The Familiars: Stacey Halls
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
I hovered over this, had requested via netgalley some time ago but didn’t get it 😦 , sometimes they only have limited copies for ARCs. It sounded so intriguing after reading the sample that I bought it anyway. Yep, paid real money for this one 😉
Its a fantastic read, based around the real Pendleton Witches saga, and showing how helpless women were once accused, and how easy to was for grudges, and power hungry individuals to wreck peoples lives. Literally. That magic mix ( for me ) of fiction and reality, which I love to read.
I loved Fleetwood, only 17 but on her fourth pregnancy, hoping against hope that this time her husband gets his much wanted heir. Then she finds That Letter, and is devastated. As was I reading it, I so felt for her.
Richard seems like a really nice guy, shocking to me that at just 17 his wife is on her fourth pregnancy, but in those times marriage at a young age wasn’t uncommon. He’s away a lot on business but seems to adore Fleetwood and certainly allows her a freedom many wives didn’t have at that time. Then we learn something that shocked me. Not so uncommon but I just didn’t expect it and it coloured how I felt about him after.
Alice, poor girl, just caught up in things after trying to innocently help someone, and her involvement brings others into the ever growing web of people seeking the kings favour are weaving, knowing his vendetta against witches. Looking at the accusations and the “proof” from today’s perspective its ludicrous, but back then men were Gods almost when it came to determining who was innocent – hint, virtually no one. They seemed to see accused as guilty the minute someone laid a charge, and knowing the more “witches” they found, the higher the king would regard them was a powerful motive for those with no conscience.
Poor Fleetwood learns some unpleasant lessons about trust in this book. Alice too, helping someone injured ended up risking her life. She’d such a hard life anyway, and then doing something so innocent cost her job and brought her to the witch hunters notice.
The supernatural, the familiars element of the title is kind of elusive, certain animals could perhaps be familiars, and yet it could just be supposition, superstitious imaginings about innocent pets. Who knows, its never really clear but there’s enough co-incidences to make me wonder.
Stars: Five, a fabulous read, that mix of fiction rooted in reality and with a possible supernatural link, made it a riveting read for me. One I know I’ll re-read.
A Madness of Sunshine, Nalini Singh
I love Nalini’s Guild Hunter series and her contemporary romances. I so wish I could enjoy the psy-changling series, so many books I haven’t read. Maybe I’ll give them another go 😉
This time the story is as much, maybe more, suspense as romance. Its a slow burn relationship, it’s more getting to know each other tentatively and maybe starting something, than a full on romance. I enjoyed it even though I was expecting more romance from the tag.
The background of Golden Cove, and the issues of past and present was excellent. When Nalini writes there’s always that extra touch, scenery is always so descriptive I can mentally see it, characters that I feel I know, understand, even things like the coffee, I can smell and taste it from her words.
The suspense was cleverly done, a couple of main possible suspects stand out, and yet there are things thrown in that made me wonder “ but what about? Could they? ”
Its cleverly wrapped up, proper ending. I hate it when I finish a story and am left wondering what happened after, wondering about certain characters.
The reason both Will and Anhara were in Golden Cove were believable, I really felt for them both. There were other characters already there too that had some nasty shocks, life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, sometimes its just damn windy and stormy. Life’s like that for us all sometimes, throws in unwelcome surprises, things happen beyond our control, someone does whats right yet still ends up poorer for it. It made the story feel very realistic for me.
Stars: Five. I was pleased at the way things worked out in the ending. I like that kind of finishing the story and giving a hint of what happens to them in the future.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Unexpected Lessons in Love, Lucy Dillon
Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction
Oh Dear, Women’s fiction again – why on earth do we still use this outdated genre category. Men read romance, men write romance, why exclude them?
Anyway, the book. I was sure I’d read and enjoyed some of Lucy’s previous novels but when I checked just before writing this I haven’t – yay, more books to enjoy from a new to me author!
This is classed as romance and…well… it is but its kind of a tenuous connection, and is more the possibility of romance than an actual one.
I love the characters, Jeannie of course and her lovely parents, Andrea, Dan’s mum, Owen, his best friend and then there’s the dogs and the connections they bring. Its a serious problem here in the UK, only yesterday I read of yet another recently shut down in our local paper, where three people had made around £300,000 in two years, and the dogs that were rescued were in much the same state as the ones Rachel takes in. Makes me furious. Always ask to see parents, check that dogs seem happy and secure in the environment, that they haven’t just been placed in a house to appear to have come from there. There’s lots more advice online but the crux is if we’re more careful, demand and profits go and that’s the best way to stop the trade.
The story is so horribly real, I could imagine it happening just the way it was written. Poor Jeannie, so happy and then that last minute concern. Was it bride’s nerves or more, should she go with her head or her gut feelings. Then that crushing feeling of guilt. Then That happens, but while Dan is recovering things come out that don’t quite add up.
The dogs, they were real showstoppers, and of course the Brides Dress Revisited, ( what a fabulous name) added so much extra to the story, that while I’m a romance lover through and through, this was one of the stories I love that has little actual romance, but so much more to the story that I am totally engrossed. Its a fabulous read, I loved it and will look at Lucy’s other stories now.
Stars: Five, a wonderful, all round story it’s a promise of future romance.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
City of Pearl, Alys Clare
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery and Thrillers
I’ve said before, this series so much reminds me of the Ariana Franklin books I enjoyed years ago, and I’m really enjoying getting to know Lassair and her world. I mistakenly came in late to the series, thinking its was an AF read, so I’ve yet to have the pleasure of reading the books from the beginning. One day – so many books, so little time…. 😉
Anyway, we start in the Fens, ( a place not many miles from where I live) but the story moves on a journey to Spain. It amazes me that some folk never traveled further than the next village, which feels usual for the time, while others like Lassair, Gurdyman and his family, and a few others, embarked upon what must have been scary and perilous travails, at a time when so little was known about where they were going, and knowing the journey would be fraught with danger.
Gurdyman has always been a man of few words, Lassair has learned to curb her impatience, knowing he will tell her what she needs to know in time, but even her patience was stretched here. I’d have been climbing the walls.
Clearly the unflappable Gurdyman has been frightened, but by what? Where exactly are they going, and why? Why go now when its the worst time to travail and Gurdyman isn’t in the best of health? Lassair though is feeling her losses, poor Rollo, who died in the last book, and Jack, who so curtly rejected her so she’s ready for a change, and thinks maybe that’s why he chosen now to travel.
Like many historical reads the book is really about the gradual progress to the end, enjoying the journey the book takes us on, rather than racing to the finish. That’s good because I enjoyed that more than the actual revelations at the end.
We find the place where Gurdyman lived as a young boy, and where he furthered his education. There are more hints of some things that are a bit more Magic, than straight Healing, a trait only a few have, and of which Gurdyman has taught Lassair only the briefest history.
There’s an undercurrent of danger running through the book, of mystery, of evil and maybe harm, of things unspoken but feared, and Lassair finds herself puzzling what, why, who, where are they going etc. She has so many questions but Gurdyman reveals very little. I would be so burning with curiosity, Lassair is a better person ( all round) than me.
She learns more about herself, and things about her mentor which are hard to accept, but in contrast to that harsh fact, and the trials that undoubtedly lie ahead for her, she has a moment of happiness when Jack follows her on that perilous journey to ensure she’s safe. He’d only do that if he cares? Right? So thinks she, and I, and I so hope we’re right 😉
Stars: 4.5 I’m hovering between four and five here, the main thrust of the story was fascinating, kept me guessing and engrossed, and felt so very real, I felt I was there in history and I love a story that can do that. Somehow though the answers to those questions Lassair ( and I) has weren’t as satisfying as I’d hoped. Though all was made clear it just didn’t really feel enough for me, and there were of course bits I wasn’t happy to read, disappointments in some people. That was just a fraction of the overall though so its a four and a half for me.
Arc via Netgalley
Room to Breathe, Liz Talley
Genre: General fiction (Adult), Romance
I really enjoyed this. Its good to read romance from someone older than twenties. Its just a few little niggles that let it down for me, stopped it being five star, things like Ellery pretending to be her mum in emails, Clay, the notorious man whore, wanting more, things that didn’t really feel true to character. Overall though its a great read.
I loved Daphne, pregnant at 16 she married Rex and made the best of things. They’re both devoted to their daughter but over the years Daphne and Rex grew apart, and then divorced. Daphne’s career has grown and daughter Ellery works as her PA, having failed to get the internship she’d set her heart on.
Its easy to see why Ellery is selfish, both Daphne and Rex have done everything for her since she was tiny, indulged her, let her think the world revolved around her and her wants. She’s now 23 and they’re still doing it, and Ellery just assumes they should, that they’ll continue to pay her rent, pay her credits cards…but of course outside mum and dad the world is harsh, Ellery isn’t central. I really disliked her, and understood why Gage saw her as spoiled princess type.
Ellery doesn’t have many true friends, maybe her selfishness bleeds through and that’s why. That may also be why she pretended to be her mother in that strange pen pal relationship. TBH I found that part of the story odd, didn’t really fit as I never really understood why she did it, why she continued. It was an integral part of how things developed though so I guess I’ll have to suck it up 😉 Ellery has a fiance though, Josh, who’s in med school, and whom she lives with. We don’t really see much of him though, he’s always studying and though I felt for Ellery when she tried to carve time for them as a couple and got rebuffed, I felt she still saw things only in terms of how they affect her.
When Ellery gets wind of the issue with Clay and her mother she goes berserk. She was a first class bitch, and I do so love it when characters are like that. It creates drama in spades and I love that. Its not like she wants Clay anymore, she’s still sore from him dropping her after just a couple of dates, and of course she has Josh. Its more that like so many spoiled kids she sees her mum as always being mum, doesn’t see her as a person in her own right. If mum has to date it should be someone age appropriate, someone Ellery can approve of.
Rex the Ex, ( nice term that!) was a typical jerk man of a certain type, happy when Daphne was running the business with him, so long as she kept in the background and let him take the success, he couldn’t deal when she got her own successful career. He was obnoxious – in the best way of course. Good books need someone like him as a foil, offsets all the good.
Then there’s Evan, he was just wonderful, and his nephew Gage was also. Loved those two, and the whole vineyard experience.
Stars: Four, Its a fun read, fabulous characters, some terrific drama, some great surprises, and a satisfying ending.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Ex-Girlfriend, Nicola Moriarty
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Gah, women’s fiction: c’mon publishers, this category has no place in 2019. Men read romance, men write romance, stop trying to alienate a potential reader base.
Anyway, I found this book kind of slow at the start, and felt it was a little predictable. I was pretty sure what was going on and almost gave up.
Glad I didn’t though, once things picked up they rocketed along, with surprises way beyond what I thought would happen. Its totally absorbing, and so much more than I first thought, so although I found that first 30% a bit meh, a little obvious as to what was going on, once past that and I was gobsmacked, the story went way beyond what I’d thought.
What seemed like a simple story turned into a deliciously complex one full of unexpected events and long planned motivations.
The events had me mentally screaming “nooo….don’t” and I was so astonished at how seemingly unconnected events finally came together.
Its a shortish review for me, but its impossible to say more without giving away important events, suffice to say its a story that had me gripped once past that slow start.
Stars: four, it would be five but for that slow start. Still, for others its a five as it is so its perfect for them.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
A Lie for a Lie, All In Book 1, Helena Hunting
Genre: General Fiction ( Adult), Romance
I first found Helena’s book from the fabulous Clipped wings, still my favourite and just downloaded again for a reread. I’ve enjoyed others from her but also read some that didn’t hit the spot. This one kind of falls in the middle.
I loved RJ, and understood exactly why he was so cagey about revealing who he was. Having had a stalker issue, he’s bound to be cautious and with fame bringing out all sorts of crazy its sensible to take care. Of course that led to lots of issues further down the line, but he never outright lied, just didn’t tell all and I thought once she knew the truth Lainey was a bit harsh to him over that.
I understood her issues, she’d been through a huge trauma. As a parent myself understood where her parents were coming from too, but of course at 25 no-one wants to still be having to run decisions by parents, and it was well past time for them to accept that.
When something happens in the novel I had a feeling it would lead to….and I was right. TBH I’m getting a little tired of that trope, its becoming too predictable. Maybe I’m just choosing wrong books though 😉 It then takes up a large part of the novel naturally, and becomes the focus of whether they can make it as a couple or not. I understood the characters, why they acted as they did, I enjoyed the story but wasn’t glued to it, and it won’t be a re-reader for me.
Stars: Three, an easy, relaxing read, but a little short on plot and drama for me.
Arc via Netgalley
Let It Snow, Sue Moorcroft
Genre: General Fiction (adult), Women’s Fiction.
Quick usual moan about the genre Women’s Fiction – why? Why assume men won’t read this? Men write romance, men read romance….
Well, I was late to the Sue Moorcroft appreciation group 😉 but she’s the kind of author whose books are worth reading multiple times. They’re so packed with mini plots, secondary characters, fascinating dialogue that I know on subsequent readings I’ll pick up things I missed this time round.
As usual its not just one plot, one strand of story but lots. I love that in a story, keeps things exciting. Some books are single plot and I find that can mean the story becomes a bit dull, fixated on one event but here we flip between plots, many of which prove ultimately to be connected.
Fabulous charters too, that make the story feel so real. They’re the kind of folk you find in any village, with all life’s dramas, the everyday issues we all face at times. There’s Lily, Zinnia and the two mums, and the issues that’s brought for all of them, and then Lily discovering her two half brothers, and what she should do about that. They have no idea about her, the mums and Zinnia are feeling a bit rejected, even though Lily still adores them. I guess that’s natural, how most parents would feel when their child wants to search out other family members. Til now they’ve been a tight knit unit of four, what will happen when Lily finds them.
Of course its not straight forward, Lily finds Harrison Tubb ( known to all as Tubb), he’s a well liked genial landlord of a village local, and she gets a job with him, intending to tell him who she is when time is right. Its never that straightforward though, and that simple quest gets more complicated as she falls in love with Isaac, who’s minding the pub while Tubb recovers from a heart issue in Switzerland with his brother. By now Lily has been at the pub two years, part time, while building her own business. That brings in an opportunity to work at an event in Switzerland, via Tubb and his brother Garrick, who still don’t know who Lily is to them.
Then there’s the singing group, who are also on the Swiss trip, singing Christmas songs, the other villagers, Isaac and his ex Hayley, and of course their dog, Doggo. He’s a real star of the book, so typically Dalmatian, full of exuberance.
Everything comes to a head just before, and on, the Swiss trip, its multiple dramas pulling Lily from all sides. Perfect read for me, I adore that kind of drama that makes you think, how can they get through this, will they even, or are the odds so stacked against them they won’t?
Its a perfect read for me, full of people and issues that feel so real and one in particular is handled very well, an illness that touches many of us. I’ve read similar plots in other books where it feels like its been brought in to add drama but just isn’t handled well, with parts being very unrealistic. Having had an illness similar myself I appreciated that this was written sensitively but realistically.
Stars: Five, a fun read, full of drama and subtle romance
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Saturday Supper Club, Amy Miller
Romance, Women’s Fiction
Bah, Humbug. Women’s Fiction – that infuriates me. Why do we insist on having such an outdated category?
Anyway, the book. Well, I love a second chance romance, and when characters stories are unfinished like this I want to know how they will end when they meet, will that second chance take, will things work out or has too much changed.
Sadly it wasn’t a great read for me. I love the cafe and how that was being set up, liked the idea of the supper club. I somehow felt the execution was lacking though, given the title, it didn’t really take a major setting.
I found most of the characters strange, except for Eve’s dad and his girlfriend. Though even Dad’s actions were not right either over one event, he meant well but it was wrong. Eve was shilly-shallying between the two men, not really being fair to either. I don’t like that behaviour, even though I understood her need to know, her shock at meeting Ethan again.
Some odd events are disclosed when Ethan finally reveals why he left and his excuse – well, it gobsmacked me. Really? She was upset so you …?? and thought it wise to cuddle someone in those circumstances? What a berk, what a stupid man. I’d have never been able to trust him again.
There are times when things happen between couples that make me feel there is some exoneration, even though its wrong but this? Nope. Out Of Order Ethan. Then he took cowards way out.
I thought Joe was great at first but as we came to know him I found him a bit creepy, manipulative…and then of course things come out that confirm that for me.
Daisy – well, with friends like her who needs enemies is all I can say. Even when the story comes out she’s still “poor me” “ I loved him first” even though he never had anything other than friendship with her.
Overall there were some interesting parts but the characters let it down for me, I didn’t really like any of them, and that spoiled the story.
Stars: Three, I just felt with a bit of tweaking it could have been a great read for me but then I’m sure others will love it as it is. Horses for courses etc.
Arc via Netgalley
Reveal, K. Bromberg, Wicked Ways book two
Genre: romance, general fiction (adult)
Confession time: I loved KB’s Driven trilogy, which I read years ago, and I’ve enjoyed several of her follow up novels, so when I saw she was the author of this book I dived in and hit request. Wasn’t til it was on my kindle I realised it was second part of a duet. Luckily book one was on KU so I borrowed that – loved it BTW – and went on to this.
What I love in a story is romance, but I want a novel that delivers more than just A meets B, and after a few struggles they live happily ever after. I want my characters to really get put through the mill and KB delivers all that in spades.
I loved Ryker, the type of guy you hate until you see beyond his surface, and when he meets Vaughn he’s hooked, though he doesn’t yet realise it. When we learn about his background its easy to see how that has influenced not just his career, but his whole way of living, and until he meets Vaughn he thinks he’s content. Now he’s seeing that he can have more – if he’s brave enough to try. Vaughn though, that girl has some real problems….
I adored Vaughn, been through so much with the loss of her sister, with the awful family situation they had, and now she’s determined to get custody of her niece Lucy, who has learning issues. Lucy is just adorable and loves Vaughn so much you just want things to work out for them, but life is stacked against them. Its hard already with Vaughn working two jobs to pay off the huge debts she ran up for her sisters medical care. Of course one of those jobs has to be kept quiet, hidden from social services, but that’s the one that’s bringing in the money.
Slowly the worlds she tries to keep apart start to collide, problems from her secret job start to create real issues to her custody application, and to her safety. She has secrets on all her clients, but some are bigger than others, and one in particular is bringing her into real danger. She can’t trust anyone, she thought she could trust Ryker but the events at the end of book one threw that into confusion, and left her distraught and feeling so alone.
This book is action packed, full of drama, of secrets, of issues that seem to come between her and Ryker, even though its clear they are totally in love ( and lust!!!) Can they make it through, will her adoption of Lucy work out or is it all doomed to fail?
I had anticipated a few events but there were some that really threw me out completely, and the action – bam, bam, bam, with scarcely a break before she gets hit with the next problem. I so felt for her, I don’t know what I’d have done in the same situation to determine what was the right for her, Lucy and Ryker, but I was so holding out for them.
Stars: Five, a cracking duet, full of scorching romance,and non-stop suspense
Arc via Netgalley and publishers