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Chasing the Wild Sparks, Ren Alexander

Chasing the Wild Sparks by [Ren Alexander]

Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction

* Sigh….women’s fiction…this is the 20th century, surely we’re beyond this kind of thing. Men write romance, men read romance, there’s no need for this category!

I was quite irritated as I got to middle of book and it became obvious this wasn’t a stand alone read. Please authors, tell us that upfront, its really irritating to get partway through a story and find out that way. At least with this the next four books are published. Yes, that’s right, this is book one of five. I’m fine with that if its known upfront, in fact I like these longer reads, they let the story and characters be fully explored.
So, Finn doesn’t want to marry but loves Hadley.
Hadley wants to marry and have a family. Tough one. Its clear they both adore each other and are deeply in love, but that’s two very opposite points, one is going to get upset. If Finn gives in will he resent Hadley later, if she accepts what Finn wants will she resent the lack of children later? I feel for them both, there isn’t an easy answer.
I understood Hadley’s distress at appearing to be hidden by Finn, he has reasons but doesn’t explain to her, and she’s beginning to feel like a dirty secret.
I didn’t like Hadley’s friends, Morgan seemed pushy while Rod….well, he’s crude and not funny IMO, and when he and Morgan are together its like listening to toddlers bicker, apart from the language being stronger. They really annoyed me.
I found the book slow to start, the story dragged, but now knowing there are four more books to fill I can see why. It feels like the story has been stretched to fit the size needed rather than the story itself dictating the length. Shorter and tighter would have suited me better. Still, I can see for many readers this is perfect as it is.
I’m undecided if I want to continue. If it was on KU I would…but I’m not sure that I’m intrigued enough to buy the next four books. I might try book tow and see from there, I would like to know what happens, how they resolve this dilemma but do I want it enough to buy four books? Can I stand reading more about Morgan and Rod. The bickering that for me isn’t funny, the language from Rod which is crude and juvenile, through more books? Its a shame that for me their issues overrode the story between Hadley and Finn, and that’s the one I really want to follow.

Stars: Three, a story I have mixed feelings over.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

An Enchantment of Ravens, Margaret Rogerson

An Enchantment of Ravens by [Margaret Rogerson]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

I have a real weakness for books set in the Fae world. I spent my Xmas book tokens on fairy stories when I was about ten. Mum said then I was too old for all that, but the magic of a Fae setting has never left me, I still adore those stories. Sorry Mum 😉
So, even with free review books, even with KU I still buy the odd book, and I splashed out £5.99 on this one. Its one I loved, I know I’ll reread, so its well worth it to me.

Its a fascinating read, the Fae are beings to respect, to be afraid of. They may look a little like humans, with their glamour covering their true appearance, but their nature is very, very much darker, very different. Some of them see humans as mere playthings, they talk about fifty, a hundred years back as if it was last week.
True to many versions of Fae Margaret’s Fae cannot use Craft, they cannot create, and like anyone, what they can’t do, can’t have they crave. That keeps Isobel in work, they love her portraits, and in payment she bargains for protections and other things her family need.

Even though she’s only seventeen Isobel feels much older. She has a maturity beyond her years. This is one of those books that could be aimed at YA market, but which appeals to readers like me, far beyond that demographic. Well written books cross boundaries, IMO, to have universal appeal.
I loved Isobel, her aunt, and of course her two “sisters” March and May. Theirs is a story that illustrates the caprice of the Fae….

There’s a good build up, letting the reader understand the world, while still keeping interest in whats happening. I loved reading about how they managed daily life, how the village of Whimsy was set away from the World Beyond. We saw glimpses of other Fae as they came to buy craft, and of course see how carefully the villagers treat them. Isobel is content, as much as she can be, with her lot in life until it all gets turned upside down when her latest sitter, Rook, takes her back to his estate, the Autumn Lands in a fit of anger. That starts a journey where their lives are under constant threat, where they have to take care in every movement, and where they come to rely on each other to survive, and gradually trust and then love each other. Along the way I fell a bit in love with Rook too…That love between them brings its own dangers though, and there are some very real trials if they want a happy ending, or even if they just want to stay alive.
As the story reaches its conclusion there are many twists and turns, and some surprises I didn’t see coming.
I really enjoyed this story, great characters, interesting plots and just enough of the day to day stuff to be absorbing and not boring.

Stars: Five, a great read. A story that totally engrossed me, and in the midst of Covid19 I’ve found my usual escape in books very difficult. This story did it, took me away from today’s issues and stress into another world for a couple of hours.

Daisy’s Christmas Gift Shop

Daisy’s Christmas Gift Shop

Daisy's Christmas Gift Shop by [Pearl, Hannah]

Genre: General Fiction ( Adult), Romance

I loved the characters here, geeky Ben, who seems bit of a strange guy in a way, he’s got some strange quirks in how he relates to people and social events and yet with computers hes a genius. He reminded me a bit of someone on the Autism/Asperger spectrum with his single minded focus on problem solving, his OCD tidiness and dislike of loud noise/arguing. It was good to see someone like that in a novel, to show that people are more than their disability, whether mentally of physically and have value to society. I understood his frustration at the way Eli and his family were overprotective, even as I understood their need to look after him. Its all done from Love but doesn’t stop it being frustrating.
Daisy was wonderful and her shop adorable. I’d love to have a place like that. Her friend Lily was great too and her shop – well, it made me smile so much and the teddies….especially the one that gets involved in the adventure! Loved it. Of course there’s Eli too, Daisy’s long time love, even though it came to nothing. He’s a goregueos guy, but I felt I needed to understand more why he felt the way he did about love, why he clearly feels strongly for Daisy yet has spent years chasing after every other woman. Cody, she came in later in the book bur was another terrific character. There’s one person I did not like, and an action of Ben’s that just didn’t really feel right to me, some was due to just how he is, but part felt just wrong. Still, I’m sure its perfect for others of course, everyone likes different stories.
That’s the issue I had though, I loved the characters, loved the, they were so well drawn, I felt they had so much to give and yet the story just didn’t do them justice for me. I felt it was a long chase of and about nothing, just drawn out and a few comedic, almost slapstick elements thrown in. It just didn’t feel real, seem genuine, and that’s an issue for me. The ending happened so suddenly that even though it was the result I wanted, I felt it was there and gone, far too quick.

Stars: Three, an easy read, wonderful characters but the storyline fell a bit flat for me.

Arc via publishers

Free ebook. Michael’s story.

I’ve not read this book, not my kind of read, but for fantasy/sci-fy/gamers its worth a look. Its free as an ebook, all that’s asked is you consider a donation to Michael’s charity.
https://www.fantasticbooksstore.com/michaels-story.html?fbclid=IwAR0rCZFUbbkeVQ2FURpAmp074KS0kJcMkJHSTnRQkHg9AQhhDyMTxMdtSfQ

“Michael’s story” was written for Michael Holyland, a 15 year old Elite Dangerous player who died on 22nd May 2019. It was created in 3 days from start to finish, by the combined talents of Frontier Developments and the Elite Dangerous player community.

Best selling novelist Drew Wagar wrote the story, Antony Taylor created the amazing cover, Anthony Hunt created the iconic Eagle glyph, Commander Cryptic Echo, Commander Orange Phoenix, their respective teams and numerous Elite: Dangerous players contributed to the project by creating materials that are still being used to promote this touching tribute to a brave and inspirational Commander.

An audiobook version was also produced as by the end his treatment was affecting Michael’s ability to see. This was produced using the magnificent soundscape of Elite: Dangerous by Frontier Developments and features stunning performances by Amelia Tyler, Richard Reed and Jay Britton. It was edited by Joe Hogan and produced by Zac Antonaci. It is available for free on Drew’s website here.

This story would not exist without Michael’s Uncle Matt Westhorpe reaching out over Twitter to help bring this project together. Thank you Matt, you are the best Uncle a boy could ask for.

Please enjoy this free ebook and consider making a donation to Michael’s Cancer Research UK page.

Thank you.

1

Rough Magic, Riding the world’s wildest horse race, Lara Prior-Palmer

Rough Magic, Riding the world’s wildest horse race, Lara Prior-Palmer

Rough Magic: Riding the world’s wildest horse race by [Prior-Palmer, Lara]

Genre: Biography and memoirs.

I so wanted to love this book, I’d adore to have taken part in a ride like that. To the astonishment of my totally non horsey family I grew up with an adoration for all things equine as soon as I could walk.
It took me until I was over 30 to have my own horse but there is a real magic between a horse and rider when both are willing, a real feeling of oneness, rightness. This kind of race takes that and pulls it to its furthermost.

Sadly my hopes for the book fell flat. I felt Lara treated it as a bit of a joke really, something to pass the time, and that makes a mockery of all those who trained, who organised, did the hard slog of setting it up.
She enters on a whim, doesn’t train, hasn’t time to train now having entered at the very last minute. Doesn’t have the money but gets the entrance fee halved, drums up some sponsors, and yet still doesn’t treat it with the respect it deserves. She doesn’t take the required jabs, doesn’t pack spare clothes, ignores all the things race advisers suggest taking, gets bored while waiting pre-race for things to set up, so has fun merrily taking all her antibiotics, anti sickness, painkillers etc out of the packets and decanting into a plastic bag. Then takes them ad hoc on the journey hoping for miracles….she tells us proudly several times about this – its why it sticks in my mind. It feels at times as if she’s an adult, playing at being a child pretending to be adult…
She lets go of one of the horses while tacking up, takes off head collar before bridling allowing it to charge off. Then waits for one of the race guys to fetch it, with an air of “oh dear, how did that happen? Never mind” It’s basic stuff for any rider, strange horse, unenclosed area you NEVER let the animal lose, simply looping the collar around the horse neck would have sufficed but no, Lara knows better.
It wasn’t a problem but could have been, these are horses borrowed ( probably for a decentish fee but…) from the locals, who need them for their existence in that harsh place. She’s there a couple of weeks, they live there, need their animals in good health to survive. If the horse damaged itself they can’t simply call up local vet and have it transported to a nice modern surgery for treatment. Its bullet time. The loan of horses needs respect.

I did enjoy the bits about the race, the horses of course, the people that live there, the incredible scenery, but for me Lara herself came over as an indulged child rather than the gutsy young lady I expected.
What others love about the writing style too just didn’t resonate with me, they enjoyed her “verbal acuity” – for me it read more like self indulgent ramblings apropos of nothing. I love to read about people’s history, families, the personal touch but Lara’s came out in such a strange way I felt they were all really strange folk, and I’m sure that’s not what they are or what she intended.

I admire her hugely for doing the race, but found her lack of planning, lack of respect for the race, for the horses, for all the hard work others have done to let her have this week or so of racing really difficult to let go. I just couldn’t get past the fact that it felt as if she treated it all as a bit of a joke really. Others can get past the things that grated on me and adored the book for what it is, a retelling of an amazing race from one of the participants, so you may feel like them and love this novel. I didn’t.
I enjoyed parts of the story, wanted to give her five stars just for taking part, and yet even that achievement gets tarnished for me by her way of treating the whole things so casually.
She’s not sure even as she starts, that she actually wants to win, mulls over what happens if she just gives up on day one…and that non commitment feels like a slap in the face to all those who’ve worked so hard.
I guess its like someone talking their way into a place in the UK Grand National at last minute, getting one of the best horses to ride, but not bothering with training, protective clothing or learning the course route, and then just as race is starting announcing to news media they’re not really sure if they’ll try to win, maybe a fall at the first might be whats best, maybe they’ll just try to finish, or get half way or….See? It denigrates all those who have put in the work to me.
That she finally won feels like good luck more than actually hard work, and that doesn’t feel right in a race of such epic uniqueness.

Stars: Two and a half. Others love it, what I didn’t like they clearly got past, so may you. Each to their own. Its not a bad book, just one that wasn’t for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Fight or Flight, Samantha Young, only 99p today only on Amazon.UK.

Fight or Flight by [Young, Samantha]

I’ve just had an email from Samantha Young to say for today only this book is 99p instead of £5.99, so if you’re an SY fan and you don’t have this book grab it now! It wasn’t my favourite story of hers but still a good read, and of course reading is subjective and others love it.

The universe is conspiring against Ava Breevort. She’s flying home to Boston for the saddest of reasons when her emotional cloud becomes a real one – of volcanic ash. Stranded, her last ditch attempt to salvage the trip is thwarted by an arrogant Scotsman, who steals a first class seat out from under her. Then over the course of their journey home, their antagonism somehow lands them in bed for the steamiest layover Ava’s ever had. And that’s all it is – jet-lag induced insanity – until Caleb, AKA Mr Arrogant Himself, shows up on her doorstep.

Pure chance has landed Caleb in Boston, but he’s determined to enjoy himself – and Ava – while he’s there. Ava gives in because a) her heart is safe since she barely likes Caleb, b) his existence in her life is temporary and c) it’s by a mile high club the best sex of her life. When his stay in Boston becomes permanent, Ava must decide whether to fight her feelings for him or give into them. And even if she does decide to risk her heart on Caleb, there is no guarantee her stubborn Scot will want to risk his heart on her . . .

.

A Village Affair, Julie Houston

A Village Affair, Julie Houston

A Village Affair: Perfect for fans of Katie Fforde and Gervaise Phinn by [Houston, Julie]

Genre:, Romance

I loved Julie’s earlier books, and we get sneak updates into some of those characters in this new story, but if you haven’t read them its not a problem, each book stands alone and can be enjoyed on its own.

Poor Cassie, what a denouement, what a way to find out your husband and best friend have been deceiving her, but it was wonderful to read. I could just imagine the frisson of shock rippling through the attendees, all dressed in their finery, getting a treat in gossip that will enthrall them for days.
Of course its happens right before Cassie starts her new job, and then that suddenly gets upgraded too. And what about her kids, just teens, how is she to tell them. As almost always happen the woman gets left with sorting the fallout 😦

Its a fabulous read, I really think Julie’s writing gets better (for me ) with each new book. This one has the perfect mix of heavy, intense drama and lighter moments. Some of the things the kids say – I used to help at a local primary school and kids really do tell teachers and helpers everything, and of course the parents sometimes need handling with kid gloves, convinced Their kids do no wrong its All Them Others…..The staff too were a great mix, and I really liked the cleaner, especially when she tells Cassie she’s studying English and Cassie replies in an unintentionally patronising way, and gets told said cleaner has a degree in astro-physics in her home country, and its Only the English language she needs help with….I think we can all be guilty of making mistakes like that, having been both a cleaner and cleaning manager in the past myself, I know how others can see them as “just” the cleaner, and ignore that jobs like that are still very important. Someone is needed to do them. Classes can be joined if a teacher is away, but if the cleaner is away and there’s no-one to clean the loos…..that’s when schools get closed. Surprisingly important job cleaning 😉

I loved the mix of Cassie’s personal life, the effect on the kids, her friends, Mark’s family ( a nice battenburg – definitely the answer to infidelity…) and their joint friends. Its difficult when couples split, often the lose friends too just when they need them and we see how hard it is for some of Cassie’s friends to deal with.
She’s got a wonderful family, steadfast granddad Norman, of Norman’s Meadow, a slightly batty but very intense mum, goth daughter and studious son Tom, who has secrets of his own. Oh I so felt for him, a real Rock and Hard Place scenario.

Somehow with the help of friends and family Cassie pulls through, and becomes stronger, more her own person. Dealing with the threat of a huge housing development which she and others feel would ruin the village she’s fighting hard against it. The developer though and his son, Xavier, bring out more issues for Cassie to deal with and its a deliciously complicated tangle of events and emotions. Of course I’m a romance reader, and books with some element of romance work best for me and I wasn’t disappointed here, I loved that part.

Reaching the end reminded me so much of a song my kids loved when they were pre-teens (and of course really didn’t know what it was all about!) “Shame and Scandal”, it really was like reading a book version of the story, and probably something that plays out more often than we imagine.

Stars: Five, a perfect escapist read, with both drama and romance, and lighter parts to lift the whole feel of the novel.

ARC supplied by netgalley and publishers

The Rufus Spy, A medieval mystical mystery, Alys Clare

The Rufus Spy, A medieval mystical mystery, Alys Clare

Rufus Spy, The: A medieval mystical mystery (An Aelf Fen Medieval Mystery) by [Clare, Alys]

Edit: I wrote my review some time back, just noticed kindle price. Over £12 for an eBook? My experience is that prices often come down after a couple of moths so though it was a great read, I’d wait a bit before buying. 

 

Genre:  Historical fiction

I’m an occasional historical fiction reader, and this novel appealed to me from the description.
I didn’t realise it was so far into an established series though, but the book is so contained that it was easy to follow the story despite not reading the other books.
I have to be honest here – I thought this was part of another series where I’d read many of the earlier books several years back. And – its not…though both involve the same early medieval time period, a single, independent female healer, and set in the Fens in the UK ( I know the area living in the next county)
The other series is Mistress of the Art of Death, Ariana Franklin and if you like that you’ll love this.

Its an excellent read, felt very real and I enjoyed the feeling of living back in historical times.
I felt I was there with Lassair, and she has some heavy events to content with in this book. I loved Jack, understood his frustration with his sheriff boss, a crooked man, out for himself not justice. Something not uncommon in that time sadly…
I’d like to read earlier books and see where Lassair became involved with him, and earlier with Rollo. I really didn’t like Rollo, found him quite selfish but had I read earlier books maybe I’d have liked him more – who knows?

I loved the slant of magic introduced, it’s very subdued but comes up at appropriate times, and was a fascinating addition that allowed the story to go further than it would otherwise, while still retaining credibility.
There’s something about those old beliefs in magic that appeals to me, and I have no trouble believing when its placed as it is here.

Lassair has a number of changes to her life here, a troubled and dangerous journey to undertake, and I get the sense her life is taking a big change.
The story kept me reading, interested to see what would happen, who was behind the murders, whether they were connected and if so how? I was wrong – actually I love being wrong, love a book that’s not a predictable read.
I was sad when a certain event happened, didn’t expect that and very unhappy for certain people at the ending. I’m hoping the next book brings a positive change.

I haven’t read any other of Alys Clare’s novels but I’d certainly like to, she can write exactly they type of story I want to read. One that feels real, is true to the time period and has me guessing who is behind events and why…

Stars: five, a great read, felt very real and I look forward to the next book.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Silva, Siren’s wave sequel. J.A.Hazel

 Silva, siren’s Wave is free for three days, 2,3,4 Dec.   Original review here

Two, three, four!

Rock star romance novel, Silva, is free on those exact days in December. That’s practically… now!!

Click the pic and start reading this very second.

P.S. book 1, Siren’s Wave, is currently $0.99!

Silva: End of a Rock and Roll Love Story (Indie Rock Star Book 2) by [Hazel, J.A.]

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