The Perfect Wife, JP Delaney
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
This was outside my usual comfort zone, but so intriguing. I found it scarily disturbing, the way IT is growing in leaps and bounds its not quite outside the realms of possibility at some future date. Well, the IT side anyway, though the physical reality of creating something so lifelike isn’t so close, intelligent IT is, with developers and programmers getting ever closer to machines that can think ahead of simple programming and learn responses.
The thriller side of it too, is Tim the adoring husband he appears to be, recreating his much loved wife, or are the things Abbie uncovers signals that perhaps theirs wasn’t the wonderful marriage everyone seems to think they had. And how did she actually die? Is Tim not telling her to save her the trauma as he says ,or was there more to the story.
I love this kind of thriller where there’s lots to work out, where each side of the story seemed plausible. What I didn’t like though was that neither Tim not Abbie were particularly likable people. It was interesting reading about Danny and the therapies they tried, but other than to perhaps add a side of kindness to Abbie and provide a vehicle for the events at the end I’m not really sure why it was such a strong part of the novel. It did feel very real, I enjoyed seeing Danny and the issues he faced. Given the authors knowledge of this disability, I feel the problems and various therapies promoted were close to what happens in the real world. What works for some doesn’t for others and its finding the one that makes each person more comfortable with the world around them that is so difficult. I do believe strongly in the ethic that disabilities are not something to be “cured”, that its not a case of making people more “normal” but one of helping them fit in, be comfortable and cope with the world around them.
The ending puzzled me. I’ve gone back and reread it but TBH I’m still not really sure what happened, and that’s why I’ve dropped a star. Its a book I really enjoyed but not one I’d read again.
Stars: Four, An interesting read but ultimately a very disquieting book when thinking of the way technology is advancing, a route I hope it never goes.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Discretion, The Dumonts Book 1, Karina Halle
Genre: romance, general fiction (adult)
Karina is one of my must-read authors, ever since I stumbled upon the wonderful experiment in terror series, and then of course her contemporary romances. Lately though, I seem to be on a different wavelength, I started but abandoned Maverick, and if this hadn’t been a review book I’d have done the same.
I wasn’t convinced in the insta-love Olivier had for Sadie, though its the kind of start I usually love. Then there’s the way she throws all caution to the wind and stays with him. Would you? I know some folk would, I just didn’t get that vibe from Sadie though, that she’d risk all on a stranger. Gorgeous, seems kind and filthy rich but a stranger non-the-less.
Throw in Olivier’s family, the sort of nasty characters I usually adore, and this should have been perfect for me. I just didn’t really understand why his mistake, his big secret, still affected him so much. Its played that letting it out would hurt his father and his sister, but his actions in abandoning that side of the family business seem to be hurting them more. Plus, he’s rolling in cash, folk like that are usually rolling in lawyers too 😉 and I’m sure one of them could have found a way out of the Big Secret. Frankly, I didn’t think it was something that would particularly shock his family anyway….Throw in that towards the end the drama, the secrets, the whole story line goes a bit OTT, and this just wasn’t a book for me.
The romance between Olivier and Sadie does wrap up, sort of, though it takes til nearly the end. However I still didn’t really think the dangers had gone, it was a bit call-my-bluff, OK bluff-called, but the threats and risks were still there IMO, folk like his family don’t just give up.
I guess that’s for the later books, I’m not sure if the next book(s) detail more of their story, or go on to another family member. I don’t like the kind of ambiguous ending of this one, so think there’s more to come from them, but I could be wrong and their story finished.
Stars: Two and a half, there were bits I enjoyed, Karina’s writing style works well for me but this book seemed a little OTT and choppy somehow. Much depends I guess on the next book, that may make me feel differently about this one, depending on what it contains.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Wolf’s Bane (Moon Marked Book 1) Aimee Easterling
Genre:Sci-fi and Fantasy, Romance.
I love fantasy/romance reads, but so may of these seem to be all grunting, monosyllabic alphas, reverse harems or ones where the romance is all the book, no side/sub plots, no overall story line. Still, it means when I do find a read I enjoy then its like a sweet victory!
I added this one last week, it was free at the time, so nothing to lose and I’d enjoyed the sample. I’ve just bought books two and three, as it was an intriguing read, and I’ll be looking at what else Aimee has written.
Mai is great, she’s a Kitsune, Japanese fox shifter. I’ve come across these occasionally – I think the last one was in a Hailey Edwards read as a secondary character, and the Kitsune premise fascinates me. They’re not just shape shifters, but have a kind of fox nature in the way they think and behave, and usually they have some form of magic. Aimee has added a touch here where that magic is connected closely to Mai, and allows her to create real items, her sword for example, within a split second, but it needs to stay physically connected to her or she weakens. I’m still getting my head around the star ball that Kitsunes in this book have, that allows the magic.
Mai is guardian to her younger sister, and struggling. She doesn’t know any other Kitsunes, they live in a city controlled by werewolves, and she needs to tread carefully, as they see Kitsunes as something to be killed.
Its an interesting story, full of some very real characters, sub plots that add up to the whole, the star ball connection to magic, and of course poor Mai doesn’t have anyone she can ask for help to learn more about what they are. She’s never met another Kitsune. Her dead mother offers some cryptic comments at times in Mai’s head, but they’re beyond my understanding, and mostly Mai doesn’t see the logic til too late either. I do like that connection though, and trying to puzzle out what the heck she means by her strange phrases.
There’s a developing romance but its still early days, and apart from a couple of stolen kisses hasn’t gone further. So many fantasy romance reads make the romance all the story, held up by the tiniest of plots, and for me I want all the mystery, the magic, the struggles, with the romance being there but as part of the story, not all of it.
Stars: Four, a fun read, and a good start to the trilogy.
Book purchase – I do buy books in addition to receiving ARCs and having KU!
The Horse Dancer, Jojo Moyes
Genre: General Fiction (Adult),Women’s Fiction
Ah no….usual moan 😦 Why, why do we have women’s fiction as a category? Why assume men won’t/don’t read romance – they do, they write it and read it.
….anyway, the book. Its my first Jojo Moyes read, I was put off after reading that Me before You had a sad ending – for me I like a happy ending. But as a lifelong horse addict I felt I needed to read this book. I’m a real dressage lover too and the Spanish Riding School and the Cadre Noir were my childhood dreams.
The horse parts were well done, very believable and I know there are little backyard stables such as the one where Sarah kept Boo. The legal stuff, I’ve seen some criticism of that but to back up Natasha’s character and actions we needed that in a certain amount of depth.
The issues I has were that for a long time we had three stories, the initial one of Henri and Florence, then Natasha and Mac, then Sarah, and it was well into the novel before the three converged and made sense to me. I didn’t really like the characters either, Natasha, I felt for her and what she’d been through but she was very closed off. Mac, I guess he also was affected and sometimes tragedy brings couples closer, sometimes they fall apart, I just found it hard to believe that such a strong attraction, how two such intelligent people could let themselves drift away. Sarah, I wanted to like her, she’s been through so much, but I guess that made her what she was, and I found it hard to warm to her.
Its a well written novel, not the dumbed down type that so often dominates, but I need to feel a connection to the characters and I just didn’t. The story seemed incredibly slow too, I like long novels but so much of this just felt like filler to me, made me lose attention. On top of that long, drawn out story I then felt the ending was way too brief, rushed almost, and I didn’t have time to mentally adapt to all the changes and accept the turnaround.
Stars: Two and a half. Loved the horse interactions, and Mac’s photography, but just felt the main part of the novel and the characters didn’t really connect with me.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
A Life Without Living, (The STREGA Series Book 1)
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance
I didn’t realise this wasn’t a stand- alone, but part of a series so was expecting it to end. And it didn’t, but ends on something of a cliffhanger. Still, its a great story and goodreads and amazon do make it clear its not a stand alone read.
I was intrigued, its a supernatural story but different to much of whats on offer, a love story passed down through the ages.
Gio, what a fabulous man and how harrowing, always searching and never quite making it in time. Then waiting for the next lifetime. Kate, I really liked her and her friend from work, Dave. Then there’s Alex, on the surface the perfect husband but when we see their relationship closer its not all that it seems, and yet despite his faults Kate is always so eager to please him. And of course there’s Claire and Willem, and the way there seems an instant attraction between them.
I enjoyed the story but there were a few sections that jarred, a few oddities such as when Gio meets Kate for coffee. They’re strangers, and he gets her an Americano. “ That’s amazing. Its my favourite. How did you know?” Well, I guess as most coffees are the basic, Americano, it wasn’t a difficult guess, but more a safe choice….
Its a story I enjoyed but didn’t have me riveted to the page, wasn’t one I couldn’t put aside for a while. I do want to read more though, want to see how things are going to work out.
Stars: Four, an enjoyable read, good story and I’m keen to see what happens next.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
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.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
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.
Arc via Netgalley
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.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
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 😉
Arc via Netgalley and Publishers
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.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers