Rough Magic, Riding the world’s wildest horse race, Lara Prior-Palmer
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
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
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
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 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!
Relentless, Vampires in America, A Cyn and Raphael Novella Book 11.5, D.B. Reynolds
Genre: sci-fi and fantasy, Romance
I’ve been following this series since the start, and where some get stale after a while this one keeps fresh and exciting.
The main stories about individual characters mainly focus on romance, within a tight and suspenseful story, building on the overall theme for the series. these novellas tend to either show insights into characters, give us a bit of a lighter adventure with them, or push the ever present threat from others forward. this one focuses on the threat from Europe and the backlash from killing Mathilde.
I don’t often read novellas, except when like this one they are part of an existing series, this way the reader knows the characters, there’s no backstory needed so the words are solely focused on delivering an new adventure.
While the past main books have focused on America, there’s been a threat from Europe from early on. America being vast compared to Europe, and the European vampires feeling pressed for space, they’ve been looking at American with envy, and a few have planned inroads into the territory.
Raphael saw that coming a long way back, and thus began his unheard of in Vampire world collaborations with neighbours. He saw that to protect themselves they needed strong Lords holding each area, and that if they were allies that would protect them better. He began working towards that, encouraging some of his Children, and other vampires he knew were strong enough to take over weaker areas.
He’s not a power hungry guy, he is a power in his own right, but uses that to protect his people, and where he’d be happy left to his own area the threats from weaker lords, and posed by Europe have determined that he take action. Of course that hasn’t gone unnoticed, or without jealous and offended eyes. He’s always going to attract envy, always going to be under threat and he feels the best defence is to take the action to the detractors.
That leads us to this book, where we meet Quinn, catch up with some of the other Lords, with Raphael and Cyn of course, and his key team. Its another exciting adventure, packed into a short but solid novel and I’m hoping it means we get a Quinn story next 😉
Stars: five, short but packed read, and a great addition to the overall story arc.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
The Trouble with Twelfth Grave, Darynda Jones
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
If you haven’t begun this series yet then get book one now! Its an amazing story, and from the first book Charley’s world has so changed. Yet the original key characters are still all there, having grown along with Charley.
Its a story that’s gripping, at times graphic but never gory, searingly sensual but never overly sexual, its one of those rare books where what isn’t written is as important as what is.
The murders stack up yet are a tiny part of the story, the steam between Charley and Reyes is off-the-page erotic, always memorable ( shower scene back in the early books – I bet all readers member that!!) and yet is only ever a fraction of the story.
Once more Charley’s in the thick of murder, mayhem, trying to put things right in a bumbling, almost chaotic way but she’s got such heart, such intelligence.
You love her, can’t help it, she’s never got a nasty side, whatever she’s facing. This time its literally end-of-the-world stuff after Reyes went in the God Glass and his other parts, the more unpleasant side of him came out.
I was gutted at that ending, have been waiting so eagerly for this book, and dammit, Darynda has done it again, given us another nail biting ending.
I can’t even begin to summarise what I love about this story, its much the same vein as the others, typical Charley snark, succinct and special humour ( love the names of Cookie’s girls BTW), plots and murders that seem totally disconnected and yet slowly gel together.
Charley is just so special, she Cares, so much about others, her family, her freinds, and just humanity in general. She’s come a long way since she discovered just who she is, and yet remains that slightly chaotic loving character we love.
The secondary characters are huge in their own right, and yet still supporting to the story of Charley and Reyes.
Reyes – well, even though he’s not quite Reyes as we know he’s still smouderingly sexy….but is he the killer? Would he really do the things everyone seems to think he has?
Charley can’t believe it and yet she needs to get Her Reyes back ASAP before Michael and the gang descend.
The secondary characters are huge in their own right, and yet still supporting to the story of Charley and Reyes, and most of them are here too. Cookie, oh how I love her, and Amber. Ubie, Charley’s lovely uncle, always so steadfast, always so supportive. Beep, fleeting appearance but so welcome. What a nightmare, to have to give up your child for her own safety…
Then there’s the “other” crew, Garret, human but more than that, Pari, also human with some great talents, but who can see Charley’s light. Angel – great investigator who’s a kid in body but been dead for so long he feels older, and who has a great line in flirting, Artemis – guard dog extrodinaire…oh I love that dog. Her existence is typical of the way key characters come into being, I remember she was way back in the early books, belonged to the biker gang that owned the asylum where Rocket, Blue and Strawberry reside.
That’s just a smattering of the cast that holds up these stories, building and extending them, bringing in threads from way back to tie up with current ones, and leading to what’s looking to be a Grande Finale. Part of me wants that Now, part wants the stories to go on forever….
I’ve had this one on my kindle for a week or so, promising myself I could read it as a reward when i’d finished a couple that I thought I’d like but which proved dull, boringly so, and I needed an incentive. Did that Sunday so had a glorious few hours in Charley’s wonderful world yesterday.
I’m going to need a couple of free weeks when this finally comes to an end so I can do a wonderful back-to-back reading fest of the whole series.
Stars: five – well, five hundred wouldn’t be enough. If you’re hooked on Charley’s world then this book is a must.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
Something Like Magic, Max C. Payne
Genre: Romance, LGBTQIA
Hmnn…I liked the sound of this, and found it was a book that was OK but a bit underwhelming for me.
I like the characters potentially, but never really felt that “sense” of them, that I knew them, what they wanted, how they’d act and I didn’t really feel a romance developing, more of an incredible sexual lust…
Then’s there’s the magic elements, and for me it didn’t work. I wanted to know more about the two men but that’s not revealed until the very end, so not knowing what – if anything – they could do when things go wrong and some alternate powers are needed to save the day, I couldn’t guess at what they’d do.
I don’t like magic quick fixes that are unknown, swooping in to save the day.
I needed to know more about Ori’s magic, what it can do and why, because when it was used it almost seemed to be despite him not from anything he actually organised.
I felt we got more of the clothing descriptions than of the story, and though I enjoyed that – I love minutiae of daily life in stories – I could have done with less of that and more of the story if the word count was limited to a certain number.
Its potentially a good series for me – if it is to be a series – but some work would need doing on the characters and magic side before I could be persuaded to read more.
Stars:2.5/3 A potentially good story line , but not for me the way it is now
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
Merry Christmas to you all, and thanks for being part of this blog in 2016 – lets hope 2017 is a happy, healthy and wealthy new year for everyone.
May all your dreams come true.
The Jeweller’s Wife, Judith Lennox
Genre: general fiction
My first Judith Lennox read, so I wasn’t sure what style she’d have, if I’d like it and for a while I feared it would be one I didn’t.
It seemed very slow to start, I was hooked by the decisive way Henry swept Juliet into his sphere, out of Cairo and into Marsh Court, but once they were there though and we met the rest of the Winterton family and Henry’s friend Gillis, it seemed to become a bit bogged down for me.
I felt that it was a bit full of yet more people who seemed to not add much to the story, just to be there as family members.
Gradually though I was drawn in, the little cracks in what seemed like perfection bled through, the people became more real to me as they took on more solid form and revealed their personalities.
I really didn’t like Henry, admired him when he first met Juliet, but once back in England I saw what a cold, bullying man he was. Yet he had good friends, was greatly admired by people, had a sound reputation and seemed to almost be two different people at times. I so felt for Juliet left in the cold and austere Marsh Court during the war, struggling to keep things going, working so hard as most women did to hold home and family together. When Henry returned as in many families it was to a change, from the home they’d left, to children grown from babies, to wives that had become more independent thinking.
You can see how he slowly draws away from Juliet, and it made me wonder just why he ever married her. Did she fill a need for a wife? Was he that entranced with her? If so why did the gloss wear off, or would he have been that sort of man anyway?
I felt for poor little Piers too, always striving for his father’s approval and never quite getting it.
I love the closeness of the cousins, the family days they all had at Marsh Court, and then Gillis comes into the scene just when Juliet is feeling really neglected – and in fact is being neglected. Left home like a trinket and polished up and brought out when the occasion needed it – that’s how I felt Henry had come to regard her, as if she should just take everything and be grateful, rescued as she was by him. Who knows how her life would have gone if they hadn’t met?
Then the story deepens, Gillis holds more secrets that as a rising politician he wants kept hidden, Henry gets more dictatorial, his brother dies suddenly and everything become all change once more.
Then we move forward to when the cousins are older and they take over much of the story.
I think my favourite is Aiden, he really got lumbered with things, taken away from his first love of art to be plunged into the world of business, and it just wasn’t right for him. In families like that though its all about Duty. The friction between him and Piers gets worse and worse, its always been there but they were friends, it was just off the side of friendly rivalry, but it becomes a deep, bitter rift with Piers’ actions.
Gillis’ secrets come back to haunt the family, and the story moves in a kind of full circle, with a little drama but more just a story of a family growing when the world and its ways were changing.
I loved Joe, loved his farm and family, his quiet assuredness, and in comparison to the Grand Marsh Hall his farm seemed to adapt far better to all the changes. I loved when he talked about how many years it had been in the family, since Stuart times, and when Juliet thinks that makes the Wintertons and Marsh Hall seem like Parvenus…
Its a wonderful saga of a read, one to be savoured, and if like me you find the start slow, do persevere because it’d be a shame to miss this treat of a read.
Its very based around families and people rather than just Juliet and Henry,m as I’d expected. Beautiful ending too 😉 …
Stars: four and a half, that slow start almost made me stop this book, but that would have been a real loss.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher