Exquisitely Broken, A Sin City Tale 1, M. Jay Granberry
Genre: Romance, multi-cultural interest
The story is told in three parts; today, four years in the past and ten years in the past. At times that was irritating, frustrating, there’d be something climatic happen then next page we’d be in a different time period. I don’t really see another way of telling the story though, other than giving it all away at once, and that wouldn’t make good reading 😉
I wanted to know what happened to split them up, after all six years together is a long time. I know he cheated, Sin tells us that, but I wanted to know exactly what happened, why, how long etc. When I did find out what went down I was a bit confused. Why? Was it a one off or ongoing? Was that the only time? There had to be a reason, was Jake just getting cold feet? Was he just arrogant thinking he could do it just because? I feel that part of the book needed more work, more fleshing out.
It was such a huge part of them and the story but kind of glossed over. “oh, he cheated, right, on to next plot.” It wasn’t treated with the awfulness cheating is, and Jake didn’t seem to appreciate just how his actions affected Sin, it was as if he felt it was in the past, she should forget it. I’d always worry though, if he could do it once, he could do it a second time. It made Jake into a person I didn’t really like, and it took a while for that to change.
Sin is so loyal to her friends, has worked hard for her success but her heart is still with Jake, she hasn’t really got over their break-up, and now she’s within his sphere again he wants her back. I was a bit undecided though, was her really worthy of her? I guess without knowing what went wrong I wasn’t convinced it wouldn’t happen again. Sin though is stronger now, and not just going to roll over.
We meet Jake’s family too, his dad isn’t so bad but his mum, what a piece of work she is. That’s fine by me though, I just love a nasty character on a book, makes the story so much more interesting 😉 I did feel though that Jake needed to stand up to her more, to stand by Sin, to tackle his mum about her past actions and her current attitude.
There’s lots going on in this story, some terrific characters and its a great debut read, but for me it needed a bit more – I needed to feel that Jake really regretted what he’d done. I felt he was sorry for it only in that he lost Sin because of it, not that he actually saw anything wrong in his cheating. There’s an important difference there, and its the one that makes me certain it won’t happen again.
I needed him to stand up to his mum too, to tell her to not interfere in his life, for him to stand up for Sin, rather than just let things play out and – kind of – apologise foe his mum after she’s been her usual unpleasant self.
Stars: Four, a great debut read. A few parts that didn’t work so well for me but I’ll be looking out for M Jay’s next book.
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More Than Anything, The Broken Pieces Book 1, Natasha Anders
Genre: Romance, General Fiction (Adult)
I’ve enjoyed a few of Natasha’s stories now. Sometimes I just want an easy, non taxing romance with a HEA and her books usually fit the bill. I didn’t enjoy this one much though, it wasn’t a bad book, I just found I couldn’t really relate to the characters or their problems.
I love an under-dog, and Tina seemed just that. She had an awful experience at 18, but unless she was incredibly naive I find part of that plot hard to believe. Likewise staying celibate for next ten years? Why? Still hating Harris for what happened even though as a close family friend they seem to be in constant contact some way? Then there’s the crux of that issue, her weight, but she doesn’t seem to be anything more than an attractive, curvy lady.
Though I like the underdog character I want them to have some spirit and Tina just came over as whiny at times, no backbone, just constantly blaming everything on Harris, when they guy didn’t know half the story.
Harris, I didn’t understand why he didn’t ask why Tina was so cold to him after The Event. He knows what happened, its not hard to guess why Tina was friends before and blanked him after. Why didn’t he just apologise, ask her why she was so different? I just found the idea of adults holding a ten year grudge hard. I’d just move totally away if I felt that strongly, but Tina seems to have had contact via family but kept on silently with the recriminations.
Then after a ten years of holding in that grudge its over quickly, and that didn’t feel right. Her friend Libby and Greyson too, their issues being the secondary plot-line, was kind of over and done without any real justification of the resolution. If I was Libby I’d have been gutted at what happened, it would take a lot of hard work to forgive and I’m not sure that kind of accusation could be got past.
I didn’t understand why her family were so harsh on her, it seems to have been almost since birth, and the failed businesses were just an anomaly in the book IMO. They didn’t add anything to the story, just filled pages and gave her supposed close family something to beat her with.
There’s another part of the story that did make me feel really sad for her, and having experienced something very similar I could understand a bit of her reaction. Again though, she has the money, she’s been to counseling, and when its affecting her friendship with Libby it needs dealing with.
Stars: Two and a half. I liked the premise, usually enjoy Natasha’s stories but this one just didn’t cut it.
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Woman Who Spoke to Spirits, Alys Clare
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
I love this kind of historical read, one where I feel I’m part of the setting, can taste the atmosphere, really feel as if I’m there in past times with the characters. It proved t be a light and enjoyable read. This is first in a new series, I’ve read a couple by Alys and enjoyed those, so was confident I’d like this one.
First books in a series have a hard ask, delivering characters, new settings along with an interesting story, and this book did that really well.
I’m intrigued by Lily’s past, we get hints of some awful trauma but I guess that’s going to come out more in further books. Likewise her new hire, Felix, has his own somewhat mysterious past. We know some of it, but there seems much more to him that just a down at heel former rich kid. He has so much experience of different things, and I’m keen to know how and where and when he learned all this. He seemed so much older than his actual years.
He and Lily make a good pair, work well together and even though in those times its odd to have a female boss, he makes it work, being deferential without seeming obsequious, and yet standing up when its needed. I feel maybe in further books something might develop between them but there’s little here except respect and a possible growing attraction. I want to know more about the guy in the houseboat – forgotten his name, but though he and Lily have only met a handful of times they have something special maybe? Or perhaps I’m reading things that aren’t there 😉
The mystery this is based around is actually two stories, there’s the one about the actress, the stage and young Julian, and then the primary one of Albertina and the evil she senses is out for her. That had me completely puzzled, I simply couldn’t work it out, though of course after its over I could see the clues Alys had cleverly weaved through. An original tale, not one I’ve come across before.
Stars: Four, a fun read and a great intro to the series.
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Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston
Genre: LGBTQIA, romance
Note: I’m reading an ARC so possibly the issues about UK/USA differences will be corrected before publication. As a UK reader things like this are very noticeable.
The first issue that bothered me came very early, UK Prince Henry’s brother’s wedding cake. We have £ not $ so the cake would be £75,000 not $75,000 ( or whatever the exchange rate equivalent is ). Then there’s Alex’ comments on the beans on toast breakfast. Well, we do eat that, but in a royal palace the fare would be far wider, they’d be pushing the traditional full English, with maybe kippers, smoked haddock etc and a Continental option. Poor Alex wouldn’t have been forced to eat something he so disliked.
Anyway, got that off my chest 😉 now to the book.
I hadn’t realised it was a YA/NA and to start with Alex especially felt even younger than his 21, and that irritated me. You can’t help liking him though, he’s got that irrepressible good nature, except when it comes to Henry…
Of course thrown together as they are, they start to see a different side to each other, and I really enjoyed how they developed a strong friendship before getting into deeper feelings. There’s quite a lot of artistic license given in how they manage to meet surreptitiously so often, in reality a Prince is incredibly closely guarded, and I expect its the same for the President’s son. Still, fiction 🙂 and it makes for a fun story.
I’d jumped in after reading the blurb, but when beginning it I really thought this wouldn’t be one for me with that shaky, YS feel start. I’ve read some YA books and enjoyed them, but YA romance isn’t really my thing. However once I got to know Alex better and see that despite my first impressions he really wasn’t a 21 going on 16 kid, that actually he was more mature I started to enjoy the story.
I don’t know whether its a UK/US thing but I’ve noticed often that characters in the 18-21 age group in US novels tend to be very immature, mentally like a UK 15 – 18 age group, whereas in UK ones at that age they act and are regarded as adults. Maybe its that they are treated that way in UK, and in US adulthood doesn’t seem to clock in till about 24 or 25?
I think what I liked best was getting to know the real characters, the people they were behind the front they show in public. I enjoyed the secondary characters too. They played a solid part in the story, backing up Alex and Henry, providing advice and working hard to keep the romance on track. I was surprised ( pleasantly) at how in depth some of the issues were treated, bringing in topically important plots, ones that affect folk in real life. I love that bit of reality in fiction, and it plays an important part in helping to effect change sometimes by raising issues folk may be unaware of.
There was the whole LBGTQIA issue, especially in a very traditional Royal family, the way it can affect voters in the US system, the issues of others making political capital out of others problems, and of course a very topical issue about sexual abuse in the workplace.
Stars: Four, a book that started badly for me but which had a lot more depth and topicality than I expected. And a great romance of course 😉
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Smitten by the Brit, Melonie Johnson
I really thought this sounded perfect for me, but I feel conflicted, ambivalent about it. It was well written, just didn’t wow me, didn’t make me feel I couldn’t put it down.
I wasn’t really gripped by either character, they were Nice. That’s it. No real character to either of them. Bonnie was a sweet girl, but I’d have thought she’d be more upset over her breakup considering how long they’d been together. Years, years after being childhood friends. That’s not something you can move from even though he was an ar- se, even though it was clear they’d actually drifted apart some while back. Yet within days she’s got the hots for Theo.
I think she’s the sort of person who would grieve losing the idea of the relationship you thought she had even if she didn’t grieve the man.
Theo, he made me so cross, a real mummy’s boy. I could see the issue with his family, understand the problems but really? The solution his mother proposed wasn’t something you’d pull from a hat, the issues weren’t something that sudden;ly cropped up and the solution – if hers wasn’t what he wanted – should have been worked out years ago.
Its that lack of practicality, the reaching for quick and easy solutions combined with the blandness of the characters that let this story down for me. You may feel differently, I can see others love it so clearly the issues I struggle with don’t affect other readers. Melonie is a new to me author, I will try another book before deciding she’s not for me, I like her writing style, just not the plot and characters in this book. Could be a one off and I’ll love others. Won’t be the first time that’s happened, and I’m always looking for some well written romance.
Stars: Two and a half, I enjoyed Melonie’s style of writing but sadly not this book.
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Swallowtail Summer, Erica James
Genre: general fiction (adult)
I’ve read a few of Erica’s novels in the past, and those all had a romance slant, so even though this wasn’t billed as romance I somehow was expecting one. My bad, its not romance. It is however, and accurate, sharp look at us as people, how we turn a blind eye to what we don’t want to acknowledge, and how differently people react when the truth is forced in front of them.
I liked the strength of the characters, the way they felt real. I can’t say I really liked any of them as people though, and I wasn’t really invested in the outcome of events. Its not a book that really worked for me, very well written, but the actual story just didn’t resonate with me. Possibly because I was waiting for a romance to develop somewhere….totally my fault. I do read stories other than romance, but my mindset wasn’t in the right place. Maybe at a different time I’d enjoy it, but right now I didn’t. I found it a very sad story, almost depressing in how people could be let down so bsdly by those close to them.
Stars: Two, just not one for me, but I’ll happily read others from Erica.
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Persistent Intruder, Kay Brooks
I saw the romance tag, didn’t realise it was also suspense, but that’s fine, I like romantic suspense for an occasional read. I enjoyed this story, though I felt the actual romance side wasn’t particularly strong.
Brian, well, when we first meet him and learn of his plans for a child I thought he was pretty cold, didn’t really like him. I know he’s had a problematic past with women but even so, he seemed so clinical about the whole thing.
Its back to my personal feelings about how children show be welcomed to be loved, not to be an accessory or simply an heir for someones genes, and I got the impression that heir was what Brian really wanted, not a child to love.
Still, there’s a quick burst of passion between him and Natalie, and of course the pregnancy that results. There isn’t a relationship though, will Brian just want the child and not her, if she tells him she’s pregnant? He has the money to do what he wants. Can she take that risk?
Then of course there’s that passion that they both thought would be easy to leave behind after the weekend, but feelings aren’t that easy, don’t fall in with our plans do they?
Of course that’s all complicated by the deranged stalker Brian has, and that suspense angle was excellent in the main, even though I did feel actions from all of them stretched credulity at times.
It was a fun read, interesting but I felt the romance side wasn’t as well worked as the suspense. For me I prefer the romance to be the stronger part of the story and I wasn’t totally convinced in Brian and Natalie.
Stars: Four, an easy read, but I would have liked more emphasis on relationship building, the romance side, to balance the very cold Brian we first met. I wasn’t convinced he could change that easily.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
A Shadow Beyond, Emma-Nicole Lewis
Genre: Historical fiction, Contemporary Fiction,
I don’t read books like this often, but sometimes I want to just dip into a different genre, refresh my reading tastes, and this is in the mould of Susanna Kearsley, Barbara Erskine with its past and present, characters linked by history format. Its a lovely long read too, not one of those 150 pages where story is so crammed plots don’t have time to develop.
Its not one I couldn’t put aside, and in fact I did read it over three or four sessions, reading other stuff in between. Sometimes a story just can’t be put down, other times I like to stop and mull over what I’ve read.
I recall reading about a village that closed itself off during the plague, to stop the spread, there are any number who stayed closed to keep plague out, but few who did it, sacrificed themselves to keep plague contained. That takes a really strong group. They were very devout religious folk though, and believing this edict came from God helped, convinced them they were doing what god wanted. Of course the cynic in me notes the wealthy families decamped at first sign of plague, as always it was the common folk who made the sacrifice.
Still, cynicism apart, it was an incredible sacrifice, and one that bears remembrance.
I loved reading about the historical characters, how they lived, the connections between families, and of course just what was haunting Thornycroft. The suspense is very deftly written and it seemed to me most times we jumped from past to present or present to past each new chapter started where old one left off, so Rachel would be scared by something back in the past and at the crucial moment the book would jump forward and we’d see Kate discovering what has scared her. It gave a great feeling of continuity to the story.
I loved characters, past and present, didn’t see the twist in present times, though I’d guessed some of the past twist, and whichever time I was reading I became totally absorbed in what was happening. I have a small criticism in that though the book was deliciously long I felt the ending was rushed, crammed in too small a space, and it didn’t really bring out the incredible connections of past and present. I kind of felt I was looking at % bar and thinking “ so when will we? Will she tell us ?” and it all kind of fell into one complete few pages, or at least it appeared that way while reading.
There is romance here, both past and present but its very muted, very much a tertiary plot to the main suspense angle.
Stars: Four, I really enjoyed this, but wished there was a less rushed ending. It did all tie up properly, nothing was missed but it felt like each plot came to the crux at the same time and I didn’t feel that did the story justice.
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The Wrong Kind of Love, The Boys of Jackson Harbor, Lexi Ryan
I’ve read a couple of books from Lexi, one I loved, the other not so much but I really liked the sound of this one…
I love the writing style, love the way the story unfolded, and of course the Jackson family and the folk of the town…there’s something about small town romances that calls to me. Sadly though I didn’t like either of the main protagonists and that coloured the book for me.
Nic, how much more of a wimp could she be? I understood why, felt for her past but at some point you have to make changes, but she just keeps on making the same mistake over and over, letting useless men walk all over her while she gives up everything. It seems she’s been like this since school, falling in love with men who let her down, and of course having given up all dreams of education she’s kind of lost. She thinks she’s found love once more with Marcus, who asked her to marry him after two months, and six months on its her wedding day…and then THAT happens. How can your twin DO that? Seems Ronnie has done that all her life though, Nic gives and Ronnie takes.
She doesn’t stop being like that though when she meets Ethan, lets him take from her, and then when she discovers he’s her boss she still lets him take. Ethan was a real jerk to her, I kind of understood his reactions but he needed to suck it up, take responsibility for his actions. Instead he’s laying blame with Nic.
Given she’s supposedly heartbroken from Marcus I found it hard that she fell in love with Ethan so quickly, and that he fell for her. If there had been more time, say several months I might have believed in it but this all happens in a few short weeks, about a month I think, and it was just too insta-love for me, given Nic’s past inst-loves and Ethan’s determination not to get into a relationship, certainly not with his daughter’s nanny.
The denouement is pretty much expected, and I understood the anger, but once more its over so quickly. And Ronnie…really? Nic’s still playing sucker?
The story is good, the characters great, but its the timing that’s the big struggle for me, I find it hard to believe Nic is really in love given her history of falling in love at the drop of a hat. Ethan, part of me loved him, part of me hated him, he really was an obnoxious jerk to Nic and she just took it….
I do want to read more in the series, I’m hoping its just this book, these characters and the whole time issue that’s not worked for me. I’m keen to read Teague’s story ( hopefully?) and some of the Jackson family’s futures, but not Ronnie. I don’t want to read a story that will make me like her 😉 She’s just done too much to Nic for me to get past.
Stars: Three, potentially great read for me IF the timing had changed, events took longer, and if I could be certain Nic had developed some self respect.
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Not Here, (Dina Ostica Novel 1), Genevieve Nocovo
Genre: suspense and thriller
This is one of those stories I thought I’d like, but which I found a struggle to connect with.
I didn’t really understand Dina, didn’t understand how she was hoping to make money from her podcasts, and in fact what she was using to support herself. Its far harder to make money online than posting the odd video….it takes a huge amount of work unless you get very lucky. Maybe I missed something? Dunno, but though I liked her, admired her ideals I just couldn’t really get along with the story.
At first I was fine and was eager to continue, but I quickly became lost with it all. That could be me of course, others seem to have had no problems, but I’m not really a thriller/suspense reader, choosing to dip into the genre only occasionally. This time I made a bad choice, its a good story just not the right one for me.
Stars: Two and a half.
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