The Girl in the Corner, Amanda Prowse
Genre: , Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
Usual grump – Women’s fiction as a genre, just why? Men read all sorts of stories too….why alienate them?
Anyway, I enjoy Amanda’s books, she writes tales that make me think “what would I do in that situation”, has characters and settings that feel very real.
I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of her other stories though, the settings and characters were terrific as usual, but the story – I felt that for so much of the book I was waiting, waiting for something to happen, waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it wasn’t until very near the end that it did. I’d have liked a bit more of what happens then, instead of the brief opening into Rae’s future we see.
Its a tale that happens way to often, wife ( or husband) thinks everything is wonderful, and then finds out that their adored and loyal partner has been playing away…what next? Carry on regardless for the sake of the family? Try to forgive and move forward? Or divorce/separation? I always think, how could I trust that person again? That kind of betrayal is so hard to get past, I’m not sure I could forgive and move on. I think that would be a hard barrier for me, the one I can’t forget.
Can Rae move forward though? And in what direction? She really needed to talk it through but Dolly is Howard’s sister, and though they’ve been best friends for so many years, Dolly has divided loyalties. It meant Rae looking at her life introspectively, looking at not just her and Howard’s relationship, but all the family ties, at what happened to the Rae who wanted to be someone but instead became the person supporting everyone else. Its got a huge potential for looking at what could happen if she decided differently, and I so felt for her in her having to decide without the soundboard of Dolly to help her.
Of course nothing happens in isolation and looking back we can see where the routes for different paths were going, where what one person perceives isn’t necessarily the truth – a great example of that was Rae’s view of her childhood and family relationships, where what she thought of events and decisions was how it seemed to her, but not what her parents intended her to feel. That sounds tangled, you’ll need to read the story to understand I think…What Rae sees as her parents not supporting her ambition to be a chef turns out to be her parents fearing that way led to hard work and no reward for Rae, whereas they wanted what they saw as the best for her, that she was clever enough to work in an office, the pinnacle of achievement in their eyes. She thinks they’re unsupportive, that her sister is the one they support, but what they intend is to make Rae be the best she can, and office work in their eyes is something their clever daughter can aspire to. As adults looking back we can see that what we though wasn’t necessarily what was intended.
Like I said, I enjoyed this story, but didn’t love it, its not one I’d reread. I just felt for so much of the story I was waiting for the next section, that so much of the book covered the same ground while Rae mulled over what had happened and what she should do – I’m sure that’s very real, what people in her situation do but for me it wasn’t very entertaining reading.
Stars: Three, another very real story from Amanda but not one of my favourites. Still, that’s just my opinion and I can see that its a perfect story for other readers.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers
Pirate’s Passion, Lisa Kessler
Genre:Sci-fi and Fantasy
I loved Lisa’s Moon series so was keen to start this new one. I didn’t realise there was a short first book, but as each story is stand-alone I don’t think I missed anything.
As usual its well written, cleverly paced and has some great characters yet despite all the it failed to really pull me in. the story sounded right up my street, paranormal with a bit of rock-star romance thrown in but somehow the events unfolded and I just felt a bit flat at it. Usually with Lisa’s books I find them hard to put aside but this one, I kept putting down and restarting. Eventually I got through it but I can’t say I really enjoyed it. Parts seemed just too unlikely, I know we’re talking fantasy here, but I still need to feel that if events were real this and that could happen. Not so here, I just felt the connections were just too convenient and the clock and dagger stuff seemed too OTT and easily explained to those not involved in the supernatural world.
Maybe its just this book, maybe its the series. I would try another before deciding its not a series for me, but right now I’m not convinced. As ever though readers all want different things and this could be just what you’re looking to read, everyone’s views are very subjective.
Stars:Two and a half, well written but I didn’t connect with this novel, maybe just this story, maybe this isn’t a series for me.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
When Winter Comes, V.A. Shannon
Genre: Historical fiction
Gosh, such a difficult book to review. I enjoyed it immensely, but it also made me incredibly angry, sad, squeamish, and so glad I was born in recent history.
Its easy to judge from the perspective of a safe, warm home, plenty of food, good trustworthy family and friends. The Indian saying about walking a moon in anothers shoes before judging is a good one to bear in mind. Who knows what we’d do when faced with death?
We get the story from Mrs Jacob Klein, now a well respected person, wife and mother. Her husband Jacob doesn’t figure largely in this story, and yet I get the feeling he knows what happened, he saw how harrowing the journey had been for his wife, and his decision right at the start to tell her he would never ask gave her a peace of mind.
She didn’t love him when they married, but over the years that respect and trust has grown, and I feel she does love him now, not with a grand passion, but with a depth that is solid, means more to her.
When we first meet her she’s one of many, families struggling to survive, parents who don’t care or have given up caring, and just use whatever they can to scratch a living, steeped in the alcohol that helps them forget for a bit how hard life is. That’s her future, selling her body, unless she takes charge, and when the opportunity comes she grabs it, and runs, out onto the trail with folk hoping for a new life.
Its hard, she’s on her own, tagging on to a family by their goodwill, and need for her help. Things go wrong of course, days are long, life is tough but somehow they’re getting through. Seeds are sown, moments of distrust, stories embellished, accusations and insinuations run riot, as happens with any large group, but so far they are making progress. Not without losses, but they all expected that.
Then someone comes up with a shortcut, tells some of the others they’ll get there ahead of the main group if they take it, they’ll get the best opportunities, the best land, the best grazing, be wealthy, and the infamous Donner Party sets out.
That part is true, the story is a fictionalised tale based upon real events, and its harrowing to read in parts.
Of course its never as easy as it seems, the shortcut proves to be anything but, and they fall far behind, the bad weather catches up and we see all this happening through the main characters eyes. Harsh realities bring out the best in some folk and the worst in others, and it makes for some tough reading, but I was gripped by wanting to know how things worked out. Slowly the misfortunes build on and life gets harder and harder. None of them escape unscathed and they have to take some hard decisions over what to do.
Reading it, I was thinking of the unwavering cold, no real shelter, no warm clothes or bedding, no medical supplies, very little food, and the outlook bleak, with no hope of getting through before the hard weather sets in for months. That real last resort, eating the dead so the living can survive, its an awful thought, but then so is letting children starve when bodies are meat that could save them. Hard choice to make and the decision never to speak of it is a good one.
As always though there are those with loud voices who make money from the story, not by telling the truth of course, but by presenting themselves in the best light, and by talking down and blaming those who they’ve held grudges against for so long.
That’s human life, that still happens, never let the truth get in the way of a good story is something we see today in the news all the time. Some things never change, but those lies can decimate anothers life.
Stars: Four, a story I really enjoyed, hard though parts were to read.
I liked the contrast of the seemingly content and well off Mrs Jacob Klein, with the scared, starving waif she began the story as.
I loved the history part of it, that its a real story, though a fictionalised account, and I felt for those poor souls who were part of it.
It gave me much to think about after.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
Crisis, Felix Francis
Genre:, General Fiction (Adult)
Like many young girls I was a horse obsessed kid, but where other dropped off in their teens I kept on, much to the surprise and probably dismay of my very non horsey family. Kids intervened for a while, and I got my horse fix by reading Dick Francis novels until I was able to finally get my own horse….
I still love to read, though my tastes have changed and broadened considerably. I’d read pretty much all the Dick Francis novels when he died, and a few by other former jockeys, but for me they didn’t have the DF magic. I had a read a couple of the collaboration novels but TBH I didn’t think of Felix as being the writer, I assumed he was more the researcher…then I saw this on Netgalley and thought “why not”.
Well, Felix, I did you a grave disservice, reading this was like the old Francis magic, a gripping tale wrapped up and tangled in numerous little side issues, with some wonderful characters. I am so sorry I didn’t recognise that earlier.
Of course in suspense novels, in PI investigations and the like there has to be a little artistic licence, and I suspect that Harry’s crack “researchers” wouldn’t have been able to pull out all that info…but it makes for a fun and interesting story.
I really enjoyed reading this, was engrossed in trying to work out who-dunn-it so to speak, and was way off course as usual. There’s a reason I can’t write, and especially not anything involving mystery, my brain just isn’t wired that way. Thankfully others are 😉
I loved the characters we meet here, poor Harry, barely knowing one end of a horse from another, up against a family dynasty in horse racing.
I enjoyed the snippets of racing info, enough to keep the reader interested in the story but not so much we switch off.
Harry’s specially is in sorting things out, minimising crises and sorting out wheat from chaff, and here the poor guy has a lot of chaff to sort through. It seems every turn, every hour almost at some points, bring in new people, new potential motives, and new events.
I did feel the falling in love bit felt a little out of character for Harry, he seemed the cautious type, rather than an all in from the off sort, but one of the things I missed in the DF novels was an element of romance. As a reader I tend to focus on romance plus …. those novels, those where the romance is backed by a good story, or the other way round, a good story with a romantic element. It just seems to make the story feel more real to me rather than just words on a page, so I was pleased Felix includes romance.
I’ll certainly look out for more from him, and as with the DF books, his will become ones I re-read, even knowing how the story ends because the content is well worth another read.
Stars: Five, a perfect escapist read, with both drama and romance, and a cracking mystery.
ARC supplied by netgalley and publishers
A Brand New Ending, Stay Book 2, Jennifer Probst
Genre:General fiction (adult), Romance
Stupidly I was drawn to the blurb, knew I’d enjoyed some of Jennifer’s stories before and didn’t check. This series isn’t going to be for me, I didn’t like the first book, and didn’t enjoy this one. My bad, its a good story for many readers, just doesn’t suit my taste.
I just didn’t really understand why these two split, why Ophelia just left, why he didn’t seek her out before, and what had changed. She still didn’t want the life he led, he still didn’t want hers. I know Love conquers all, but when two people have such wildly differing ambitions can they ever be happy. One of them is going to have to fold, and in the long term will that work? I wasn’t convinced by the ending. Maybe if I’d liked either character a bit more, or even felt that they were truly suited, but if so why didn’t they work at getting back together before, why wait? The timing now seemed a little too convenient, if I was Ophelia I’d be thinking, Now he’s got time, why not before and equally if I was Kyle I’d be thinking Is she just going to spook and disappear again? There needed to be some serious love between them for it to work, and if there was how could they just stay away all those years. Maybe I’m too much the cynic.
Stars:Two and a half, I liked it a little more than book one, but wasn’t convinced by the story. I’ll still look for Jennifer’s books but make a note that this particular series isn’t for me.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
Cottage on a Cornish Cliff, Kate Ryder
Genre: women’s Fiction, Romance
Gah, women’s fiction…men write romance, they read it too, so I hate this category. Sexist and outdated.
I hadn’t read book one so borrowed it via KU.
I enjoyed it though I had a few reservations, especially the way Oliver is so – well – spineless. He lets Sylvie walk all over him, he lets Deanna run their lives and when he meets Cara he finally takes something for himself but he still hasn’t sorted out his marriage and the ending I thought was so sad.
I was so hoping in book two he’d finally step up, man up, be responsible. When he was with Cara he seemed a different man, and I loved him, then he’d get depressed again and just let events happen. I know depression is hard, but its not just him suffering, its his family, children, and of course Cara and her family. He knows he has an issue – I just wanted him to try to take steps to deal with it. He seems to use it as an excuse…. “the Grey Mist descended” and he just lets it.
So I was really hoping for good things for Cara in book two, wanting her and Oliver to be together. When he was with her he really seemed a better man. I didn’t like Deanna, his wife, felt that she wanted the celebrity aspect, the wealth and benefits more than she really wanted Oliver. He seems almost like an afterthought in their marriage. Maybe it started differently but now they’ve become two separate people held together by the children.
Cara’s art career is blooming, helped along by Greg. I did not like that man, he just seemed so sleazy, being overly touchy with Cara even when his publicly beloved wife was dying. Inevitably Cara gets swept along by the changes he says she needs to make to reach the top in her art, but I kept thinking did she want that or was it Greg? She was happy painting, selling online and in her gallery, and now the pressures built was she still happy. Had her art become more burden than pleasure? It certainly appeared that way.
There’s the same mix of secondary characters as in book one but somehow I didn’t enjoy this as much as that one, even though I didn’t like the way book one ended 🙂
Its kind of a sad story here, no-one seems really happy, Oliver is back with the family but its clear things aren’t right there, Deanna is stretching out picking up her career, but doesn’t want full independence, doesn’t want to lose Oliver – or at least I felt she didn’t want to lose the lifestyle, Greg is carefully grooming Cara but I felt it was more for the career prestige of discovering a new top artist than for herself, and Cara misses Oliver badly, and seems to be taken in by Greg and his advice for her art even though its not making her happy.
I found most of the story a bit hard going, even though its perfectly written. I was so convinced Oliver was leaving it too late, that Cara was going to move forward with Grey. Deanna? Well, TBH I never liked her so I wasn’t bothered what she did as long as she let Oliver move on. In both books there are odd snippets of precognition, or the supernatural and I felt it jarred rather than added to the story.
Stars:Three, a well written book, but a story that just didn’t connect closely with me.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
The Turn of Midnight, Minette Walters
Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (adult)
I adored The Last Hours, such a realistic read, I felt I was there with the characters. I’ve been looking froward to this. Its a very detail dense read, and I did put it aside a couple of time to fully absorb what had been written and think about what transpired.
In this next book we can see how some of the characters have changed, matured in the case of certain younger ones, some of the older ones having the reservations about Lady Anne and what she was doing reassured with her successes.
Develish has come through the plague thanks to Lady Anne’s early closing them off to the rest of the country. A hard decision, as was the exclusion period for those that had been out to see what was happening in the rest of the country. One too, of which the priest was certainly not in favour of, the line of the day from Pope Clement was that constant prayers and repentance for sins would stave off the disease. Those who died were not devout enough, full of wickedness, the plague was God’s punishment.
Once more Thaddeus is the hero of the hour, and the lads that went out with him in book one returned as men, banding together and seeing Thaddeus as their leader, honouring and respecting his decisions. He listens to them first though before deciding a course of action and they feel as if they’ve had some input. Its clear to see Lady Anne’s influence on him here, its similar to the way she rolls up her sleeves and gets on with jobs alongside her people, not just sits lazily, expecting them t do the work.
Thaddeus and the lads find out just how badly the rest of the country has suffered, especially among the labouring classes, and its clear there is going to be a huge shortfall in those with the knowledge to grow food, look after livestock, all the day to day jobs so essential in life. He and Lady Anne come up with a plan to secure independence for her folk, but its fraught with danger, and their worst fears come true.
They’ve changed some opinions by their example, Bourne has taken to heart what he learned in Develish, and with Thaddeus advice intends to implement much of it on his own estates. He can see their ideas for the future ring true, that workers more than scribes are needed now, that more profits produced when workers are treated with respect and fairly rather than the whip and fear. I feel much of his changing ideals come from the profit angle but that works and everyone benefits so….
Sadly when Thaddeus and the lads seek to bring about the plan he and Lady Anne have come up with to set their people free, they find they’ve been nurturing a viper.
Some have come round with kind words and deeds, and seen the example of what can be achieved that way, Bourne and Lady Eleanor for example, but someone else treated with the same kindness is still harbouring thoughts of vengeance, and it brings them into a very dangerous position.
Its a great read, transporting me back in time once more. The characters feel so vivid, and I feel I’ve got to know Thaddeus and the lads really well. Joshua’s dogs play a great part here, hard to think of what might have happened if Thaddeus had his way and they’d been killed. They’ve proved their worth and loyalty time and again. There were times when I struggled to see how Minette would brings these characters through, how would they slide through the murky waters of the deception they planned.
I’m sure much of the UK did look like this after the plague, it decimated the countryside, leaving orphans, ruined homes, fallow fields and a dearth of workers to rebuild. The few who survived in Blandeford were probably very typical of the time, they were so busy deciding who had more rights to what, to ensuring that everyone received a fair share that they didn’t actually achieve anything, didn’t work together, didn’t do what was needed, just struggled on day to day until Thaddeus and Lady Anne explained what happened at Develish, and set them to forming their own leaders and teams. Its pretty typical of what happens in any disaster, there are a few that get on with things while the majority bicker and decide they aren’t being treated equally. Its human nature I guess, but once Thaddeus spoke to them about leadership and what could be done they did seem as if they’d move forward. I’m sure there were many Lords though that didn’t share Lady Anne’s views who insisted their serfs still pay the full tithes even though there were few people to work the fields, mill the flour, spin the wool, butcher the livestock etc.
For those like the workers of Devilish its a time of opportunity, and I’m really keen to see how book three come about, how the events play out.
Stars: Five, another rich, enticing read, that had me fully absorbed in life after the plague.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.
Hard Truths, Alex Whitehall
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
I thought I’d read books by this author before – but I haven’t – so lots of new to me reads to enjoy 😉 I loved this read, heartbreaking at times and sadly, so very,very real.
I loved Isaac and his sister, Sue. They’re very close, which is good as his parents are…well, my age but I feel a million miles from them.
They’re old fashioned, with sadly outdated views. Mum is desperate for grandchildren to spoil, even though, as Isaac muses, she never wanted to spoil him or Sue. Dad is one of those I’m-head-of-family, my word is Law types, the sort where clear lines are drawn, he’s The Man, brings in the dosh, and housework, childcare etc is Not His Province, women’s work.
Despite the weird parents Sue and Isaac love them, just hate the way every family occasion leads into nagging about marriage and children.
Desperate one Thanksgiving Sue brings home a date, a fake one, just to shut mum up. He’s big, burly, tattooed and ….coloured, and she knows her parents will hate him. She’s asked him to be polite but play up the stereotype, so he is guarded about his job, hinting at freelance, letting them think the worst, and true to form they are reasonably polite but Not Happy and make it clear.
Isaac is shocked though when Logan discreetly makes a pass at him…til he finds out the truth. I loved that family meal!
Soon Logan and Isaac are together but each family meal means Logan stays away, and Isaac gets more lectures on finding The One and grandchildren. I felt so sorry for him, for too many families this is life. It shouldn’t matter who we love, so long as we’re not harming others, parents should just want their kids happy, not set conditions on happiness and love.
Of course the inevitable happens and Logan wants to be with Isaac all the time, not tucked away from his parents like a dirty secret. Its not hard to see the way things would go, although it was stronger than I expected, and once more I kept thinking “this is how life is for so many kids” Awful isn’t it? I can’t conceive of being that sort of parent, though I can see faint echoes in how my parents would have reacted.
In between Isaac and his family issues there’s the deal of Logan and his friends and Isaac and his, both close knit groups who react differently to new people, to pressures and events. I get the feeling Logan is more confident, outgoing, able to accept others where Isaac is a bit like me, diffident, cautious, careful of feelings. There are times when he isn’t sure if his friends are pushing him aside, when in fact they’re probably just busy, and I can empathise with that think the worst outlook.
When the big Fallout hit its dual pronged for Isaac and I so felt for him, and Logan of course. The way that drama played out, really let emotions flow, let Isaac’s thoughts run riot was just perfect for me. I love to wallow in the sad parts, and then feel uplifted when all ends well.
Stars:Five, a very real feeling drama with the perfect HEA.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.
I Invited Her In, Adele Parks
Genre:Mystery & Thrillers
I enjoy books like this, they challenge me to think “what would I do?” At first I was interested but I did get tired of the way the story was told, via inner thoughts, when for me dialogue based works better, where we have a slip back in time to see events as they happen. Well, see from that persons POV anyway 😉 Later in the story we do get some of these but the start nearly made me give up. Works for some readers that way though, but like me, not all.
I could see where Mel wanted to give a good impression to Abi, everyone is proud of their homes and family and want others to see them at their best, but couldn’t see why she didn’t simply ask her how long, set a time limit in the visit especially as Ben isn’t happy about an open ended stay. Its not like they’ve been close for the past 17 years, even if they were Bfs at uni. It seemed a bit strange, and then of course I started to put things together, though I wasn’t certain.
Its a fun read, very real characters, events that I could see easily working like that in real life. I didn’t like Abi, not one bit, but even so hadn’t guessed exactly what her angle was. I was shocked by events, thought I liked the ending and then, those last couple of pages….Nope, I didn’t want that even though they are not real characters. They felt real to me and I cared about them as if they were real.
Stars:three, I guessed a chunk of the plot, enjoyed the story and was surprised by other parts but I did get tired of some daily trivia that didn’t add to the story, felt repetitive.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, The most heartwarming and feelgood novel you’ll read this year, Lisa Hobman
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Gah! Once more “women’s fiction”, and as usual I have to have a quick moan – why do we do this – cut off potential readers? Who says men won’t/don’t read romance, they certainly write it, so why exclude them this way?
So, this story…I’d loved Lisa’s A Year of finding Happiness, the only other book of hers I’d read, and was hoping for something similar, romance, with a solid story and some drama. I did get it but…in a much more muted way.
I couldn’t see why Cassie ever thought she was in love with Seth in the first place, he was clearly so arrogant and supercilious, and when he’s caught out his reaction is exactly as you’d expect. I also wondered why Seth was with Cassie. Did he ever love her or did he just want a complaisant wife he could mould, as he clearly was already shaping Cassie’s day to day behaviour. I like to think he loved her at the start at least, and just maybe it was Cassie’s low self esteem that let her stay with him when clearly he was trying to change her.
Then That happens, and Cassie’s off. Wow girl, you go! I was cheering her on even while I could feel her heartbreak, and up til now things kind of went as I expected.
When she reaches the new home though she’s really a first class b itch to Mac, she’s hurting I know, but it wasn’t Mac that hurt her. They have a few not so good interactions, but slowly she opens up, and Mac tries for a fresh start and to help her. He’s a genuinely kind man, one of the good guys, and for all Cassie’s rudeness he sees she’s hurt and still looks out for her. I loved Mac. And his uncle Rab, they felt like people I’d love to know. Cassie – well, I so felt for her at first but she was so outright rude to Mac I got cross with her. I hate plain rudeness.
Looking back at A Year of ….I can see what I enjoyed about that, and its the drama and the unpleasant ex that topped the story for me. We’ve both of those here, but Seth somehow didn’t engender the same feelings. I guess I felt the drama in the later part of the book just didn’t fit the character I felt he was, whereas in A Year of it was exactly what I would expect Alice to do. The actual drama itself was fine, added to the story, and worked to move things forward.
I adored Rab, was so emotional over him, the village setting and characters were perfect, Mac was just wonderful, Cliff gets a special mention, and an extra helping of imaginary dogs treats 😉 I guess its just the Cassie/Seth relationship and the actions that sprung from it that didn’t work so well here for me. Its a good read, but unlike a Year of, it was one I could, and did, put aside at times for other things. I did love the ending, kitsch, but still just perfect and left me feeling a little choked. The magic moment all we romantics dream of!
Its a perfect beach read, or one for those times when you need a story you can pick up and put down for a while, but it wasn’t a must-keep-reading five star for me.
Stars: Three and a half, some really great elements let down for me but a few things that felt out of place. As ever though, that’s just one opinion, it will be perfect for others.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers