Tag Archive | contemporary

Raven’s Glen by Nancy E. Polin

Raven’s Glen by Nancy E. Polin

Raven's Glen by [Polin, Nancy E.]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, Romance

I almost didn’t read this, Nancy mentioned it had elements of horror, and its a family joke that I am a real wimp about that. I have such a vivid imagination that my dreams tend to be complex, and sometimes scary, so anything horror tips the balance…but it wasn’t that sort of horror, more the unpleasantness that comes with certain elements of the supernatural. It was a bit spooky, but not scary.

I loved Skylar and her brother, he’s so protective and has been looking out for her since they escaped a horrific home situation to live with their grandmother, their beloved MawMaw. Now she’s died, they both miss her badly but are still very close. Skylar has accepted a job that happens to be in the town they escaped from. Her brother is Not Happy, to say the least, but Skylar seems to be drawn there with a slightly unnerving, unexplained pull.
She’s settling in well, enjoys her job, when she meets Jack at her workplace. She’s already bumped into him at her interview, then again around the town. He’s gorgeous but not on the lookout for a new relationship. He’s drawn to Skylar though, they seem to keep coming across one another and he finally asks her out.

Stephen has never talked about the horrors of the night they left, never told Skylar what happened, and she seems to have blanked it from her mind. Now she’s back though it seems the past isn’t quite finished with her.

Its a gradual build up, first the attraction between Jack and Skylar, then slowly she gets integrated into his family. Skylar is in for a shock though when she goes to his home.
The tension ratchets up gradually, building on little things, more references to the past, more secrets being revealed, and the dangers slowly come to light. The more Skylar learns the closer the past becomes, and its a question of should she outrun it and leave the job she enjoys, the man and his daughter that she loves, or should she just face up to the past and try to beat it?
I really enjoyed this, just enough spookiness to keep me reading, not so much that it gives me nightmares. I live alone, I hate nightmares, when everything seems more believable that in the light if day. The Native Indian setting works really well, they are very in tune with nature and the supernatural, and really helped the story to feel genuine.

Stars: five, a fantastic read, not too scary, and very engaging, making me wonder just what was coming next.

Arc via author

Undone, Kelly Rimmer

Undone, Kelly Rimmer

Undone (Start Up in the City) by [Rimmer, Kelly]

Genre: Romance

I’ve enjoyed a few of Kelly’s stories, but hadn’t read the first two in this series, I didn’t realise there were earlier books. The story is stand alone, though if you’ve read the other two I’m sure you’ll enjoy catching up with the characters here.

Jess, I didn’t dislike her, but just didn’t understand her and found her actions confusing. When part of her background came out I felt for her, I had the exact same thing happen at the same tender age, and I understood how you never get past that, it colours your whole life. For her though the tragedy went further and that impacted upon her relationship with Jake. TBH I couldn’t really understand why she took the position she did, what she came to realise by the end was blindingly obvious from the start, and I hated how her actions hurt both of them so badly, and yet she continued even knowing how she would hurt Jake again.
Jake – well, he was just wonderful, so clearly in love still with Jess, and so confused about her reactions. I felt the poor guy was treading on eggshells, bending over backwards, and still getting blamed for things he couldn’t possibly understand. I was happy when finally Jess took a look at herself, at Jake, and saw what everyone else did, but so frustrated it took so long. But then we wouldn’t have a story if she saw it straight away….
I just feel that for me her actions didn’t quite fit how I could see she felt, that she was forcing herself, and that brought the story down a bit for me. I hovered between empathising with her, wanting to hug her at certain points, and – more often – wanting to shout at her to stop thinking only of herself. There’s two in a relationship, I just felt rather than being equal as she wanted, she was putting Jake way way behind her needs.

Stars: Three, parts I loved, parts I was really sad, but too often I just wanted to shout at Jess, tell her to think of Jake as a person not a stereotype.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

A Southern Girl Re-Belles, Sharon Brown Keith

A Southern Girl Re-Belles, Sharon Brown Keith

Genre: Romance, General Fiction ( adult)

I was intrigued by this one but it was a fail for me.
I didn’t like Abby right from the start when she gets her very pregnant friend to say she was driving as Abby had been drinking. I hate stuff like that, and it put me off her. I could understand why her best friends husband doesn’t like her. As the story continued, more came out about Abby and she felt to me like one of those folk who blame everything on to others, and never look at themselves.
I was looking forward to seeing Bo too, but I’ve read to 25% and he still hasn’t appeared ( I checked, its at 38% he first comes in). I just don’t like Abby enough to continue with the story, I can’t bring myself to wait to see what happens to her. What I know of her grandmother didn’t endear her to me either, I found her antics annoying rather than humorous. Maybe I’ll pick this up another time and try again, maybe I’m just not in the right mood but for now this is a DNF.

Stars: Two, just not one for me.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Serendipity Game, A Romantic Comedy, Teagan Kearney

The Serendipity Game, A Romantic Comedy, Teagan Kearney

The Serendipity Game: A Romantic Comedy by [Kearney, Teagan]

Genre: Romantic comedy

Well, I love a “good” B itch in a book, and had hopes Elena would prove to be one so was keen to read this. It was a fun, easy read, but very slow to start.

Apart from a quick incident in the first few pages, we don’t actually meet Jake until a third of the way through the book. Not at all, and for me that let the story down.
I expected there to be some kind of interaction between him and Casey before then. Once the do get together it was a fun read, quite light, not a deep dark, intense read, but a very surface based, light one. Sometimes that’s what you need though, a book you can read between other things, one you can put down and when you pick it up again you don’t have to restart to remember where you were.

I liked Casey and her friends, but at times she did over labour the differences between her and Jake. I loved Jake, such a romantic man, but also very thorough in ensuring everything involving Casey is taken care of, not leaving things to chance. I want a Jake of my own.
I’m OK with insta lust, and could feel that between them, but for me I like the love to have a bit more time to develop. In this book all the action takes place in a little over a week, apart from the very end of course. I found it hard to believe Jake especially would plunge straight in after being burned in marriage first time round.
The paparazzi parts were excellent, they really do dive in after pics regardless of how they can ruin lives, its all a game and money to them. I really felt for Casey when she got caught in that situation, and was so glad she had her friends to help.

The humour is quite subtle, very low key but I’d rather that than the forced in-your-face comedy so many books contain. I did snort very unbecomingly at the Casey/Elena and the vomit scene…perfect.
I did expect a bit more from Elena, she’s part of an overall plot but I was hoping for a bit more interaction between her and Casey, some nicely chosen verbal barbs, some manipulation of events. She’s really – well – nuts is the only way to put it. Bats-hit crazy. That shows when the final plot comes to a head, but I think she could have had a bigger part in the story, rather than a behind the scenes mostly appearance.
I’m not sure I’d class it as a Cinders retelling, but it is an easy, fun read.

Stars: Three and a half. I’ve dropped a half for that very slow start where we don’t meet a main character til almost a third into the book. For me I need to have them engaged in the story earlier, preferably with the other MC, but a behind the scenes peek would have helped.

ARC supplied by author

The Disheveled Duke, (A Little Bit Cupid Collection), Catherine Curzon,   Eleanor Harkstead 

The Disheveled Duke, (A Little Bit Cupid Collection), Catherine Curzon,  
Eleanor Harkstead 

The Dishevelled Duke: A Little Bit Cupid by [Curzon, Catherine, Harkstead, Eleanor]

Genre: M/M Romance, Short story

Confession time: I don’t read short stories usually but when I was offered this for review I had in my head the next book in the Captivating Captains series. My bad. I should read emails properly.

Still, it was a fun read, I adored Charlie and the dogs, Delia and Nigel – named for the chefs I assume? Wonder what the pups will be named…I love that Charlie is so laid back, especially when we find out more about him. He had a wonderful way of putting his background into perspective.
Billy’s lovely too, like so many he’s taken a chance on London, which has spat him back out. As an artist I know so many talented painters, photographers, textile artists etc and they produce incredible work, but getting it seen in galleries and thus sold is hard. Its catch 22, galleries need the commission so don’t often take a chance on new artists, and without that exposure artists don’t succeed often.
The internet has leveled that to a degree, but its still very difficult, and I felt for Billy. He’s clearly an amazing talent, but facing the harsh reality of trying to make things work, get a career. Most of us are artists, and like Billy actually marketing, getting work seen isn’t one of our talents.
How they finally get together is a wonderfully romantic and sweet story. Even if I didn’t realise it was a short!

Stars: five, a fun read, sweet and cute story, lovely characters, and of course, dogs. I always wanted an Irish wolfhound. Anyone who loves dogs can’t be bad 😉 and Charlie and Billy adore them.

Arc via authors

Swimming in the Dark, Tomasz Jedrowski

Swimming in the Dark, Tomasz Jedrowski

Genre: Literary Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

I was kind of expecting romance from some of the early reviews and comments, although of course its not classed as romance under the genre headings.
Its not though, there is romance in it but its not a romance per se. Its written as a sort of autobiography style, and I guess for me a clue that it perhaps wouldn’t be the style of writing I enjoy is the Literary Fiction tag. Sometimes I find I enjoy this type of story telling, more often it seems to be more erudite, as if its aiming at style rather than substance and for me its more the story that’s important, not so much the way its told.

This is beautifully written, almost poetic at times and I felt the sheer drudgery of life in Poland in the 80s, the daily grind to just survive that was the lot of most of the population. I can remember well the timing of Solidarność and Lech Wałęsa. I was in my early twenties, had a ringside seat so to speak, seeing nightly on the news here in the UK the progression of the movement.
Its not until reading this novel though that I understand just how tough life was for folk there. How difficult daily life was, the struggle to get enough to eat, to get medicines, to survive, and how oppressing it could all be.
I guess that’s really what the issue is for me in enjoying the story, I read to be entertained and educated but I also feel there’s enough drear in daily life, and I want a HEA, or at least the possibility from my reading. Here though I got a heart breaking story of two lads in love, but its a romance that had no way of ending well without taking a huge risk. I was almost in tears at the end for poor Ludwik, even for Janusz, as they really were living in a time and place where what they shared had little chance of lasting. Such a waste of love and life, and yet still in the world this type of issue is far too widespread.

Stars: Three, its a beautifully written tale, but the content was just too depressing for me to actually enjoy the story. It remineded me a bit of the short story version of brokeback mountain.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Grown Ups, Marian Keyes

Grown Ups, Marian Keyes

Grown Ups by [Keyes, Marian]

Genre: Women’s fiction, General fiction (adult)
Sigh…..women’s fiction – just why? Why alienate potential readers, men read and write romance too.

Well. Marion Keyes, an author whose work I usually love. I went onto this expecting to be engrossed in a family saga. Well, family saga it is but there were so many characters, that it got confusing, I had to keep flipping back well into the story to see who was who and how they fitted in.
Its a well written story once you have it clear who is who and how they relate to the others but…. a huge failing for me was that the more I read the less I liked the characters. I did like Nell til further in when I just was rolling my eyes at her behaviour, and the more I read the less I liked everyone else. I guess Jessie, the one I probably liked least to begin became the only one I really liked. I felt she was trying, even if too hard and her actions were OTT, at least she meant well, whereas the rest seemed to display some horrible self centred traits. Sadly for me that made the story a fail – I can see its a five star perfect read for others, and that’s how it goes with stories, some you love and some…you just don’t. I’ll be back when the next MK book is out, I’m sure this is just a glitch for me with her work.

Stars: Two, I really struggled with this, well written but ultimately I just didn’t care about the characters enough to enjoy the story.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Glissando, A Story of Love, Lust and Jazz, Debbie Burke

Glissando, A Story of Love, Lust and Jazz, Debbie Burke

Glissando: A Story of Love, Lust and Jazz by [Burke, Debbie]

Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction.

Bah! Women’s fiction. Its 2020, men write romance, men read romance. Outdated category.

So, I did see that Ellie was attracted to a married guy, but hoped there were going to be some mitigating circumstances…y’know, wife still, but divorce on the way, wife is a nasty woman, and there are reasons, valid reasons why they don’t part. Sadly though Ellie decides before knowing anything about the wife that she wants Vince, and what she wants she gets. Having been in that situation herself and devastated by it, I just could not understand how she could do it to someone else.
The story starts where Ellie is maybe late twenties/ early thirties perhaps, then suddenly it shoots forward to where she’s fifty-five, and meets Vince. I found that odd, not really knowing what happened in her life between then and now.
I also found that the writing style, very much an inner light into Ellie’s constant thoughts, rather than dialogue based didn’t work for me. I’m not a fan of stories told via inner monologues. That’s me though, as always you may feel very differently about this book.
I’m not sure whether this is meant to be a stand alone of part of a sereis, certainly the very last line hints at a series, or more to come anyway, but there isn’t any easy to find info. I won’t be continuing anyway.

Stars: Two, just not one for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Bromance Book Club, Lyssa Kay Adams

The Bromance Book Club, Lyssa Kay Adams

The Bromance Book Club: The utterly charming new rom-com that readers are raving about! by [Kay Adams, Lyssa]

Genre: Romance

Y’know, so very often books promise “you will laugh out loud” or maybe “gut clenching humour” and I find that actually they don’t, the humour is forced and more slapstick than comedic. This one promises nothing and yet was incredible. Clever subtle humour at times that had me smiling gently, and at other times ? I was snorting at the mental images.

Wonderfully written, you feel for both characters, and I adored them even if I could see where they were harsh with each other in expectations and of course, saying just the wrong thing at the wrong moment!
Gavin, he was wonderful. Top baseball star, dad of adorable twin girls, and thinks he has the perfect marriage and then….That comes out. Poor guy, all this while he’s been thinking he’s keeping his wife happy sexually, and then suddenly he finds out she’s never reached the big O. He (IMO) over reacts, a mix of feeling humiliated I guess, and feeling that she’s lied to him the three years they’ve been married.

Thea, suddenly found herself pregnant early in her relationship, and twins demand all your time. She loves Gavin, that’s clear, but feels an outsider in his closed Baseball world. I can see that, many wives/partners grow up alongside their partner, from junior ranks to the big time but Thea got dropped straight in, and it feels like she’s always trying to blend in, to belong, and yet never really fits. Of course there’s the classic mean girl, the type who says one thing while making it clear its not praise but an insult, Rachel, wife of one of the other stars, and I do love a character like hers. I wish she had a bigger part. I love the drama that follows people like her.
Then with the arrival of the twins Thea’s own career has ground to a halt too. She adores Gavin so how do you say “actually Gav, you’ve not hit the spot” and when? Once you’ve let that magic, hidden moment pass its gone. How can you respond when he says “why didn’t you tell me before?” and so it becomes a long secret.
The book club guys, they were just wonderful. I love First Rule of Book Club, you don’t talk about Book Club. The sheer silliness of modern day men, bug Alpha males, taking tips from fictional Regency Lords and their problems. And yet it was working…I guess times never really change. I love the way they convinced themselves the book was relevant to modern society, the way they used words to parallel it to modern feminism…and of course the wonderful Regency style insults and phrases that pop into Gavin’s head. It was the little touches like that which add so much depth and fun to the story
Its one step forward and two back for Gavin as both he and Thea learn slowly about the issues from their own pasts that have influenced their marriage. If they had dated for longer then maybe they wouldn’t have had issues, would have known more about each others triggers but…the twins came.
I think my favourite bit was the night Gav was looking after the twins and the book club lads had a meeting at his house. Thea and sister Liv came home early to find decorated beards and hair, big burly guys with painted nails, and of course The Russian and his stomach and flatulence issues. I actually had tears of laughter at the mental images in my head.
Its a great read, lovely romance with incredible humour that was just perfect for me, fitting to the story, not squeezed in regardless for a cheap laugh as in so many books. I look forward to the next in series.

Stars: Five. A wonderful read, romance, humour and sharply modern issues that were helped with ancient advice….

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Truth Hurts, A captivating, breathless read, Rebecca Reid

Truth Hurts, A captivating, breathless read, Rebecca Reid

Truth Hurts: A captivating, breathless read by [Reid, Rebecca]

Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, Women’s Fiction

Moan: women’s fiction – why alienate potential readers? Men write books enjoyed by women and men alike, and they read the same.

Secrets, its a novel about secrets and of course they never stay hidden. I kept wondering: what was Poppy hiding, what was Drew’s secret? I was puzzled at first when we met Drew and Poppy, and then moved on to Agnes and Caroline….but it all comes together slowly, though the secrets don’t come out until almost the end.
Its told in past/present format for Poppy, but Drew remains an enigma, a man who adores Poppy, seems to be just too good to be true. Gina, Poppy’s friend certainly thinks so, but she’s guardedly cautious, after her first open enthusiasm about him.
I loved when Gina was staying with Poppy at Thursday house, and they do the makeover, transforming it in the few days Drew was away. Then Drew’s friends arrive for a weekend and that was fun, the old friends come to meet ( aka gossip and judge…) Drew’s surprise new, young wife….some great snark there.

It’s fun read, cleverly paced so you’re always wondering what did happen, what are they hiding. Was it so bad, was it what I suspect, why are the locals so unfriendly?
There are lots of little clues, but I was never quite sure where they were leading, or if I was down the wrong track.
Then all is revealed, very suddenly near the end, but that’s not all the surprises, there’s one last one that really caught me out, shocked me and changed how I’d begun to see everyone. I really didn’t like what happened, yet it was the perfect ending, really unexpected, and something that made me feel somewhat uncomfortable about it.

Stars: five, a cracking read, surprises all the way and an ending that caught me out. Its not one I’d reread, for a long while at least, knowing the secrets now but its still an amazing read.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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