A Tainted Marriage, Regency Marriage Laws series, Julie Roberts
Genre: General Fiction (adult)
I like to dip into historical fiction every now and then, everything seems gentler, less fraught, though of course life was still a real struggle for so many folk. I really enjoyed this read, it took some turns that I didn’t foresee and which were very real. I do like my fiction to have a sense of reality – even if its fantasy I need to think that events could actually happen that way. The things in this book, especially when Grace visits Greensleeves, I could see things happening just as they played out.
I really liked Grace, wasn’t so keen on Alex. I sort of understood his fears, but it was really hard on Grace and I could see how upset by things she was, and how she reached the conclusions she did. Later in the book it was easy to see why Alex, jumped to conclusions and I guess most would see things the way he did given the constraints on women at the time, the conventions of society that she wasn’t adhering to. Earlier in the book when he was so ,,dogmatic, autocratic, I’m not quite sure how to describe it, I had to keep reminding myself his actions were the norm for the time, when ladies were considered property of their husbands, of fathers, and decisions made for them. I guess that shows just how far we’ve come with women’s rights.
I was expecting a simple historical romance, what I got was just that, plus an interesting side story, that lifted the novel from “just” a romance, to a story that really made me think about conventions, about women’s rights, and about how easily some of these events could have turned to disaster for Grace. I even came round to Alex, he redeemed himself by his love for Grace and his willingness to admit where he’d been wrong.
Stars: Five, An enticing story with romance, drama, some fabulous obnoxious characters and a real flavour of the time.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
Keep Her Quiet, Emma Curtis
Genre: General Fiction ( Adult), Mystery and Thrillers
Wow, what a read, full of surprises I didn’t see coming. Some stories you can see way ahead whats going to develop but this one threw all the curve-balls….
Leo, what a narcissistic man, concerned only about himself. It made me wonder what Jenny ever saw in him. When she strays that one time she has no idea Leo knows the baby isn’t his and yet I felt it wasn’t so much for love of her he kept quiet but because he didn’t want to lose his cushy life that allowed him to be An Important Author. How much of that was down to his childhood, with a weird mother and a father who felt he’d had to give up his dreams of being an author to teach because of Leo. Who knows what shapes people, or whether they just are that selfish.
Jenny, poor Jenny. I don’t condone cheating but Leo must be a hard husband to live with, she had to do literally everything in their marriage, so the man could focus on his writing. He made that very clear, he was going to be a great Man, make his mark on the literary world and nothing would stop him. She strays just that once and that changes the direction of so many lives. I so felt for her, she had her life changed by things totally out of her control.
Then there’s Hannah, not much more than a child herself, yet abandoned by her family, abused by those she trusted and left to make her own way. She and Leo hatch a plan on the fly, trap each other into long standing events. In a way I understood her actions, and her later ones, though I found it hard to believe she would have acted that way. It proved to me really that however much I felt for her she was in her own way as selfish as Leo. Put herself above everyone else.
Then the later events of the book, well, once more we saw there was no end to Leo’s selfishness. He was callous in his musings about what to do, it was all about what worked best for him. At times it was incredible the way he casually went through possible scenarios, how he felt he’d had no choice, how he portrayed himself, even after these terrible actions, as a good guy, just doing his best in difficult circumstances.
Its a gripping read, stunning the way shock after shock gets delivered, the way that one cataclysmic event had consequences that lasted years, that get wrapped in lies, falsehoods, actions beyond imagining. I really didn’t see so many of the twists, big ones and even up to the end, smaller ones. That letter shocked me.
There’s one true innocent at the heart of this who gets a life she really didn’t deserve. I so felt for her. What long standing consequences could come from her innocent actions.
I think what I always had in the back of my mind too was this is so far fetched and yet…we see over and over it actually does happen. There’s one particular story that sticks in my mind from a few years back that reminded me so much of the events here, how we can do unimaginable things for our own ends, to save face, how we can justify wrongdoings to ourselves, telling ourselves we had no choice.
Stars: Five. A great read, full of surprises. The characters were so perfectly written, I felt as if I was there with them, a voyeur in their lives. A read to treasure, to whip out on a dull day and lose oneself in.
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The Storm, Amanda Jennings
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, New Adult
I’m not really sure why this is listed as New Adult, everyone in it is well past that except for Hannah’s son 😉 Anyway, I was expecting to love this, it sounded very intriguing.
I liked it, a lot but didn’t love it. Its one of those I’m glad I’ve read but won’t reread.
I didn’t really like any of the characters, except for poor Alex, he was the innocent victim in everything.
Nathan is obsessed with Hannah right from the start and manipulates his way into her life. He’s got money and uses it to carefully lure her in, not in an obvious way, but in more subtle ones once he susses that she’s not impressed by wealth. Her boyfriend Cam though….he’s stiff competition. Cam’s a fisherman, to Nathan its no contest but of course Hannah is in love and for her Nathan is just a good friend. And then something happens that changes everything.
Nathan goes from being a bit of a stalker to a total control freak. As events unfold I can actually see where his issues lie and they stem from way back in his life, to childhood and I did feel even the tiniest bit sorry for him. He knows way more than he admits, and what seems like heavy handed OTT control is his attempt to stop Hannah – his love, his life – from leaving. It made a hard life for her but she puts up with it for reasons of her own.
Then there’s Cam who I hated at first, for leaving when she needed him, but of course as events unfold it wasn’t that simple. I had guessed at some, though not all, some parts came as total surprise. I felt so sad for some of the characters, life in a fishing fleet is tough, harsh and death or life changing injuries never far away.
Its a classic story in a way of Teen ( imagined) Invincibility meets Real Life, and led to sadness all round. Alex was caught in a trap not of his making, Hannah was in a situation she felt she had only herself to blame, Cam did what felt right at the time even though he lost everything, and Nathan, well Nathan thinks he has the girl he loves but its only by controlling every bit of her life that he has her….A really sad group of characters, and even the ending holds a hint of more to come.
Stars: Four. A great read but not a re-reader for me.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
For UK readers this is currently just 81p, 99c in US. A bargain if you like crime novels, and i’m sure it will tempt you to get more from the series 😉 .
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
I love this series, and book eight is as fresh and original as book one was. Sometimes this far into a series books start to feel dull, plots repeat and the whole just feels like its time to stop. This though feels like there’s still lots more to come. It reminds me in a way of Patricia Cornwell’s novels. I used to read those avidly some years ago and recently was talking to th friend who introduced me to her books, returning the favour I’ve introduced her to Susan’s stories. Book one is currently free so well worth reading, if you like realistic crime stories you’ll be hooked and want more.
I’ve said before, if I was in the situation so many of Susan’s people find themselves I’d want a detective like Radhauser. He doesn’t just look at the obvious, doesn’t go for the easy solution but investigates all angles. He’s supported where its possible by Heron, the medical examiner for the police, but clashes frequently with his boss Murphy, who’s always wanting to wrap cases quickly, under pressure from the Mayor. I guess that’s where US and UK differ. Our policing is different, and Mayors have no say in police cases. I wonder if something will come of these clashes, Murphy seems to be more and more for the quick wrap up and praise for the force for doing so, rather than taking the time to find the real killer.
Its every parent and policeman’s nightmare, a school shooting, and as usual it looks clean cut. Radhauser isn’t so sure, and the more he investigates the less certain he is that Kristina Sterling was the shooter. Its a tough one because we just don’t know what is in another persons mind, what makes them do something like this. I’m so glad that are UK gun laws are so much more strict, we have occasions when knives are an issue, more than I’d like but the difference in killing numbers between a knife and gun is vast.
There are a number of possible suspects, and I was as usual trying to work out who dunnit. As usual I was wrong 😉 though I wasn’t really fixed on one person, I had no notion of the eventual person.
I love the contrasts between the horrific killings and the day to day minutiae, the way the police works, the stories each of the kids tell, Radhauser’s wife Gracie and their kids. The way he goes in to say goodnight to the horses each time he comes home for the night. I can smell the barn, that fragrance of horse, hay, shavings and feed that’s typical in a well run stable. The family and home provide that balance he needs to stay grounded, and Gracie really is a wife and mum in a million. Radhauser’s job, when he’s on a case like this, is long hours, days filled with sad stories, tragic families, and he needs Gracie and the family to keep him sane.
I was so sad at parts, and when Clive stand up to speak at Kristina’s funeral it had me in tears. A very emotional moment. Her parents were wonderful, and until now been a part of the town, valued and with so many friends. Now though, with the rumours seeping out, the bitterness and hatred directed at them is awful. Its very easy to believe though, as in real life folk want someone to blame and they were just There, a target for the anger that lurks beneath the sadness.
They forgot that Kristina’s parents were grieving too. They couldn’t go out, couldn’t get shopping, bombarded with hate mail and calls, and suffered from vandalism of their property. The crosses at school, how awful that must have been for them. Likewise organising her funeral, visiting her grave. No parent expects their child to die before them, and dealing with that is tough enough without having all this blame and hatred cast on them.
They really were in an awful place, grieving, wondering why this happened, convinced Kristina couldn’t have done this, but of course almost any parent would feel that way. The town has the girl judged, and her parents along with her though. How quick folk are to pass judgment, to blame the people they were friends with, who they respected, just days before. It made me think how tough it must be in real life for parents caught up in this scene.
Its another fantastic real life read, full of clues, motives and hints to keep the reader guessing at the culprit. There’s a twist at the end I really didn’t anticipate, that came as a shock, I’m still not sure how I feel about that. There’s good and bad possibilities I guess, caught up in this snippet. There’s one final, not twist, hmmmn, event I guess? I really liked that bit.
Stars: Five, once more Susan delivers a book to keep the reader hooked to the very end. A realistic story that at times was incredibly emotional.
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The Harpy, Megan Hunter
Genre: General Fiction, Literary Fiction.
Edit: its out now in US but not in UK til 3rd September 2020
I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that.
The writing was mostly beautiful, but at times I felt it was a bit overdone, almost took away from the intent by the wordy descriptions. Even of simple things like the pasta sauce….and that for me took away the richness and importance of other parts.
I didn’t like Jake, not that we really got to know him. Right from the fist I felt he had more remorse about being caught out than for the actual affair. He was concerned too about the effects of an action on Vanessa, the lady he cheated with, when I felt it should be Lucy he worried about.
Lucy is strange, I feel her childhood wasn’t happy, with a father that beat her mother and she seemed to accept it, leading Lucy to feel that it was usual in a marriage. Then there’s her childbirth problems, that left her with some deep issues. I felt that maybe she still had an underlying Post Natal depression that wasn’t recognised.
Of course The Harpy – she was fascinated by them as a child, ( I too adored Greek and Roman mythology) and that’s persisted as an adult. Now though it feels a bit as if she identifies herself as one, doing the punishment to a man who has done wrong. Her mother described them that way, and Lucy’s depression/grief over the affair has turned inward and it feels as if she things The Harpy – her alter ego perhaps – has the answers and can make everything right.
We can see that though she appears confident and happy, she’s very much not so. Her inner thoughts are rambling much of the time, making excuses and wondering why she isn’t reacting as others do, as TV shows have taught her. She’s almost playing a role, trying to fit who she thinks she should be rather than just Being. I really felt sad for her.
Its a story that had me wondering why, how, who, what would happen if, and of course what really happened at the end. Its very disquieting in parts, but it gave me lots to think about. Its a shortish read but even so parts felt unnecessary, the minutiae of food, chores, day to day stuff that seemed superfluous. I began to skip over sections, to get to what was actually happening. Quite a discomforting read, no particularly nice characters.
Stars: Three, its a strange read at times, not really my usual genre but I like to dip out sometimes into something different. Its not a story I’d reread, though I’m glad I read it.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Just My Luck, Adele Parks
Genre: Mystery and thrillers, women’s fiction.
Sigh…women’s fiction. C’mon, its 2020 not 1920.
Anyway, what a read this was, full of the very worst in people. Until the win the six have been friends for 15 years, though there are cracks at times, and Lexi has discovered something about one of them that she finds difficult to deal with. I would too. The characters are very real, warts and all, but TBH I only liked Lexi and Toma, the rest were selfish, vain, money obsessed. Toma had gone from being a hardworking family man to the depths of depression after his loss, and Lexi helps him crawl out, start living again. I rally liked him.
Jake her husband was not the man she saw, not the guy she fell in love with. I guess we all change along the way but while Lexi is all about helping others – hence her work in citizens advice – Jake is just money and self orientated.
The friends have fallen out, and then soon after their long held winning numbers come up. Jake and Lexi insist they’d dropped out, they insist it was just a tiff and they were still in. Who’s right? Who knows.
Complicating matters are their kids. Jake and Lexis daughter Emily is best friends with the Heathcote’s daughter, Megan, and the Pearson’s son Ridley is her boyfriend. We see much of the events after the win through Emily’s eyes, and she is a typical teen, spend, spend on big brands. Their son Logan is a bit younger, happy that he can have some new games.
Jake also can’t wait to get his hands on the cash and start spending. His greed shows right from the start when they ring in and one of his first questions is how soon can they get the cash. He seems to mostly want others to see how rich he is, to show off his new Lamborghini, throw a huge party, buy expensive new clothes, he’s all about flashing the cash.
We see quickly how the money brings problems, not just with their friends but themselves, it affects Lexi’s job as the CA office is inundated with people wanting help – or help in the form of money. Emily gets problems at school as Logan and Megan turn against her. The trio have been friends since childhood, don’t have other friends and it hits her hard.
Things get worse, trust is shattered and events quickly go downhill, showing how different Lexi and Jake have become. For me Jake was an awful man, I guess he must have been different when they met, Lexi is such a lovely person its hard to see what they have in common. Then the action ramps up, and the twist at the end has me rethinking things once more. I guess no-one is quite who we think they are.
Stars: Four, a gripping story, a bit predictable at times but then throwing in some curve-balls that had me rethinking.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Dear Child, Romy Hausmann
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers,
Well, I didn’t know what to expect but was seduced in by the description. I just had to know how things played out.
It was one of those reads where just as I thought I’d got things worked out another facet was thrown in to the mix. It was very complex, very multi dimensional.
It felt very real, I could feel Lena’s horror, feel the anguish Lena’s parents felt, understand why her dad was so angry. Yet I also got annoyed at him when he kept charging in, on an “ I know best, somebody needs to do something” I guess any loving parent in their situation would get frustrated at what they see as lack of progress.
I could feel Lena’s terror, both in the cabin, when she realised just how dire her situation was, and when she escaped. You’d think relief would come from being home, but of course she’s got some real PTSD issues going on. She really was in a bad place.
Then there’s the children – how on earth do kids ever recover from something like this? On the face of it Hannah seems to have adjusted better, although she’s a little strange she is very intelligent, and that caught me out. At the end we could see just how programmed to ignore horror she had become, even when it was right in front of her.
I just wondered what would happen to her, would she ever get past the things she’d seen? I loved seeing so much from her POV, her thoughts, her complex explanations for every little thing, the way she cited statistics and facts so thoroughly, the way everything is black and white to her, her complete obedience, devotion and acceptance of everything Papa said. I felt she’d woven a world in her head that overlapped the real world and she genuinely found it hard to tell what was real. I loved when she talked about whispers – how she described her speech and mouse voice, or when she’s really insistent, the Lion voice. I could visualise her doing that. I felt Lena did so much to try to make these poor kids lives happy. I’d say normal, but that was impossible.
I guess what I had in my mind was that terrible story a few years back where some poor girl had been kept like that for 24 years, and she and the kids she had were living underground all that while. I remember then thinking how on earth can anyone pick up life after that? The characters in this book felt real to me and made me have the same feelings, wondering what kind of life they would/could lead after their escape.
Stars: five, a fantastic read, riveting and gave me much to think about.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Forgotten Sister, Nicola Cornick
Genre: General Fiction (Adult) , Historical Fiction
I didn’t realise this was a historical/contemporary story, thought it was a straight historical one but it wasn’t an issue, as I really enjoy those kind of reads too. This reminds me very much of Susanna Kearsely’s reads, stories I used to devour but somehow haven’t read for ages. Having dipped back into the genre maybe I’ll look for more.
Anyway, the story is in an alternate chapters past and present format. I’ve always felt a bit sorry for historical Amy Robsart. Back then ladies were married off for family and political allies, were just pawns in the scramble for power, and poor Amy ended up married to a fiercely ambitious man who became a favourite of the Queen. Childless, she was left languishing on his rural estates or shipped off to stay with others, while he courted the realms of power and intrigued with Queen Elizabeth 1.
Present day Amy seems in the same trap, married to a man who seems to spend more time with his childhood friend Lizzie than he does with her. Its not as simple as that though, and the parallels from the past enmesh with the present day characters. I wanted to say to Amy, shout at him, rage, don’t let him get away with it but of course it doesn’t work like that.
There’s some great characters here. I really liked Lizzie, Arthur and Johnny, but found it hard to warm to Amy and her sister Anna. Amy seemed weak, passive and her sister Anna was angry against the world after their mother died. As for Dudley, well, sadly there are a host of selfish characters like him in all walks of life, he really was shallow and obnoxious. Its difficult to write much about the actual story with giving away details that may spoil it for some.
The supernatural element added an extra frisson of excitement and danger, and was played out in a very believable way. I’m kind of open minded about supernatural events, think back to earlier periods in history where electricity would seem like magic, where a camera that could reproduce likenesses would be seen as mysterious, and maybe its just that we don’t yet fully understand everything in our world. Then read this book with that mindset and you’ll really enjoy it if you like this kind of romance, very gentle and subtle but wrapped up in a delicious historical mystery.
Stars: Four and a half, a really fun read, merging past and present perfectly.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
What’s Left of Me is Yours, Stephanie Scott
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
What a haunting read, an uncomfortable subject, an unimaginable tragedy for all concerned. Its told in alternating time spans, and that allowed me to really get to know the characters. Of course the Japanese legal system is different too, and it was interesting seeing the whole culture and legal ramifications of the events as they happened.
I didn’t think I’d like this when it started, it felt slightly stilted by I was soon pulled into the story and it felt so incredibly real. Who was to blame for what happened? Everyone I guess except for Sumiko. Its hard to read a story where love has such tragic actions, and greed can be manipulated in that way. I was desperately hoping that maybe, just maybe, there’d been a mistake, that events weren’t as they seemed by no, sadly there was no happy ending, just a beautiful and tragic love story, that ended hurting so many.
Its not a story I would reread I don’t think. At least not for some time, but beautifully written and one I’m glad I chose. The sorrow from the events will stay with me for a long time I think, showing what flawed characters we humans are. Things could have been so different if only…..
Stars: 5. An amazing, tragic read, so full of emotion but where there’s no happy ending, just shadows of an unimaginable love.
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The Wives, Tarryn Fisher
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Women’s Fiction
Moan: women’s fiction – why alienate potential readers? Men write books enjoyed by women and men alike, and they read the same.
Wow, this book taught be a lot about myself. Am I just gullible? Or are the story lines that good? I like to think its option two 😉
I never realised how easily I accept what I’m told, and as the story expanded, as Thursday discovered more about the other wives, I finally began to question all the things I’d accepted as fact. It wasn’t until then I realised I had just believed every word I’d been told. When the cracks in the story appear it was hard to know who was telling the truth, and it devolves into quite a dark and twisted story. It made me think of that phrase “its only paranoia if they’re not out to get you”
Its hard to say much without spoilers so I’ll try to keep it simple. I don’t understand that multiple marriage thing, the way Thursday is so blindly accepting of crumbs of Seth’s time, and when the reason for the third wife came out, given their own past I was so angry. And then of course the story gets more complex and I’m wondering, was it really like that, did things really happen that way.
Even when the story gets to the point where you’re wondering just who is telling the truth, there are still more revelations and secrets to come out, things get ever more complex right up to the end. I kept thinking – its getting late, I’ll just read a bit more, and a little more, and finding myself getting closer to the end, so then it was – may as well finish now 😉 That’s a hallmark of a good story for me, when I’m so absorbed by the characters and actions I just don’t want to put it down until I know whats going to happen.
Its a gripping read, had me totally hooked into the story. Its also incredibly sad in a way, with innocent people getting caught up in the actions of (imo) a selfish person. Was the family situation to blame? I tend to say no, lots of folk have difficult childhoods, but who really knows.
I found the ending sad in a way for all of them and yet curiously satisfying in what happened. My two least liked people got a form of punishment for their actions – IMO – of course. Karma.
Stars: five, a cracking read, had me hooked, but in a way also incredibly sad that peoples lives could get changed by the actions of another person.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers