Dear Enemy, Kristen Callihan
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance
I love Kristen’s VIP series, have re read those several times and they still make me laugh – and cry….but her other books just don’t quite live up to those for me. This one was the same, it was good, great banter, Kristen excels at that, which had me giggling like a loon every now and then, but somehow it didn’t have the VIP magic.
I never like it when a guy dates a sister – or vice versa, and her its an integral part of the story but I just didn’t – even when everything came out – understand just why Macon ever dated the horrible Samantha.
Delilah coming to work for Macon was…a little contrived in terms of real life, but this is fiction so jut go with it. In reality would a chef/PA really be worth all that money? She might be the greatest chef- but is untried as a PA. Somehow though if you can suspend belief, and just accept it has happened it makes for a great story.
The characters are good, I love an evil, selfish character like Samantha, loved Macon in his early unpleasant days, that means when we learn his history it puts a different slant on what seemed like pure vicious nastiness.
I loved the way it finally came together, how Delilah was such an open, natural lady, always ready to help anyone, with a humorous quip at the ready for when its needed and yet also has a very serious side under that humour.
Its a great read, I’m just spoiled by VIP. Maybe its time for yet another re-read of those, Sunshine and Chatty-girl’s ( aka Gabriel and Sophie) story is the best IMO!
Stars: Four, a great read, just suspend belief in the reality of certain plots and go with it. Its worth it.
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Pivotal Decisions, (Moonlight and Murder 2), Reily Garrett
Genre: Romantic suspense
Murder and bodies, swamps and alligators, guns and bang sticks ( never heard of them – I want one !!), drones and tech, none of which I know much about but it didn’t matter for the story as it was kept loose enough for me to keep up and enjoy. Some suspense novels get very heavy on the detail and I end up skipping pages, this had just enough to interest me and let me follow how the story fit together.
I loved Sabine – and Heath. That dog was the real star of the book 😉 Coyote too was great, it was hard seeing little Sabine all grown up, and he was struggling to keep his hands to himself. Of course Sabine had always been attracted to him so she wasn’t worried when he didn’t…. The secondary characters too, Augie, Sabine’s bestie and Coyote’s work partner and GF and sister were fabulous. Poor Nolan, Keiki was one determined lady.
The girls together brought some much needed humour among the seriousness of the story. The guys were all macho protection, Augie warning Coyote not to hurt Sabine, Coyote determined to keep her back from the danger, Nolan all het up in defence of his little sister and his girlfriend, and the girls all running rings around them equally determined to not be kept out of the action. Lucky they did, it needed all of them.
I understood the potential financially of what poor Jinx had been working on, and could see so easily for many the murders to get their hands on it would be nothing. Sadly that’s the way of the world, dominated by money and the desire for more of it.
I wasn’t entirely convinced over the capture and rescue of Augie’s lady, it seemed a bit too simple and why leave the VR goggles? Maybe its just me missed some essential connection but I really struggled with the relevance of that bit.
Where the story fell down a bit for me was the last section, the end, and the reasons for all the murders seemed to just almost fizzle off. Somewhere I even missed what happened to one of the bad guys, one moment there was still one accounted for, and then it was the end and clearly I missed how he got caught. There were times when the actions stretched credulity but not too much and after all this is fictionland 😉
Stars: Four, a fun read, humour to offset the murders and a great bunch of characters.
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Red Hatchet Falls, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 7), Susan Clayton-Goldner
Genre: Mystery and thrillers
Each time I finish a Radhauser novel I’m in awe of how Susan manages to pull together a story, including so many side plots full of interest, taking me on a journey to find who’s responsible for the awful things in that book. She makes me think its one person, then doubt myself, as Radhauser does so often.
This book is the perfect example of when there seems like a straightforward murderer, all the clues and evidence point to that person, and yet Radhauser feels its too easy. As usual his gut feeling should have been listened to, although hopefully here that mistake will lead to future good.
I really didn’t suspect who the person was, Susan hides them with only the most subtle of clues that only make sense when we reach the conclusion.
It was good to catch up with not only Radhauser and his family, but also his work colleagues, characters from other books ( yay for Rodney!) and meet new ones.
In among the main crime there are plots about bullying, racism, domestic violence, and of course we see just how pervasive racism is, how easy it is to prejudge someone purely on looks. That happens here to an Islamic family, who have made America their home. Of course even now the fall out from 9-11 hits them, they are hated by some people, feared by others, simply because of their religion, which a few extremists used as an excuse for horrific actions. Y’know, Christians have done that too, in history and probably recent times too.
Poor Ahmeed, Daria, and their little son Kareem go through things no family should have to, and I have the feeling that this happens in real life too, from those supposed to protect them. Racism reaches all occupations, being in a “responsible” profession doesn’t stop bigots from using that position for their own ends and I could see the results of Ahmeed’s shooting ending just as Radhauser suspected it would. And that made me sad – no-one ever learns when actions get hidden.
I think In the same way as Radhauser is learning from Heron, the ME, I’m learning the way Radhauser’s mind works ( or Susan’s!). I start looking for evidence, mulling over actions, wondering what comes next. Of course its not all crime all the way, there’s Radhauser taking Lizzie to sports, talking to Gracie ( I love her), fussing his beloved horses.
I felt so sad for the kids in this book, some bullied by adults, some by kids following adults examples, but they were hurt by those actions, and of course that impacts on the adults they become. Its well known that abusers were often abused themselves. That doesn’t excuse it but does sometimes explain it, the anger comes out in odd ways, they don’t have that loving family role model. Its something I get so angry about, children missing out on the fun, secure, loving childhood they should all have. Sadly a percentage never get it and others only part of it. Horrible reflection on us as adults. I remember my own son at five being told by his then best friend he couldn’t play with him any more because he was “ a black’un”. Jay had dark skin, dark hair and big brown eyes, and clearly his friends parents had looked at him, looked at the name Zelos and decided we were foreign. We’re not, but it gave me an insight into how cruel adults can be, how easily they influence children. He was five, didn’t understand what his friend meant, and it was tough explaining bigotry in a way he’d understand.
And as usual I’ve rambled here, but the gist it, once more Susan has knocked out a five star read. Meticulously researched, everything makes sense, there are no lose ends, no stretching of credulity but a story that could so easily be real. Sometimes as series continue they get tired, feel stale but Radhauser has a long way to go yet. Each story feels fresh even though the characters feel like old friends. I was looking back after finishing this at the early books, I started with book two, maybe its time I read book one, see how it all started.
Stars: five, long may Radhauser continue his investigations. Each book feels like the best yet, and then along comes the next which is even better.
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The Album, A Cruise Control Novel, Sian Ceinwen
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
OK, start with my usual moan. Women’s Fiction – why? Men write romance, men read romance., ’nuff said…
So, this trope is a real favourite of mine and I really enjoyed Sian’s writing style. What didn’t work, and stopped this being a five was the past present format that lasted the majority of the book. We know right from the start they’ve been broken up for two years, and I was hoping all the way through that this chapter we’d finally leave the past and get to Now. That didn’t happen until the every end though and though that was absolutely perfect, angst and heartbreak just as I love it did mean it felt rushed.
I’d have liked to read more of how the band felt about them being together, what they said etc. we get a sneak preview of this for book two but I wanted more.
I did feel Arianna was a bit pigheaded, stubborn in the extreme although her fears were real. Gabriel showed no signs of being like her uncle and I think she could have recognised her issues and maybe sought therapy for them. She’d learned what she lost when they were apart but I felt unless she’d actually dealt with her fame/limelight issues they cold be headed for heartbreak again. Time helps, it doesn’t heal automatically though.
An excellent debut novel, good things to come from Sian I’m certain, it was just the story format that let this down for me. If we’d left the past about a third or even halfway through, it would have worked better for me.
BTW I Loved, Loved the mean girls, the bitchy groupies, I was hoping their manager would prove to be a bit difficult too- one of the reason I love this trope is the potential for jealousies, back stabbing and some real b itchy characters.
Stars: four, a great read, excellent story and I’m looking forward to book two.
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Kika & Me, How One Guide Dog Changed My Life, Amit Patel
Genre: Non Fiction, Biography and memoirs
Well, most of us know about assistance dogs now, but when I was a kid Guide dogs were quite new, and there was lots of fundraising to train them. They really are a life line for people and in this book we can see just how important they are for visually impaired people.
Kika really did give Amit a new life. I remember a lady mum worked for as a cleaner, her ex policeman husband was blind. This would be mid 60’s, he spent all day every day in his bed in their living room. The house was a typical mid terrace, and from what I recall there was no support for him. What an awful life he must have had, they didn’t have TV, he couldn’t read, there was no such thing as audio books. Once every couple of weeks a friend would take him out for a short walk. Horrendous life, and yet apart from his blindness he was well. Dogs like Kika allow folk to keep their independence.
I have very bad eyesight, rely on some pretty strong lenses, and possibly may lose my sight as I get older. I treasure being able to see, to be able to do what I want, be independent still. I loved reading about Kika, her training, her individualism, her fierce protectiveness for Amit. When he gives examples of times when she refused to move and help that came told him she was right, to move was dangerous, it showed me just how much trust he needed to put in her. To regain his Independence it was necessary, but its not easy.
It was an inspirational read, Amit could so easily have lapsed into depression, as he did in those first days, and that would have ruined not only his life, but his wife and parents too. It must have been so hard to pick life up again – he was so young, but his wife and parents were determined being blind would just become part of his life, not the defining characteristic. I really enjoyed his journey from emergency doctor, to blindness ( not that I enjoyed that bit of course) and how he managed to get out of the depression, how hard he worked, how first the long cane, and then Kika helped him become what he wanted, a functioning, useful part of society, a god husband and son, and ultimately a good father too. All that took so much work, its not an easy journey and I am so in awe of his strength and support from family. May he have a long and happy life ahead of him.
Stars: Five, a fantastic, inspirational read of a real life experience.
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The Captain and the Prime Minister. Catherine Curzon , Eleanor Harkstead
Genre: Romance, LGBTQIA
I really enjoyed this. I’m not convinced by insta-love stories but in this one, although when they do take that step and go from 0-60, they have known each other a long time, and Tom has been part of the family for years so it wasn’t an issue.
I loved them both, Tom, strong ex soldier, but a softie with the twins, and Alex who’s been through so much while in the public eye, misses his late wife still, but discovers his feelings for Tom are more than just friendly. That part was handled so well, it wasn’t a “turning a straight guy” story, but one where Love was the focus, not the gender of either of them. I always think in those Straight guys stories, that there must have been some leanings, you can’t “turn” a straight guy any more than you can turn a gay person straight.
Publicity – it doesn’t get much more public than being PM, with the press focusing on every move. I’ve written before how I hate the way the media just love to dig out anything they can make sound salacious – the TV interview was so very well done. I could see those questions being asked by someone very like the presenter portrayed in the book. Its all “in the public interest” excuses when in fact unless the PM was heavily against gay rights it wasn’t anyone’s business.
Given how many folk are LBGTQIA its a wonder there aren’t more in the Gov, maybe, as in football and some other celebrity occupations, they just hide what they are. Justin Fashanu, the first openly gay UK footballer, had a really tough time, being adopted, and black also. Brave kid, sadly died too young, but it amazes me that out of over 800 premier league footballers currently not one is openly gay. I suspect the media furore people in the public eye face when they come out is what prevents them. That’s pretty damning in 2020 that some still feel they have to hide who they are 😦 It made the press scenes, the way events and texts were twisted, in this book feel very real, though sadly I think in real life the endings would have gone down differently.
I understood how Alex’ in laws felt, understandable, and was so glad that worked out. I loved the way the twins were told, and that’s how it should be, no big deal, just everyday life. Kids are accepting, its adults who have issues.
Alex and Tom both had some tough decisions to take, a big risk for them both if they got it wrong.
Its a lovely story, touches on reality, but with a happy ending, which I need, not the sadly unhappy one I think reality would bring 😦 we have a long way to go, but at least are going in the right direction.
Stars: Five, a lovely read, one I wish real life was more like.
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Marry Him, Marina Ford
Genre: Romance, Humour
I’ve had a slew of books recently that were perhaps bad choices on my part and I really hate writing low star reviews. I always try to point out though that although I didn’t gel with the story others will, that reading is very subjective. This book illustrates that perfectly. Already I can see a few two star reviews, even a couple of ones and yet I loved it. Absolutely loved it.
It made me snigger with the scatty humour, and for anyone ( a few reviews mention it) who thinks life isn’t like that – it is. I don’t have Joe’s exuberance but do have his problems with everything going t$ts up, with my careful plans descending into chaos, although mostly I just go with the flow and don’t make strict plans. Everything goes wrong when I do so why bother? The nurses were sniggering when I broke my hip falling out of my wheelchair, moving the electric fence for my horses, then recently my scooter suddenly ran out of charge just before home and a big slope. I had to accept a push from a poor man who was using a stick to walk…then there’s the time I super-glued my hand to the kitchen worktop. I was putting it away safely so the grand-kids didn’t get it.
Frank is so like my late husband, that full on persona, always talking to strangers like long lost friends, always full of weird and wonderful ideas.
I enjoyed the very different personalities of Harry and Joe, again my late husband and I were very different, and yet it worked, we were together over 40 years, so there’s no reason why Harry and Joe couldn’t make it work too.
I wasn’t so keen on the timing, the way it was five years past, six months past and then present, it worked to tell the story but I found it frustrating jumping back and forth. That’s a small crit though and as I’m not a writer maybe that’s the only way the story would work?
I did like the different people, the prejudice, the way Joe was casually called “ the Gay “ from folk who’d be astonished at the suggestion that wasn’t really polite. Casual sexism, prejudice, bigotry like this is insidious, people only see the open hatred as being prejudiced whereas actually its far more and something people face daily but shouldn’t have to. Being a wheelchair user I get that kind of thing when folk talk to whoever is pushing the chair, offer them the change even though I’ve paid, ruffle my hair like I’m a pet. One day….
The story itself has some great dram that unfolds to a real climax at the end. I couldn’t believe it would really unravel, and yet the clues Marina set up for it all going wrong were incredibly real and believable.
Looking on goodreads Marina is a new to me author, I’ll certainly look out for her books in future.
Stars: five, a cracking read that had me sniggering at several points at poor Joe, and empathising with him having done the same kind of thing.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
Where We Belong, Shann McPherson
Genre: Romance, General Fiction (adult)
Well, I love these small town America stories. I’ve no idea – being British – whether there really are towns like this, but I love the idea of everyone having friends, being there for each other. Of course its Always Sunshine and Warmth – and here in UK that’s often in short supply, so that’s a huge bonus. BBQ in the rain, summer dress for night out ruined by downpour, hair carefully coiffed and makeup done, then wrap up in warm hat that ruins the effect – that’s UK summers. I love the fake GF/BF trope too.
Poor Murph, all set for a proposal from long time boyfriend, on and off romance, and then…he hands her an invite to his wedding. Oh I could feel her heart breaking. When we learned more about their past my heart was sad for her over again, and I wondered why she saw Nash as her HEA, when to me he was selfish and unreliable.
Still, here he is with his new love, and she wants to put a brave face on and in the momentary instinct claims Harley is hers. Poor Harley – give the guy credit, he goes along with it, but as we learn he’s been picking her up for years, What’s one more time.
And it could have been a fun read for me if Murph hadn’t been so unpleasant to Anna. Its not her fault Nash loves her, and I really didn’t like Murph’s actions. Acting on the spur of the moment is one thing, but deliberate actions? Nope. Not in my playbook.
It may not bother you and you may laugh at parts, I did have a silent snigger at one even as I was annoyed at it….hey- I’m human, it set a funny visual. And I want to know why Harley writes his name on his clothes?
Overall it ends well, I’m not entirely sure I was convinced by it, but its a fun, easy read.
Stars: Three, I enjoyed parts, but a) didn’t understand why Murph was so set on Nash and b) didn’t like some of her actions.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Lie, Hilary Boyd
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Gah, I hate Women’s Fiction as a genre heading, so outdated. Men and women can read the same books….its 2019, not 1919.
anyway, that moan over, on to the book. Fabulous read, I loved it. I read Hillary’s Thurdays ion the Park years ago, and more recently The anniversary and loved both of those, and this sounded intriguing. It was, I was wondering all the way, should Romy just believe in Micheal? After all they’ve been married a long time, they would have had the boys when this event happened, and he’s never given any indication that he could have done something so awful, so horrific. I think most folk would be like Romy, feel their husband ( or wife) is telling the truth when they say they’ve no idea, that it never happened. Yet somehow Romy still has the tiniest, tiniest sliver of doubt. That little niggle keeps working at her, making her relive over and over Michael’s reactions when she told him about the letter. He’s clever, quick thinking, he has to be to do so well at his job, and something just didn’t feel quite right about his answers. Still, with no idea who wrote the letter how can she look further?
That little niggle though gradually affects their marriage, shows up just how things have been slowly changing between them, other tiny things come out and small, almost incidental lies emerge. Things build up until she decides she needs to step away, and goes to stay at their country cottage. She’s just picking up her life when – bam – she’s pulled back into her old life, where the past starts becoming the present.
I was a little eye rolling at the way the characters were interwoven until I got to that part of the story, when it was explained and I could see that actually, its pretty reasonable for events to unfold given the connections between people.
There are lots of surprises to come out, lots of events for Romy to deal with, and all the characters end up being hurt by past actions. Not just Romy, but her sons, her fledgling romance and of course the girl involved and her family.
Its one of those books where slowly what seem like unconnected events and people slowly gel, when the circles of distance start to close in and we can see how one out of character event ripples and widens, catching so many folk in the wake. I loved the book, and the way events were unfolded carefully, giving us just enough to satisfy at that time, but leaving the reader wondering what else happened, did it happen like that really? What would they do? I so felt for all involved who were hurt by the actions and was so angry at those who worked to hide things or just smooth them over. Its a story that really show how nothing happens in isolation, how one event can end up hurting so many people.
Stars: Five. Lots of surprises, heartbreak, angst, and shows how well one persons actions affect others.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher