too. They have problems too, different to those of the common people but harsh non the less.
There are many surprises in this story, a look at a period in UK history which was red with blood from never ending battles. I really enjoyed reading about the characters – must admit I skimmed the battle details, I wanted to see the result and what happens after, not the actual battle. That’s a personal issue, and for others those battle scenes are important. Its interesting reading the author notes about the story v what actually happened, how closely she has stuck to known facts whilst weaving an enthralling story.
Close to the end I was very emotional, things happened that were heartbreaking, but for the times all too common.
I really enjoyed Aoife’s machinations, her sharp brain always planning for the “what if” scenario. I loved Richard, a man loyal to his wife when few were at those times. What he and Aoife had was special, and I think something Henry envied. He may have been King, with sons, with land, riches, whatever woman he wanted ( though Aoife cleverly avoided getting caught in that trap) but he didn’t have the love, the closeness, the respect Aoife and Richard had for each other.
Stars: Five, a fascinating read, bringing life and reality to a period of history I know only vaguely from stilted texts until now.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
His Secret Family, Ali Mercer
Genre:Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction..
Ah no, women’s fiction again….why do we insist on having this biased and outdated category? There’s no reason why men should read this book, it will appeal to anyone who likes a well written mystery.
Im not quite sure I can say I liked it, but I was certaily gripped to see what would happen to the characters. I felt so sad for Paula, an innocent victim, as were Ava and Ellie. The rest of the characters were a selfish group IMO. Jenny made an initial error and at least tried hard with her girls until she became involved with Mark, then she seemed to become a bit of a doormat. Mark was a real nasty, selfish character, his mother was awful and maybe had something to do with his character but he’s a grown man, and I felt his actions were incredibly selfish, he seemed to see everything only for how it acted or reflected on him.
Its a book full of sadness and tragedy, one that’s played out daily for so many folk, especially those with kids with issues. I did want to see what happened, it was slow starting but soon had me gripped by the unfolding events, and how they connected. It’s not a story I’d read a second time, though I’m glad I read it. At the end I felt the characters had come to some kind of resolution but there’s a lot of hard work ahead of them all to make up for events, the past can’t simply be rewritten.
Stars: Five, a book I’m glad I read, full of surprises, characters with flaws, situations that occur in everyday life, but not one I’d re-read.
ARC via netgalley and publishers
The Night You Left, Emma Curtis
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.
I was on the fence about this, I love books about missing people, makes me wonder what happened, why, what were they thinking etc but there were a few reviews that made it sound not my kind of read. Still, took the plunge and really enjoyed it.
Unusually for me the majority of the people in this were irredeemably awful, and usually I need to like the majority, though enjoy a few bad to the bone folk. The only one’s I liked ( apart from Lottie and Kai) were Nick and Grace.
The book flits from past to present, at varying times and occasionally I needed to backtrack to see just what time we were in. I felt for Nick as a teen, his parents even then were self obsessed. Taisie, typical kid in her actions and if any of the parenst had looked beyond what she wanted them to see they’d have put a stop to things. Fact is none of the parents were really bothered what the kids did so long as it didn’t interfere with their fun. Pretty rough, and of course had some terrible consequences, not just immediate but long term.
Where the story fell down for me was the timing, with everything from years back coming together over just a few days. there’s a saying that truth is stranger than fiction, so to a degree I can deal with what seems like just too much co-incidence but in this book there really was a bit more than I could believe in. Still, I wanted to see what happened to Nick, couldn’t believe he’d just walked out but that’s what it looked like and I wanted to know why, and if not, what had happened. Its actually something that happens very often in real life, people do just walk out, start another life, but I didn’t feel Nick would do that. He seemed to adore Grace and Lottie, and even when Grace began to find out the secrets he hid I still don’t feel he’d just walk out. As things come to a head more and more long held secrets come to light, bringing in some very real dangers.
Its a nicely paced story, letting things come to light slowly, and though I’d guessed some of the things that happened, there were others that came as a real surprise.
Stars: Four, a story that had me reading “just a bit more” needing to know what happened. I do feel some events stretched credulity too far and that’s what stopped the five rating.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Shadow Hunter, (Rosie O’Grady’s Paranormal Bar and Grill 1), B.R.Kingsolver
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy
Well, I’m always looking for fantasy reads I’ll enjoy, there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, on KU so its hard to fine a gem among the dross. There are good books that simply suit different readers, different tastes, and then there are books that TBH should never see the light of day. Some people seem to think throw a few words together, cull bits from bestsellers with minimal changes and a fortune awaits. It doesn’t, but the morass of these stories do make it hard to find ones that are worth reading sometimes.
Anyway, Shadow Hunter proved to be one of those Gems, characters that feel real ( as much as they can in a fantasy setting), a major plot that will run through future story arcs, and lots of smaller plots. First books in series have it hard, deliver a story to keep reader engaged while setting out new characters and world building. Shadow
Hunter does that really well, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and promptly borrowed book two in KU.
The story is believable and has potential to stay that way through future books. I was hooked on it after the first few pages, and was keen to see just where it would take us. We’re learning more about Erin, she’s strange in some ways, a magical assaisin but incredibly naive when it comes to everyday life. She’s been brought up simply typ be a killer for the Illuminati, and at that time believes she’s working – and killing – for the greater good, but very quickly in this book she – and we- learn its all been a lie. As part of her training she’s bale to mix with the escelons of socierty so put her in designer clothes and heels, take her to top restaurants and opera houses and she copes fine, but ordering a pizza, making friends, coping with everyday life and she’s having to learn as she goes, watching others to see how they do it.
I really enjoyed meeting the main characters that seem set to lead future stories, and there’s a couple of faintly possible romantic prospects – they may come to nothing, though I’m hoping something with gel for Erin. I do love a romance within a story. Its a treat though to find a story where romance doesn’t dominate, in fact its not in this book more than a couple of hints, and when the supernatural fiction genre seems dominated by stories that are simply dross romances, but with supernatural creatures and no decent world building I was so happy to finally find this gem of a read. It makes trawling through endless samples of dull novels worth it.
Stars: Four and a half, not quite the magic five for me but a great read, and once I finish this series I’ll be looking at others BB Kingsolver has written.
Novel via KU
The Perfect Wife, JP Delaney
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
This was outside my usual comfort zone, but so intriguing. I found it scarily disturbing, the way IT is growing in leaps and bounds its not quite outside the realms of possibility at some future date. Well, the IT side anyway, though the physical reality of creating something so lifelike isn’t so close, intelligent IT is, with developers and programmers getting ever closer to machines that can think ahead of simple programming and learn responses.
The thriller side of it too, is Tim the adoring husband he appears to be, recreating his much loved wife, or are the things Abbie uncovers signals that perhaps theirs wasn’t the wonderful marriage everyone seems to think they had. And how did she actually die? Is Tim not telling her to save her the trauma as he says ,or was there more to the story.
I love this kind of thriller where there’s lots to work out, where each side of the story seemed plausible. What I didn’t like though was that neither Tim not Abbie were particularly likable people. It was interesting reading about Danny and the therapies they tried, but other than to perhaps add a side of kindness to Abbie and provide a vehicle for the events at the end I’m not really sure why it was such a strong part of the novel. It did feel very real, I enjoyed seeing Danny and the issues he faced. Given the authors knowledge of this disability, I feel the problems and various therapies promoted were close to what happens in the real world. What works for some doesn’t for others and its finding the one that makes each person more comfortable with the world around them that is so difficult. I do believe strongly in the ethic that disabilities are not something to be “cured”, that its not a case of making people more “normal” but one of helping them fit in, be comfortable and cope with the world around them.
The ending puzzled me. I’ve gone back and reread it but TBH I’m still not really sure what happened, and that’s why I’ve dropped a star. Its a book I really enjoyed but not one I’d read again.
Stars: Four, An interesting read but ultimately a very disquieting book when thinking of the way technology is advancing, a route I hope it never goes.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers