Tag Archive | General Fiction (adult)

The Horse Dancer, Jojo Moyes

The Horse Dancer, Jojo Moyes

The Horse Dancer: Discover the heart-warming Jojo Moyes you haven't read yet by [Moyes, Jojo]

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

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The Jasmine Wife, A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women, by Jane Coverdale

The Jasmine Wife, A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women, by Jane Coverdale

The Jasmine Wife: A sweeping epic historical romance novel for women by [Coverdale, Jane]

Genre: Romance

Well, this one doesn’t feature my usual bete noire, the “women’s fiction” category, but that runner just after the title? “Novel for women” – it means much the same and just makes me think, Why? Why alienate a potential swath of readers? Men write romance, men read romance, its time we stopped categorising stories as men/women reads.

Anyway, the story. I love books set in other countries, especially India/China/Japan, and especially set in a period of history where life was so very different not only between sexes but between races.
I loved this book, really made me feel there with Sara, feeling the heat, enjoying the rich aromatics, the colourful landscape, the busy markets and shops.

Its a good story too, what happens to Sara was what sadly happened so often then. Orphaned, brought up by relatives, and encouraged to marry rather than stay with the family. Didn’t really matter whether the match suited her, the fact that someone with a position in India chose her was enough. For those without connections there was the notorious “ fishing fleet” where desperate girls came on spec, hoping someone needed a wife.
Its hardly a romance a marriage like this, more a match of suitability. Perhaps, they don’t really know each other well after all. Sara thinks she loves Charles but barely knows him, and the man she meets in India, after a years absence is very different.
By her background, her childhood in India with very open minded, liberal parents though she sees the locals as people, while the British enclave here now are determined to treat them as lesser, as unfeeling, as beneath any decent treatment. What this books shows is just how it was in reality, and the sheer, breathtaking arrogance of people just because the are British is incredible. Its always amazed me how one tiny, little country became such a world power.
Of course Sara is lovely, way to good for Charles and the British Enclave in Madras. Charles is ambitious, and not above using Sara’s beauty to further his position, and insidiously bullies her into behaving with those who can influence his future. He sees her as a tool more than a wife, but then sadly he’s not alone. Women were regarded that way, possessions to be used, to be paraded out with, to show off, while they kept an Indian woman for what they saw as their baser needs. Wives weren’t allowed or expected to enjoy sex, but remain above such things, while men had “needs”…… Incredible how men who denigrate Indians in public still wanted them kept quietly somewhere for those needs. Sadly that was the norm, accepted even, and the poor ladies, Indian or British, had no say.

Sara gets a rapid eye opening about her husband, and of course the wonderful, attractive Ravi is a temptation she can’t resist. I loved the idea of their meeting being fated, that the signs, the gurus, Sara’s history, all meant it was inevitable according to Ravi. This idea of fate v personal choice always fascinates me, and there are times when things seem impossible but somehow work out, as if fate lent a helping hand.

Stars: Five. A gorgeous read, transporting me to India, desperate for things to work out for Sara, for her to be happy.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Wanders Far-An Unlikely Hero’s Journey, Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series, David Fitz-Gerald

Wanders Far-An Unlikely Hero’s Journey, Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series, David Fitz-Gerald

Wanders Far-An Unlikely Hero's Journey: Part of the Adirondack Spirit Series by [Fitz-Gerald, David]

Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

I love stories about other cultures, and was drawn to this one.
Its a wonderful, gentle story, showing snippets of how life was for the Native Indians.

I really enjoyed the day to day aspect, learning about the long houses, Bear Fat’s matriarchal group, and of course the journey Wanders Far’s life takes him on. There were a few harsh moments, life was tough then, some folk were cruel, it was part of their culture, though seems awful looking at it from modern perspectives, but back then it was simply accepted.
Wanders Far is a wonderful young man, and his story was beautiful, marrying practicality with spirituality, and showing just how important stories and the Great Spirit was to the people. I liked that we how others in his extended family and friends grew up too.

Stars: Five, a beautiful read, and I look forward to more in the series.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Echo Trilogy Collection: The Complete Series  Lindsey Fairleigh 

The Echo Trilogy Collection: The Complete Series  Lindsey Fairleigh 

The Echo Trilogy Collection: The Complete Series (Echo World Book 1) by [Fairleigh, Lindsey]

 

I read this series as individual books as they came out, but it’s now available as a complete set, a massive 1143 pages for just £9.99 or free on KU.
I’ve just borrowed this on KU and reread them ( easier than digging them out individually on my kindle, I’ve almost 7K books there…. ) Each book has been renamed, maybe has been updated, from memory i didn’t notice anything different but it is several years since I’ve read them. Knowing the backstory and some of what would happen meant i feel I got more from the story this time round – that’s something i often find with complex reads such as this.
It’s set in modern times, but also there are periods when the story reverts to the past, from Ancient Egypt to current day and between. It’s a great read, totally absorbing, great characters that felt real to me, and some unusual world building. I love it, definitely a five star read, thought I can’t recall how I originally rated the stories individually.

I’ve added links to past reviews.
https://wp.me/p3gAhS-rQ

https://wp.me/p3gAhS-Q9

https://wp.me/p3gAhS-VZ

I’m about to read the fabulous Ink Witch series next, same world, a few years on and with secondary characters from this book playing the leads. Kat Dubois Chronicles (6 Book Series) by  Lindsey Fairleigh

Rough Magic, Riding the world’s wildest horse race, Lara Prior-Palmer

Rough Magic, Riding the world’s wildest horse race, Lara Prior-Palmer

Rough Magic: Riding the world’s wildest horse race by [Prior-Palmer, Lara]

Genre: Biography and memoirs.

I so wanted to love this book, I’d adore to have taken part in a ride like that. To the astonishment of my totally non horsey family I grew up with an adoration for all things equine as soon as I could walk.
It took me until I was over 30 to have my own horse but there is a real magic between a horse and rider when both are willing, a real feeling of oneness, rightness. This kind of race takes that and pulls it to its furthermost.

Sadly my hopes for the book fell flat. I felt Lara treated it as a bit of a joke really, something to pass the time, and that makes a mockery of all those who trained, who organised, did the hard slog of setting it up.
She enters on a whim, doesn’t train, hasn’t time to train now having entered at the very last minute. Doesn’t have the money but gets the entrance fee halved, drums up some sponsors, and yet still doesn’t treat it with the respect it deserves. She doesn’t take the required jabs, doesn’t pack spare clothes, ignores all the things race advisers suggest taking, gets bored while waiting pre-race for things to set up, so has fun merrily taking all her antibiotics, anti sickness, painkillers etc out of the packets and decanting into a plastic bag. Then takes them ad hoc on the journey hoping for miracles….she tells us proudly several times about this – its why it sticks in my mind. It feels at times as if she’s an adult, playing at being a child pretending to be adult…
She lets go of one of the horses while tacking up, takes off head collar before bridling allowing it to charge off. Then waits for one of the race guys to fetch it, with an air of “oh dear, how did that happen? Never mind” It’s basic stuff for any rider, strange horse, unenclosed area you NEVER let the animal lose, simply looping the collar around the horse neck would have sufficed but no, Lara knows better.
It wasn’t a problem but could have been, these are horses borrowed ( probably for a decentish fee but…) from the locals, who need them for their existence in that harsh place. She’s there a couple of weeks, they live there, need their animals in good health to survive. If the horse damaged itself they can’t simply call up local vet and have it transported to a nice modern surgery for treatment. Its bullet time. The loan of horses needs respect.

I did enjoy the bits about the race, the horses of course, the people that live there, the incredible scenery, but for me Lara herself came over as an indulged child rather than the gutsy young lady I expected.
What others love about the writing style too just didn’t resonate with me, they enjoyed her “verbal acuity” – for me it read more like self indulgent ramblings apropos of nothing. I love to read about people’s history, families, the personal touch but Lara’s came out in such a strange way I felt they were all really strange folk, and I’m sure that’s not what they are or what she intended.

I admire her hugely for doing the race, but found her lack of planning, lack of respect for the race, for the horses, for all the hard work others have done to let her have this week or so of racing really difficult to let go. I just couldn’t get past the fact that it felt as if she treated it all as a bit of a joke really. Others can get past the things that grated on me and adored the book for what it is, a retelling of an amazing race from one of the participants, so you may feel like them and love this novel. I didn’t.
I enjoyed parts of the story, wanted to give her five stars just for taking part, and yet even that achievement gets tarnished for me by her way of treating the whole things so casually.
She’s not sure even as she starts, that she actually wants to win, mulls over what happens if she just gives up on day one…and that non commitment feels like a slap in the face to all those who’ve worked so hard.
I guess its like someone talking their way into a place in the UK Grand National at last minute, getting one of the best horses to ride, but not bothering with training, protective clothing or learning the course route, and then just as race is starting announcing to news media they’re not really sure if they’ll try to win, maybe a fall at the first might be whats best, maybe they’ll just try to finish, or get half way or….See? It denigrates all those who have put in the work to me.
That she finally won feels like good luck more than actually hard work, and that doesn’t feel right in a race of such epic uniqueness.

Stars: Two and a half. Others love it, what I didn’t like they clearly got past, so may you. Each to their own. Its not a bad book, just one that wasn’t for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Summer at the Art Cafe, Sue McDonagh

Summer at the Art Cafe, Sue McDonagh

Summer at the Art Cafe (Choc Lit): A wonderful happy-ever after romance! by [McDonagh, Sue]

Genre: Romance , 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, other than that moan I loved this book. I find that Choc-Lit books almost always work well for me, fun and easy to read but not a dumbed down romance. Sometimes I want a simple romance, not a deep, dark, heavy one but I still want some solid characters, believable plots and choc-lit delivers that.
As an artist myself I loved reading about Lucy’s artwork, and the lovely finds she brought into the cafe. The idea of cakes and art sounded wonderful, and the beach-side setting just perfect. Of course on a rainy November day its not so good but 😉 Its fiction, and in romance land its always sunny summer or crisp snowy winter, no grim and gloomy days allowed!
I loved Lucy, so talented, so kind and warmhearted but married to an absolute pratt of a man. It makes me wonder – and Lucy – how did things change, was he always like this and she blinded by love. Sometimes we’re just too much in the thick of things to see the real truth and that’s what seemed to happen to Lucy, it wasn’t until it was thrown in her face she realised how cruel and awful Gerry had become. Still, I like a character I can hate on so all’s good 😉 and of course when she masters all the things he belittles her for and makes a huge success of life without him, that’s just so, so satisfying.
Speaking of people to hate, Sarah was perfect too, one face to Ash and a very different one to Lucy. I love manipulative characters like that, bring in a real challenge to the story, and of course she was determined not to let things work between Ash and Lucy.
There’s some great humour in this story, a lovely plot encompassing not just romance, but growth, Ash growing to trust in love and Lucy learning to trust in herself and her talent, lots of new friends all round, Nic and Richard from the cafe, TV Tom, the Biker Girls, Ed and co from the bike shop, even the pupils Lucy first learned her CBT with.
I adored Daisy too, she made a fabulous character in the story, a wonderful young lady, and of course she ( and I) loved all the rescue animals. I’ve seen ex battery hens in jumpers too while their feathers grow in 😉 and Ash was so open hearted taking in all those animals.
What makes a romance perfect for me though isn’t just the build up, but the crash down, the angst and its really well done here, lasts a while not just over in a couple of pages, and that’s just what I need. Real life is like that, and when things go right again it feels so much more satisfying. Love, real love, needs that challenge to last IMO.

Stars: Five, a gorgeous read, perfect for holidays and beach, or when you just want an escape to a happy place for a few hours.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Six Tudor Queens: Anna of Kleve – Queen of Secrets, Six Tudor Queens 4, Alison Weir

Six Tudor Queens: Anna of Kleve – Queen of Secrets, Six Tudor Queens 4,  Alison Weir

Genre: Historical Fiction

I’ve only read the previous novel, from this series, and adored that. Alison did what I thought was impossible and made me feel sorry for Henry, a man I’d previously though of as simply arrogant and selfish. Sadly in this book we’re back to the man I really don’t like. He’s older, in ill health and yet still sees himself as he was in his prime, and ensures everything revolves around him and what he wants. People, places, church, state, all have to bow to the whims of Henry.

I know little of Anna, except that famous Flanders Mare quote, something Alison says actually appears to have no basis in fact, yet has endured through school teachings.
I really felt for Anna, typical of the time, women had little say in their future, and those with Royal blood were subject to the whims and needs of their families and country. Whether the line Alison has spun for her was true or not ,its very believable, and its easy to see how it could have happened.
I empathised so much with Anna, wanted to do right by her family, by her country, a lady in her prime married off to an ill tempered King,. He’s far older, overweight, poor hygiene, and yet who saw himself as almost Godlike, beyond any reproach, and who expected her to be thankful he’d chosen her. Even doing that he really did her a disservice, with all his exacting demands of which sister to choose.
It meant leaving her family and country for a man who’s already divorced one wife and had another beheaded before being widowed from wife number three. She must have feared, been terrified of getting on his wrong side and yet she accepts her fate, and does her best in every way to please him. She is a genuine Lady, treated her people well, was kind and loving to Henry’s three children, and would have made such a wonderful Queen.
Yet within a short time his wandering eye had lead to him seeking ways of getting rid of her. She’s stuck, accept what he wants, and live, but possibly be killed by her brother if she returns, or stand up to him knowing from past wives experiences he will get his way, whether by divorce anyway and shaming her if she objects, or possibly finding ways of getting rid of her the same way as he did Anne Boleyn.

Its a story that moved me, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Jane Seymour’s story. I found it dragged in parts, and the huge cast of characters, most of which were unknown to me, became very confusing. Though I loved Anna, and admired the careful path she trod, trying to do right by Kleves and her family, even what was right for England, she had no real hope of success, and that’s clear almost from their first meeting. Its so sad, she just wanted a husband she loved and family of her own, yet was prevented from that very thing by her place in society. Henry, he was horrible here, and the man I felt empathy for in Jane’s story has degenerated into a bitter, surly and lascivious old man.
Much of this story is pure speculation, maybe because she is such a hidden figure in history, barely getting a mention in most places, but it does feel very possible. Sadly apart from that one big thing the rest of the story didn’t really resonate with me, and I felt the story was lost in the morass of characters.

Stars:Three, a well written story which I’m sure many will love, but for me it was a bit of a slog, and not one I’d re-read.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

A Summer to Remember, Sue Moorcroft

A Summer to Remember, Sue Moorcroft

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.

With that off my chest, on to the book. I loved it, fabulous read full of incredible characters, I do like some that I can dislike, realistic scenes, I live in North Norfolk and it was easy to picture things playing out as they did. What I enjoy best in a story, a book with not just one main plot but some genuine and heartfelt subplots, and here they worked so well and kept me engrossed.

I loved Clancy, and understood why she was so devastated at what happened. What a blow, to lose your fiance, home and job all in one, and I’d have been just as…difficult isn’t really the right word, but her actions that tied up others, yes, I’d have done that – I feel they were incredibly unfair to her.
Aaron, I kind of understand why he’s the way he is, her cousin Alice caused such disaster by her actions to his brother, and the family are afraid for Lee and his mental stability. It took him a long time to recover, and they are very protective of him. Clancy isn’t Alice though, she’s had to pay for her ex’s mistakes, its not fair to punish her for Alice’s too.

Anyway, the story plays out well, plenty of events and action, lots of emotion, people who aren’t as they seem, family issues and jealousies, and a real touch of teen drama with Harry and Rory, and a very topical point there that was so well done. I like to read books to escape but I want them to be real, to reflect genuine issues and this one is perfect, and delivers my always needed HEA.

Stars: Five, another great read from Sue, and one to keep for re-reading. Perfect holiday read or one for when you want to escape into another world for a while.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Little Darlings, Melanie Golding.

Little Darlings, Melanie Golding.

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

A fabulous read, but if like me you’re easily spooked please don’t read at night! Its not scary per se, but scary for the possibilities. Chillingly unsettling in its supernatural potential rather than chillingly terrifying.

When we first start, I wasn’t enamored of Patrick, he says the right things but I didn’t feel he really believed them. I felt he was selfish, and the further into the novel we got the more I disliked him. That’s just a personal view, I’m not saying he was bad, irresponsible, or had anything to do at what had happened, but I just did not like him. Hearing events via Lauren made me feel sympathetic to her, and of course fully believe in what she is saying. Is she really seeing that though, it it really happening as she describes or is it some form of post natal depression or something similar?

All the way through the novel we get events through Lauren’s eyes and then via other folk, showing maybe what she is seeing is the truth, or maybe she is imagining seeing things, and I veered from one thought to another, wondering just which one is right. Were the twins singing at just five weeks or was it her imagination? Its so cleverly done that as a reader I just didn’t know.
Then there’s Jess, the police officer, the history of events in the area, Natalie, so many possible explanations and the easiest one for Patrick, the hospital and the police is that she’s imagining it brought on by stress, tiredness and possible health/child birth complications.

I tend to want definite answers and in this novel there isn’t one. How could there be though when no-one really knows what did happen? Its a very ambiguous ending, just as I was believing one thing once more the temptation of another version being correct raises its head. Its not the ending I like, but it is the perfect ending to this story.

Stars: Five, an amazing, brilliant debut novel, perfectly written, full of suspense and suggestions, leading reader one way then pulling them back the other. I really had no idea by the end which version of events was true. Chillingly suspenseful, and a thoroughly absorbing read.

ARC via Netgalley and Publishers

The Heart of a King, (The Loves of King Solomon 1-4), Jill Eileen Smith

The Heart of a King, (The Loves of King Solomon 1-4), Jill Eileen Smith

Genre: Christian

Well, confession time. I didn’t notice the Christian genre category. I’m not one for reading books in that genre usually but adore historical ones, especially ones set so far back in time. Its fascinating to see how much – and how little – people have changed. Although its termed Christian, its more from the Biblical connection I think, the author isn’t throwing God and Faith as the answer to all life’s issues, but of course being a key biblical figure the story of Solomon and his wives can’t be told without elements of Christianity and Faith. For me, the balance worked perfectly and I enjoyed the story.

Like most folk I mainly thing of Solomon in connection with wisdom, its one of those facts of life, the two are synonymous. I knew little of him as a character and I enjoyed seeing that he was fallible, even though he wanted to be devout.
The taking of so many wives, the way he struggles with first his desire for another woman, and then the need to not upset neighbouring kings by offending them if he refused to take their gift of a daughter for a wife, set against the fact that God specifically prohibits it. It proves he’s genuine to me, we all struggle to find reasons, justifications of we want to do something we know inside is wrong.
It made him feel very real, even though I didn’t like what he was doing. Its that marrying of wive from current perspective, one at a time, preferably just one in life, against the times back then when the more wives a king had the more power he was said to have. He wanted to be a good king, wanted peace but also wanted to stay true to God so he creates justification for his actions, even though he knows its wrong. I didn’t like that aspect of him, how he would just put aside how Namaah, and later his other wives, felt just because he was attracted so someone new. Later in the book it isn’t even chance that draws his eye, he specifically sets out to find women he’s attracted to. I lost respect for him over that.

I hadn’t realised he has so many women either, over 700 wives and 300 consorts!!That’s a lots of excuses….I really felt for Namaah, she knew from the outset he probably would have more wives because of tradition, and yet having converted to his faith she knows God says only one wife. Looking at it from the point of now he seems to me to have been wise in everything but his personal life. Would things have been so bad if he stuck to God’s tenets? Surely God would have given him assistance for peace.
I wasn’t sure how he could justify Egypt and the horses to himself, he doesn’t stop at that first visit and gifts of them, but goes on to buy many more horses, yet he’s so devoted to God who has specified against this very definitely.

As usual there’s the harshness of God back then, who punishes Solomon’s father and mother for their adultery by letting their first child die. Hard on them but what about the poor baby, he’d done nothing? I find that kind of “mercy” hard to take, but the Old Testament is full of such stories. When he kills all the first born sons in Egypt, for example. That doesn’t feel like a Godly thing to do, all those sons from babies to adults, who had done nothing, killed, just like that. I guess that’s still what affects my beliefs now, how can a merciful god allow such terrible atrocities to happen every day? And that’s why I avoid christian books. In this instance I’m glad I missed the genre, because its a story I really enjoyed.

Stars: four, I really enjoyed the story but there was such a lot to pack in that sometimes the necessary gaps in time felt like I’d missed too much.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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