The Binding, Bridget Collins

The Binding, Bridget Collins

Genre: General fiction (Adult)

A really unusual story, its hard to class it but it feels like its set back in time but where the magic of Binding – removing peoples memories and putting them in a book– is real. Of course while alive those memories aren’t supposed to be sold, but they are the only kind of stories around, and there are always unscrupulous folk….

I did find it difficult re pacing at the start. I felt like I was fully engrossed in Emmet’s present and the issues he’d been through when I’m taken to his past, where he meets Lucian. And that was heartbreaking for all parties.

Its a read full of what if’s – what would I do in the same situation, and it shows that the old adage of be careful what you wish for is something to be carefully considered.
I loved the characters, the descriptions of everyday life, the horrors of those who abuse the system, from people covering up or forgetting their own bad behaviour, to those poor folk who had nothing left to sell, were so poor they parted with their memories, each leaving its own impact on them. Of course things like that weren’t supposed to happen, ostensibly people had to consent but there are ways around that and the more money and position orientated Binders were ready to take full advantage.
It did feel a little disconnected at times, as though I’d missed some essential parts, but that didn’t affect the overall story, and the gentle, unfolding romance was beautiful. If this magic was real, yes, I could see all the things in the novel happening all too easily. Its not a HEA story, there’s a conclusion of sorts, but its very much a possible HFN, and maybe the magic HEA, though in that time and clime I think its unlikely.
Would I reread this? Possibly, and I’d certainly read more from this author.

Stars: Four, a really unusual and entrancing story but the pacing was a little off for me, and I would have liked a bit more of an ending.

ARC via Netgalley and publishers

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Waiting for You, Indigo: Book 2, Kate McBrien

Waiting for You, Indigo: Book 2, Kate McBrien

Waiting for You (Indigo Book 2) by [McBrien, Kate]

Genre: romance

Well, at the end of book one Justin and Lucy were apart, the fame/media aspect scaring Lucy. Its one of those things that’s so hard, if she wants to be with Justin she has to accept that the fame and publicity are part of the package. Even if he gave up his music, he’d still be hounded by media for a significant time – and anyway, its part of him, part of the man she loves.
He understands her fears, blames himself for the awful events that separated him even though they aren’t really his fault and were done without his permission or knowledge. He’s left it up to Lucy to contact him, says he’ll be waiting.

Her parents though, they really don’t like him, and are determined to push Edward in her way. He’s got himself highly placed at her work too, so she’s really no way of escaping him. He is such a horrible sleaze and in this book we see more of that. I loved it, someone appearing so genuine, caring, respected outwardly, and yet behind the scenes, in the pursuit of what he wants he’s a horrible, manipulative bar- stard. That’s reality – we often see friends and family of people who’ve committed some awful crime saying it can’t be true, the person simply wouldn’t do that. But they can and do, manipulators are expert at presenting one face to the world while doing the opposite.
He arranges for Lucy to travel to London, with him of course, to deliver the Cross to its new buyer. As usual he’s moving events to suit his purpose but Justin is in London too, and Lucy is thinking its a chance, fate maybe, to reconnect. Once more though Justin’s fame comes between them with yet more horrific allegations against him. Its a time that’s testing Lucy to the fullest, and she needs to decide, trust her heart, her instincts or believe the media and of course the person behind things. I really wanted to shake her a couple of times, shout at her “c’mon Lucy, give the guy a break, he loves you, you love him” but she was so cautious.

I’ve seen criticism about the attack, that it wasn’t reported. In reality something like over 80% of attacks go unreported and given that only a small percent of those that are reported lead to conviction, its almost understandable why some women choose not to put themselves through the trauma of reporting and all it brings. I don’t agree with it, that’s what lets predators continue, but it’s reality and I can see why it went unreported.
In the same way the false allegations against Justin, that happens too, folk wanting revenge, wanting to cause harm, just making allegations for malicious purposes or attention. Sadly, things like that lead to the non reporting data, because people are afraid they won’t be believed.

The connection to the past, the supernatural element is very muted, only appears on a peripheral basis, it’s clear how events are linked re Justin and Lucy, but I’m not entirely sure if Edward is who I think he was, or if there’s some kind of turnabout coming….

Its another great installment, though I did get a bit cross at Lucy’s dithering. I adore Justin and none of what happened was his fault, sure he has a past, but he can’t change that, only change how he is in the future and Lucy needs to accept who is was, and who he is now. I did find it not quite as gripping to read as the first book, a bit slower paced, didn’t quite have me lost in the story the same way but its still a cracking read, especially from a new author.
Luckily I’ve book three on my kindle as an arc, but its out very soon, later this month, and the whole trilogy has been released within six months. I love that, hate waiting a year, eighteen months or more between episodes, its why when I’m buying I wait til story is complete before buying, so I can read all in one go, I find I enjoy the story best that way.

Stars: Four and a half, not quite as good as book one, the story lagged a little at times, but I really did like the reality of the attacks and how they were dealt with.

Arc via author and Netgally

A Place Without You, Jewel E. Ann

A Place Without You, Jewel E. Ann

A Place Without you by [Ann, Jewel E]

Genre: romance

well, my third book by Jewel, loved the first, enjoyed the second but wasn’t a re-reader for me so I was unsure of how I’d feel about this. The description though, the “forbidden” romance aspect all drew me in. An aside: school kids I understand the no relationships between tutors and pupils, but once they’re past 18, legally adults, why not?
So I started reading, absorbed by the story, the setting but Henna. Good Grief she annoyed me at times, real poor little rich girl syndrome. Its easy to be flouting rules when school won’t do anything because of your parents, its easy spending the day drug addled on pot when your parents let you, encourage you almost in the case of Juni, and she has the excuse of “pain”. She had been in a horrific accident which left physical and mental scars, but somehow to me that’s just become an excuse to while through the day high on gummies….
Fortunately underneath that Henna is a really like-able girl, thoughtful and talented. I’m not sure she’d have found success as an artist quite so easily though, I know from my own art and friends that its a very hard world to make a living from, not as easy as just meeting someone who’s instantly able to put your art in front of top buyers, but again maybe the name, the fame, the money all played a part. Weird isn’t it how those with money have others falling over themselves to give them opportunities to make more.

Her mum, Juni, annoyed me. She’s a parent, not a friend and to me Henna needed the discipline a mother brings to the relationship, not another friend. She can find them herself but you only get one mum. Juni means well but for me she wasn’t a great parent, and its Henna’s own nature that stopped her being a horrible spoiled rich girl.
Then there’s Bodhi….gorgeous guy, talented drummer, and they meet at a music festival. I loved that setting, the way they met though even then there were little things about Henna that irritated me, where she’s being all madame of mystery I just got annoyed at it, needless subterfuge, that came over as more of the “look at my connections”.
Then its back to school and ….oops, Bodhi is Mr Malone, school guidance counsellor. In the same way as you need to suspend belief to accept Henna and the art sales you need to just accept that talented drummer, fallen through drugs, drink and other circumstances is now a school counsellor….its unlikely in real life, he’s still under thirty, he’d need a degree and further study to get into that field and with a rehab stint on record it would be hard. Still, fiction, go with the flow. I can do that but TBH I do wish authors would inject a bit more realism into situations, not let characters just swan into top positions.
Bodhi is a lovely man, needs his job, but its Henna and he needs her too….the more we learn about him though the more we see what he can’t afford to risk, and it irritated me that Henna saw that but still pursued him. Why not wait a year? But then there’d be no story 😉 so I have my answer.

Towards the last third of the novel there’s some very serious stuff, more about Bodhi’s past, more about his fractured family, there are some hard choices to be made and plenty of heartbreak and angst. I was thinking “what would I do” and its a tough question, guilty feelings whichever way one decides. Sadly its a situation so many folk find themselves in. Life isn’t always easy.

There was lots of angst in this novel, and I adore that in a story, but Henna let it down for me, I found it so hard to actually respect her. She’s not horribly obnoxious or anything, just been brought up by very indulgent parents and has no real understanding of other people issues, what a lack of job, money, means to them. She’d undergone something pretty horrific a couple of years previously and I think her parents let her down in not getting her more help, in letting her waste her days on a high, popping gummies for pain instead of sorting it another way. That’s not a long term answer, but goes along with the parenting that left her this lack of understanding of others, and made her a bit selfish.
Perfect ending though, I love an epilogue that isn’t long, just fills in how things work down the line. Those few pages were exactly what I want.

Stars: Three and a half. There were parts I loved, parts I felt were stretching credibility a little too much, and then Henna herself, the way she was didn’t make her a great lead for me. As always though she and the story are perfect for others and that’s OK, we all enjoy different things.

Arc via author and social butterfly PR

Don’t You Forget About Me, Mhairi McFarlane

Don’t You Forget About Me, Mhairi McFarlane

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

I’ve really enjoyed some of Mhairi’s past works and fully expected to adore this one. But…I liked it, just didn’t love it.

Its got some great humour, allied with some very genuine “today” issues about women, sexism, expectations that made it feel very real, very contemporary.
We start with Georgina getting fired, not her fault, not the best job to have but its money and the rent is due. She then decides to call on her boyfriend for commiseration, and finds him in bed with someone else…. He’s a real charmer BTW, her friends have it spot on when they describe him as the worst boyfriend. I just couldn’t see why she was with him really, why she made excuses, maybe its because he seems to find her funny, and she wants to be seen that way, entertaining, popular and perhaps that’s how he makes her feel? Well, how she interprets his reactions anyhow. He’s actually selfish, annoying, sexist and she deserves better. That’s a huge part of her issues though, she’s always struggling to be seen as the fun girl, the popular one and its something that stems from issues at a really young age.
That part of her is why she acted the way she did in the Big Event, the one that’s tantalised throughout, and made me really sad for her when we saw what happened. Heartbreaking, but what does happen so very often.
I was astonished at Lucas, given their history, that he simply didn’t remember her. He makes the excuse later that everything between 18 and 25 is a blur, though never actually says why. I kept wanting him to see her as the girl he loved, who loved him, even if they hadn’t fully acknowledged that back then. He’s got his own issues though and reasons for his actions.

It all sounds just what I love to read, but somehow it felt so very slow, so padded out and full of inaction. Its not billed as Romance, but from the description I did expect romance to develop far sooner. I guess its a case of actual book v my expectations that made this just an OK read for me, where others of Mhairi’s have been 5star re-readers. I’m sure its perfect for others, but for me this wasn’t one I really enjoyed.

Stars: Three, some really topical and important issues contained here, but overall the story just fell short for me

ARC via Netgalley and publishers

Nightchaser, Amanda Bouchet

Nightchaser, Amanda Bouchet

Nightchaser (The Endeavour Trilogy) by [Bouchet, Amanda]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and fantasy

Well, my bad. I so loved Amanda’s Kingmaker trilogy and saw this was another fantasy read that I made a huge error and didn’t read description 😦 and its a Space orientated novel, something I perhaps could have guessed from the MC’s Captain title, though not necessarily. Sadly space fiction isn’t my thing but I struggled through this.

Its very well written, as with Kingmaker, same solid characters, exciting incidents, and of course its got that world is unfair and only MC can put it right feel. Tess is more proactive about that than Cat in the Kingmaker novels, Tess is actively working against the current government aiding those in need, even though she’s classed as a criminal. Cat is just trying to get through life without being discovered. For both though life is hard and whatever action they take is fraught with danger.

It follows a pretty standard format of suspense, action, danger and introducing new characters who become part of the main group. That’s all well set out, felt very real and had some interesting moments. I liked Tess and her crew, though would like to know more how they got where they are – later in series I guess. Big Guy, very ambiguous character that made me wonder what his story was and of course Shade, what were his motives, would everything fall back on him in the end. Of course looking at things from his viewpoint if very different from looking at issues from Tess view, where we have the advantage of seeing the overall picture.
There are people to root for and people to hate, but for me it was a hard slog, simply because its not a subject that interests me.

If space fiction was my bent I’d no doubt love this, but sadly it isn’t. I was hoping maybe I was just prejudiced, all those years of being force fed Stars Wars but kids and husband had maybe prejudiced my taste, but it proved not to be. Shame as there’s so many space fic novels I could read if only I enjoyed the genre…..

Stars:Three, fabulously written as was Kingmaker. Sadly for me the setting just isn’t what I enjoy reading, one I just can’t connect with.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

Bad Breakup, Billionaire’s Club Book 2, Elise Faber

Bad Breakup, Billionaire’s Club Book 2, Elise Faber

Bad Breakup (Billionaire's Club Book 2) by [Faber, Elise]

Genre: romance

I liked the sound of this, wasn’t expecting intense, but sometimes though I love drama, angst, intensity I want something a little softer and this sounded great for that.

Sadly it wasn’t a good fit for me, nothing wrong with the writing, the characters or the story in itself, it was the characters actions that spoiled the story for me.
I don’t like the way two “so in love” characters wouldn’t even speak to each other after a major event like that, especially after they’ve already had one bad break-up. Having got past that would they really not talk about what happened? Most of us would want to know why at least, its human nature to want to know why we weren’t good enough.
That let the story down from both characters, I really liked them but didn’t feel that behaviour was reflective of the people they were – or seemed to be.

The past/present format is one I quite like, it lets me see the past as it plays out, not via a POV of someone who may have slanted opinions.
The Present in this novel covers so little time though that I just didn’t really get a sense of reality, of the seriousness of what was happening. It felt like events were very lust driven when both characters were the strong type that I felt would have wanted to know they whys of the past first.
I couldn’t see that Cecelia would have caved so quickly given what she thought would happen, and likewise Colin. Would he really have pursued her believing what he did? I know it was a pretty convincing lie that was set up, but to so easily be duped when you supposedly love someone enough to share the rest of your life with them?

Its a shame I couldn’t empathise with the couples’ actions as the story plot and set up was excellent. I could see that others actions may well lead to That Event, in just the way its described. Its the shock factor, the sense of betrayal that governs immediate reactions, not the side of our brain that says “this person loves you, would they really do that?” so a short breakup is understandable. I don’t feel either lead behaved in the way I’d have expected them to, by letting it go on not just months but years. Its hard to believe either would just let all that time pass without trying to find out what, why and how, for a couple so in Love to just let it drop, fade away without challenge.
Maybe a much shorter separation, a few weeks say, and more reality in the present actions, and this would have been a perfect read for me. Still, as always what I want isn’t what everyone wants, and this will be perfect for other readers as it is.

Stars: Two and a half. I didn’t dislike all the book, loved the characters, and the cause of breakup number two was so cleverly done. Sadly the actions, or rather the inactions, of the couple let to it being a story that didn’t work for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Love under fire collection. Review of Chasing Secrets, Alyssa Richards

I’m reviewing one book from this series, Alyssa Richard’s Chasing Secrets. Anthologies are a terrific way to try out new-to- you authors for a small price, 21 stories here for under four quid.

Chasing Secrets, Alyssa Richards

Love Under Fire by [Lucci, Judith, Tullis, Stephany, Quinn, Fiona, Burke, Anna Celeste, Daly, Margaret A, Watkins, Linda, Ferguson, Tamara, Jenkins, Suzanne, Goss, Inge-Lise, Mallery, S.R., Jinx Schwartz , Uvi Poznansky, Kathryn Knight, Stephanie Queen, Casi McLean, Valerie J. Clarizio, Chris Patchell, Aaron Paul Lazar, Alyssa Richards, K.M. Hodge, Pamela Fagan Hutchins ]

Genre: fantasy and paranormal, romance

I’ve loved Alyssa’s other stories but this one didn’t seem to work well for me. Its well written as usual, its one of those “just not the right fit” times, not that there’s anything wrong with the story. It could be personal circumstances, I’m a bit stressed, having sold my house and the one I’m buying has been delayed, so I’m staying with daughter, living in her conservatory, and its not best place for getting lost in a story.

Anyway, Barbara has an unusual gift – she’s able to “read” people from their name, doesn’t need to meet them, just needs their first name. She can tell one Steven from another, doesn’t need any extra info but is able to tap into the right person.
She’s married to David, who adores her, and they’re expecting their first child. David’s been a little stressed though, and suddenly he’s gone, murdered in front of her. In the resulting chaos she miscarries, and its taken her time to try to move forward.
She’s beginning to make a new life, albeit very staid, when the past rushes up to her with David’s killers attacking her, demanding she return stolen diamonds. She knows nothing about them, but they aren’t convinced and it becomes dangerous for her and her family.
Hiding out from them she meets Griffin, an archaeologist, and there’s a spark between them they can’t ignore. As always though romance comes with problems and Griffin is due to start an new search through history far away from Barbara.

Barbara’s gift was interesting and Griffin’s project and reasons for moving to Greece very real. Its the kind of thing that happens in real life, couples meet but one is about to move, and its a question of move and abandon possible relationship or try long distance one, or stay and possibly regret lost opportunities. Hard choice either way.
There were some excellent characters in the book, and a very real plot but….overall its wasn’t a story I was gripped by. I’d guessed early on one big “secret”, and the way the killers tracked her seemed like something I’d have expected police to check. There were clues that seemed so unfathomable, and yet Barbara and Griffin found the meanings behind them so easily. Then there’s the way they were able to just walk up to someone’s home, and chip a brick out of the front in their search! They were spotted and had to run, but who does that, damages a strangers home in broad daylight? I’d have expected them to come prepared at night, when unlikely to be seen.
I just felt the problems were tough, but the way they found solutions just too slick, too easy.

Stars: Three, a well written story but one that didn’t work for me right now.

Arc via author

Staged, Olivia Cunning.

Staged, Olivia Cunning.

Staged (Exodus End World Tour Book 3) by [Cunning, Olivia]

Genre: Romance

Way back when I got my first kindle I found a free book I liked the sound of. It was Brian and Myra’s story, the first Sinners book. I loved it and went on to buy the rest. I wasn’t so taken with the Sole Regret novels, liked them but as one off reads. I was so keen to read Exodus End books, having met Dare several times in Sinners novels. I’m still keen to read his story, he’s a solid, quiet, unassuming guy, and I think his novel will be special.

Still, we’re book three into Exodus End, and I’d expected to devour this story. I’ll be honest, Steve wasn’t one of my favourite characters, but we see some suprising depth to him here. At first though I really disliked him, sulky and sullen, whining because his best friend’s band has been replaced as opener, and the way he treats ladies….yep, he was misogynistic. Speaking of his best friend, Zach is a great character, and though he’s not involved in any of the bands so far, I think he has a great story in him.

I really wanted to like this story, but it took a while before events of last two books came to me, its been a while and several hundred novels since I read them. As well as the characters we already know, there are quite a few new ones. I did find this and some of the plot-lines a bit confusing, and at times the story was hard to believe, mainly the Tamara/Bianca/Susan aspect.
I felt too, that in this book the sex became the story – its fine for many readers but not me. In other novels the sex has always been to the fore, these are very erotic novels after all, but balanced with solid plots. Here the main plot seemed pretty thin, much of it only developing in last part of the book, and at a pace that felt rushed. I felt there were pages and pages and pages of sex, interspersed with a little bit of story and then yet more sex. To be honest after a while its gets boring, there’s only so many times I want to read about sex, only so many ways to write it without it becoming repetitive. Here it became just mechanics rather then sensual. There were several times when I felt the sex and the conversations about sex became OTT, frankly reading about Roux not being hungry any more because she’d had too much come, ( no I just can’t use the US expression…) and whether it was vegetarian or not was more than I wanted to read. Likewise his request for her to text him everything – even when she was “having a dump”. Really, that’s a good line – or lines, it came up more than once- for the story??

Then there’s That event, which I felt was incredibly serious, sadly happens too often, but between brushing it off or demanding it be reported I felt it wasn’t really given enough time, not the treatment it deserved. When copious pages have been devoted to sex surely a few more could have been spared for this. Its a horrific thing to happen, would it have been treated this way if it happened to a female? I felt it really let down its importance that it was just added almost as a quick filler plot.

Stars: Two. Overall this book wasn’t a success for me. I still love the others and want to read Dare’s story, but this one just didn’t cut it.

ARC via Netgalley and publishers

The Girl in the Corner, Amanda Prowse

The Girl in the Corner, Amanda Prowse

The Girl in the Corner by [Prowse, Amanda]

Genre: , Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

Usual grump – Women’s fiction as a genre, just why? Men read all sorts of stories too….why alienate them?

Anyway, I enjoy Amanda’s books, she writes tales that make me think “what would I do in that situation”, has characters and settings that feel very real.
I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of her other stories though, the settings and characters were terrific as usual, but the story – I felt that for so much of the book I was waiting, waiting for something to happen, waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it wasn’t until very near the end that it did. I’d have liked a bit more of what happens then, instead of the brief opening into Rae’s future we see.

Its a tale that happens way to often, wife ( or husband) thinks everything is wonderful, and then finds out that their adored and loyal partner has been playing away…what next? Carry on regardless for the sake of the family? Try to forgive and move forward? Or divorce/separation? I always think, how could I trust that person again? That kind of betrayal is so hard to get past, I’m not sure I could forgive and move on. I think that would be a hard barrier for me, the one I can’t forget.
Can Rae move forward though? And in what direction? She really needed to talk it through but Dolly is Howard’s sister, and though they’ve been best friends for so many years, Dolly has divided loyalties. It meant Rae looking at her life introspectively, looking at not just her and Howard’s relationship, but all the family ties, at what happened to the Rae who wanted to be someone but instead became the person supporting everyone else. Its got a huge potential for looking at what could happen if she decided differently, and I so felt for her in her having to decide without the soundboard of Dolly to help her.

Of course nothing happens in isolation and looking back we can see where the routes for different paths were going, where what one person perceives isn’t necessarily the truth – a great example of that was Rae’s view of her childhood and family relationships, where what she thought of events and decisions was how it seemed to her, but not what her parents intended her to feel. That sounds tangled, you’ll need to read the story to understand I think…What Rae sees as her parents not supporting her ambition to be a chef turns out to be her parents fearing that way led to hard work and no reward for Rae, whereas they wanted what they saw as the best for her, that she was clever enough to work in an office, the pinnacle of achievement in their eyes. She thinks they’re unsupportive, that her sister is the one they support, but what they intend is to make Rae be the best she can, and office work in their eyes is something their clever daughter can aspire to. As adults looking back we can see that what we though wasn’t necessarily what was intended.

Like I said, I enjoyed this story, but didn’t love it, its not one I’d reread. I just felt for so much of the story I was waiting for the next section, that so much of the book covered the same ground while Rae mulled over what had happened and what she should do – I’m sure that’s very real, what people in her situation do but for me it wasn’t very entertaining reading.

Stars: Three, another very real story from Amanda but not one of my favourites. Still, that’s just my opinion and I can see that its a perfect story for other readers.

ARC via Netgalley and publishers

Christmas Secrets by the Sea, Jane Lovering

Christmas Secrets by the Sea, Jane Lovering

Genre: Humour, romance

I’ve read several of Jane’s stories now, and she has a style of writing I really like. I’m cautious when a book is styled as “humour” as so many are just that forced, OTT that I simply just don’t like them. Jane’s humour though is typical British subtle humour.
The romance is muted, a side part of the overall story but was very satisfying and the perfect ending.
I loved the characters, Tansy, clearly escaping from something – but what? It takes the full length of the book for everything to come out, little bits are released along the story but you always know she’s holding back something more. Likewise Davin, he’s so obnoxious to begin then as we get to know the real man, the secrets of his past I really liked him. He’s got a real sensitivity about him, something that isn’t apparent until we get to know him.
The rest of the cast are great too, Karen from the cafe, Rory, a typical teen, written so well. Everything’s a drama at that age, its all highs or all down dramas….I loved his openness and how close he was to his mum, how protective of her he was. Even Larch had me warming to her by the end. People really aren’t as they first seem all the while, some just need you to get to know them, in real life and in books.
Then there’s the real stars of the story Brian and Seelie, they were so perfect. They brought a lightness into more serious moments, brought people together, brought in some gentle humour ( Brian and the ever present sardines and seaweed) and provided real emotional support to Davin and Tansy, something they both really needed.
Its a wonderful story, fully of whimsy and gentle humour, a terrific story and wonderful characters, all wrapped up in a very satisfying ending.

Stars: Five, a fantastic read, one that kept me gripped, sniggering one moment and emotional the next.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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