MONSTROUS HEART, Claire McKenna
Genre: General Fiction (adult)
Well, blurb offers comparisons to Outlander and The Binding, both of which I really enjoyed but for me this is Nothing like either of them….the only thing they have in common is they all are debut books.
So, the comparisons were why I requested this but as I said, the stories are totally different. This one is unique, and I guess from that premise they are similar – similar because they are unique 😉 there’s an oxymoron…
I found it really difficult to work out, its a whole new world, with talented and non talented people and all seem to be tightly controlled. I liked Arden, but I felt Chalice actually was a more interesting character. It does read like a second in series, because there is so much left unexplained, and at times I was so puzzled as to what was happening and why, who was telling the truth, which characters were more than they seemed.
Its probably five star for many readers, the writing quality deserves that but for me it was too muddy a story, too difficulty to work out what, why, how and I felt the big draw for me, the romance genre rating, was muted and I expected more. I skim read the last 40% so maybe missed certain nuances, but by then I was so confused, yet I wanted to know what would happen. Its not one I’d reread, and not a world I’d want to read more of unless it was made very much clearer how it all worked. Its disappointing because I was really looking forward to this magical world full of mythical creatures but for me its wasn’t more than an OK read.
Stars: Three, an interesting and promising story, but for me it didn’t live up to that potential.
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Hashim & Family, Shahnaz Ahsan
Genre: Historical Fiction
Amazing when your childhood years are considered history, way to age me 😉 However it was that sense of having lived through the time that made this book feel so real to me. Its horribly accurate in the casual racism of the day, that was just accepted by both sides. A few people railed against it but to what purpose, when there were not going to be huge changes.
I remember back in the early seventies when I met my husband, how difficult it was to find somewhere to live, to find employment simply because his surname Zelos indicated a foreigner, and back then there was no legislation against discrimination. We’d go to ask about a flat and it would go well until names were mentioned, and then suddenly it was just a straight No. Actually Charles looked more English that me, I’ve dark brown hair and eyes and always have a tanned skin appearance while he, the half Greek, was a typical English burns-easily skin, light hair, light eyes.
It was that familiarity with events that made this a bittersweet read. Even when we as a nation needed workers, exhorted people to come here to live and work we still considered them “lesser”, still didn’t exactly welcome them. Pretty shameful eh?
I loved the characters, Hashim, such a solid, reliable, dutiful man who adores his wife, she’s a conundrum, married very young but with a fierce intelligence and drive, and that worked well for her and Hashim. They were perfect for each other. And yet life still throws in horrors and sadness.
Rofikul, Hashim’s cousin, had been in Britain for a while and seemed to have fully immersed himself in the life here, even having an Irish girlfriend. Helen had a hard childhood and escaped as soon as she could, and after she saw the boys being beaten in a racist attack she comes to their aid, and she and Rofikul begin a relationship. It always feels though that Helen wants more, is defending their love, when her friends look a little askance at her relationship with a “Darkie”, whereas Rofikul doesn’t seem to feel the same. I felt he loved Helen, but he was a bit of an adventurer, not a planner but went with the flow, and liked to be ready for the next change. Unlike Hashim who adored his wife, and threw himself into settling here properly, Rofikul just felt different. Then he does something I hated, couldn’t forgive.
As well as the boys time in Britain there’s a huge chunk where Rofikul is back home in East Pakistan, and though I enjoyed reading about that, it felt somewhat disconnected from the part where they were in Britain. Even there I found it hard to understand Rofikul’s actions, I’d have been asking questions but I guess it really is cultural differences.
Overall it felt almost like two books joined by characters. I was really sad at parts of the ending and yet also it felt right, very true to life. Its not a story I’d read again, but is one I enjoyed overall, although I did skim read parts that felt a bit dull to me.
Stars: Three, an interesting read though at times the book felt a little disconnected in events.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Belgravia, Julian Fellowes,
Now a major TV series, from the creator of DOWNTON ABBEY
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
Well, I must be one of the few people who’ve not seen Downton. I haven’t had a TV for years – but my daughter and daughter in law love the series, and I recall reading another of Julian’s books many years ago. Throw in that I like historical reads and I wanted to try this.
To be honest I was underwhelmed. Its a reasonable story, intrigue, passion ( what passes for passion in the 19th century of course), some excellent characters and a real feeling of being there with them.
The historical setting was brilliant, I could visualise it and feel myself there with the characters watching scenes play out. What I didn’t like was the actual story, its very true to time in that circumstances and appearances are all, the innate snobbery of those at the top for any one a rung below, the desire to join their ilk by those who’ve made money but have no historical Name.
I just felt no excitement, no real mystery, everything was explained very fully as the story went on, so that by the end the only people who didn’t know the whole story were a very small group of those whom it concerned. I guess I like to try to work things out myself rather than be told them, told how the characters are feeling, reacting and whats going to happen next.
For lots of readers clearly that isn’t a problem, I can see the book has many stanch followers. That just proves what I’m always saying – reading tastes vary so much and a low-mid star doesn’t mean a poor story, just one which that particular reader didn’t enjoy.
Stars: Three, good historical setting but a story that didn’t really resonate with me. .
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The Silent Treatment, Abbie Greaves
Genre: General Fiction ( Adult)
I really didn’t know what to expect, the description is tantalisingly vague. All I could think was Why? Why didn’t Frank speak to Maggie? Did she speak to him? Had they rowed? What on earth had happened to carry this on for so long?
Well, that answer comes slowly, little by little as we learn about Maggie and Frank’s life together. Its clear they adored each other right from the start, from that first meeting up to now, even though he’s not speaking – and I was just so intrigued the more I read.
They were so close, one of those couples who were really perfect together, who complement each other. They had some setbacks in life but it seemed to bring them closer, so where, how, why did it all go so very wrong?
My first though was that maybe one of them has an affair or something, but it quickly became clear that neither would do that, and I just couldn’t think of what could have prompted such a long silence, especially when it doesn’t seem to be an angry or resentful lack of communication, not held out as a punishment, but simply a lack of speech, and I found it such a puzzle.
Its a beautiful story, very easy to read and engrossing, very moving, very emotional and yes, like other readers it did make me cry.
Yet the big question of why, which maid it such a mystery also began to frustrate me. The more I read the less I understood, until pretty close to the end, and I did find that a bit disheartening, wondering if when all was reveled it was going to be anti climatic.
I did feel the last section wrapped up a little too quickly, after that long, drawn out story of questions, it felt as if I was given the answer I’d been waiting all through the story for, quickly followed by a tidy, neat wrap up. It felt a bit too slick after the way the main story was so carefully drawn out, as if the two didn’t really work together. This is one of those books I enjoyed, am glad I read but which I doubt I’ll reread. ,G
Stars: Four, a moving, easy to read story but I felt there was a disparity between the main part being so slow to reveal and suddenly , story out, reasons disclosed and bam, neat ending. I needed a little more than a quick, slick conclusion.
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Family For Beginners, Sarah Morgan
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance
I’ve read and enjoyed several of Sarah’s books, her writing style matches what I want to read. She doesn’t just do a romance, but a story that has lots of sub plots, plenty of other things going on, and characters that feel so real. That’s what I want to read, real lives but with good things in. A story that has more than just A meets B and they have a few drama and lived HEA.
I loved Flora, such a hard life she’d had and of course we are what life shapes us. Flora has become one of life’s Pleasers, hates conflict and always tries to help, subjugating her own needs to make others happy. I hate conflict too, and I recognise facts of Flora in my own character, and understood her actions.
Jack, ahhh Jack. What a wonderful guy, loved his family, tries so hard after the unexpected death of his wife, and yet he’s a bloke and of course they see events and things differently. I so felt for Flora when she felt “outside” the family, and yet I understood too why Jack couldn’t see what his actions were doing.
The kids too, poor confused Izzie, teen years are tough but add in a dead mum, a grieving little sister, and a dad who seems to be getting close to his new girlfriend, and no wonder she was obnoxious at times. Molly, her little sister, was a real gem and provided some fantastic light when it was needed.
Of course there’s more to the story than we first know, slowly secrets come out and have repercussions. A little ripple turned into some pretty big waves.
I enjoyed the story and the pacing, the way what seemed clear kept changing as more things were revealed. I enjoyed Clare and the family in the Lake district too, some fabulous summer days played out there.
Stars: Five, another wonderful read from Sarah, with real people and plots, to make a story that’s totally absorbing.
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Killing Beauties, Pete Langman
Genre: Historical Fiction
I liked the sound of this, fiction but about real people, and in a period that intrigues me, but which I know little of. Sadly the story just wasn’t a great fit for me.
I’m not sure why, perhaps its because I failed to really connect with the characters, perhaps its just that events seemed muddled at times. I need to empathise with someone in a story, but though the setting felt real the characters just didn’t ,and I wasn’t really concerned with what happened to them.
Kudos to Pete for taking on bringing female spies into the public eye, sadly historically women were treated badly, as secondary to men, and even now the word Spy evokes a man, rarely do we think of female spies. They existed, though, did a hard and dangerous job, even more dangerous because women then were really regarded as unimportant, disposable.
I might come back to this another time, its a well written book, and I’m guessing well researched, certain historically it feels accurate. We’re in the throes of Covid19 when I’m reading this, and it may well be my issues, the unsettledness we’re all feeling that have affected how I felt about this story. Possibly in a different time I’ll get more from it?
Stars: Two, a good story for others but I failed to connect with it.
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Pivotal Decisions, (Moonlight and Murder 2), Reily Garrett
Genre: Romantic suspense
Murder and bodies, swamps and alligators, guns and bang sticks ( never heard of them – I want one !!), drones and tech, none of which I know much about but it didn’t matter for the story as it was kept loose enough for me to keep up and enjoy. Some suspense novels get very heavy on the detail and I end up skipping pages, this had just enough to interest me and let me follow how the story fit together.
I loved Sabine – and Heath. That dog was the real star of the book 😉 Coyote too was great, it was hard seeing little Sabine all grown up, and he was struggling to keep his hands to himself. Of course Sabine had always been attracted to him so she wasn’t worried when he didn’t…. The secondary characters too, Augie, Sabine’s bestie and Coyote’s work partner and GF and sister were fabulous. Poor Nolan, Keiki was one determined lady.
The girls together brought some much needed humour among the seriousness of the story. The guys were all macho protection, Augie warning Coyote not to hurt Sabine, Coyote determined to keep her back from the danger, Nolan all het up in defence of his little sister and his girlfriend, and the girls all running rings around them equally determined to not be kept out of the action. Lucky they did, it needed all of them.
I understood the potential financially of what poor Jinx had been working on, and could see so easily for many the murders to get their hands on it would be nothing. Sadly that’s the way of the world, dominated by money and the desire for more of it.
I wasn’t entirely convinced over the capture and rescue of Augie’s lady, it seemed a bit too simple and why leave the VR goggles? Maybe its just me missed some essential connection but I really struggled with the relevance of that bit.
Where the story fell down a bit for me was the last section, the end, and the reasons for all the murders seemed to just almost fizzle off. Somewhere I even missed what happened to one of the bad guys, one moment there was still one accounted for, and then it was the end and clearly I missed how he got caught. There were times when the actions stretched credulity but not too much and after all this is fictionland 😉
Stars: Four, a fun read, humour to offset the murders and a great bunch of characters.
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Red Hatchet Falls, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 7), Susan Clayton-Goldner
Genre: Mystery and thrillers
Each time I finish a Radhauser novel I’m in awe of how Susan manages to pull together a story, including so many side plots full of interest, taking me on a journey to find who’s responsible for the awful things in that book. She makes me think its one person, then doubt myself, as Radhauser does so often.
This book is the perfect example of when there seems like a straightforward murderer, all the clues and evidence point to that person, and yet Radhauser feels its too easy. As usual his gut feeling should have been listened to, although hopefully here that mistake will lead to future good.
I really didn’t suspect who the person was, Susan hides them with only the most subtle of clues that only make sense when we reach the conclusion.
It was good to catch up with not only Radhauser and his family, but also his work colleagues, characters from other books ( yay for Rodney!) and meet new ones.
In among the main crime there are plots about bullying, racism, domestic violence, and of course we see just how pervasive racism is, how easy it is to prejudge someone purely on looks. That happens here to an Islamic family, who have made America their home. Of course even now the fall out from 9-11 hits them, they are hated by some people, feared by others, simply because of their religion, which a few extremists used as an excuse for horrific actions. Y’know, Christians have done that too, in history and probably recent times too.
Poor Ahmeed, Daria, and their little son Kareem go through things no family should have to, and I have the feeling that this happens in real life too, from those supposed to protect them. Racism reaches all occupations, being in a “responsible” profession doesn’t stop bigots from using that position for their own ends and I could see the results of Ahmeed’s shooting ending just as Radhauser suspected it would. And that made me sad – no-one ever learns when actions get hidden.
I think In the same way as Radhauser is learning from Heron, the ME, I’m learning the way Radhauser’s mind works ( or Susan’s!). I start looking for evidence, mulling over actions, wondering what comes next. Of course its not all crime all the way, there’s Radhauser taking Lizzie to sports, talking to Gracie ( I love her), fussing his beloved horses.
I felt so sad for the kids in this book, some bullied by adults, some by kids following adults examples, but they were hurt by those actions, and of course that impacts on the adults they become. Its well known that abusers were often abused themselves. That doesn’t excuse it but does sometimes explain it, the anger comes out in odd ways, they don’t have that loving family role model. Its something I get so angry about, children missing out on the fun, secure, loving childhood they should all have. Sadly a percentage never get it and others only part of it. Horrible reflection on us as adults. I remember my own son at five being told by his then best friend he couldn’t play with him any more because he was “ a black’un”. Jay had dark skin, dark hair and big brown eyes, and clearly his friends parents had looked at him, looked at the name Zelos and decided we were foreign. We’re not, but it gave me an insight into how cruel adults can be, how easily they influence children. He was five, didn’t understand what his friend meant, and it was tough explaining bigotry in a way he’d understand.
And as usual I’ve rambled here, but the gist it, once more Susan has knocked out a five star read. Meticulously researched, everything makes sense, there are no lose ends, no stretching of credulity but a story that could so easily be real. Sometimes as series continue they get tired, feel stale but Radhauser has a long way to go yet. Each story feels fresh even though the characters feel like old friends. I was looking back after finishing this at the early books, I started with book two, maybe its time I read book one, see how it all started.
Stars: five, long may Radhauser continue his investigations. Each book feels like the best yet, and then along comes the next which is even better.
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Follow Me To Ground, Sue Rainsford
Genre: General Fiction (Adult) , Sci Fi & Fantasy
I finished this book three days ago and….usually I write my reviews the following day, but I just don’t know where to start with this, and keep putting it off.
Its….an odd, weird story, and yet I can see from early reviewers that some folks adore it. I guess its the book equivalent of Marmite, you either love it or hate it! And sadly I just didn’t like it, I can’t say I hate it as TBH most of it was just so confusing, and at the end I was left thinking “ what have I read?”
Oddly it shares a few similarities with You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce, which I absolutely loved. They both involve people/creatures who are different to the usual supernatural beings in books. I understood You Let Me In though, well, partly, but that confusion was a deliberate facet of the story. However with Follow Me To Ground I just found it totally confusing. One moment it would be one person telling the story, then it would switch, but without any indication, so I’d be thinking “ What? Whats happened that I missed” before realising it was someone else talking. I had to keep going back, rereading, backtracking to try to understand, follow what had been written. Nothing really seemed to add up, make any kind of sense and even in a supernatural read I do need that.
I read to 50% and skim read the rest, as I wanted to see what would happen and yet was so confused by events and characters that I couldn’t bring myself to waste time in a thorough read. I knew by then it wasn’t going to be a great read for me, but wondered of the second half would be any clearer. Nope, it wasn’t.
One big plot in the book oddly was very clear to me, right from early on – weird that the ordinary events were difficult for me to follow, and yet this big major mystery was so obvious to me. Maybe that’s the way the author intended – I don’t know?
Stars: Two, a weird book, I can’t say I hated it, but I didn’t understand it, or like the characters. By the end I felt strangely irritated that I still didn’t know what it was supposed to be telling me.
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