The Familiars: Stacey Halls
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
I hovered over this, had requested via netgalley some time ago but didn’t get it 😦 , sometimes they only have limited copies for ARCs. It sounded so intriguing after reading the sample that I bought it anyway. Yep, paid real money for this one 😉
Its a fantastic read, based around the real Pendleton Witches saga, and showing how helpless women were once accused, and how easy to was for grudges, and power hungry individuals to wreck peoples lives. Literally. That magic mix ( for me ) of fiction and reality, which I love to read.
I loved Fleetwood, only 17 but on her fourth pregnancy, hoping against hope that this time her husband gets his much wanted heir. Then she finds That Letter, and is devastated. As was I reading it, I so felt for her.
Richard seems like a really nice guy, shocking to me that at just 17 his wife is on her fourth pregnancy, but in those times marriage at a young age wasn’t uncommon. He’s away a lot on business but seems to adore Fleetwood and certainly allows her a freedom many wives didn’t have at that time. Then we learn something that shocked me. Not so uncommon but I just didn’t expect it and it coloured how I felt about him after.
Alice, poor girl, just caught up in things after trying to innocently help someone, and her involvement brings others into the ever growing web of people seeking the kings favour are weaving, knowing his vendetta against witches. Looking at the accusations and the “proof” from today’s perspective its ludicrous, but back then men were Gods almost when it came to determining who was innocent – hint, virtually no one. They seemed to see accused as guilty the minute someone laid a charge, and knowing the more “witches” they found, the higher the king would regard them was a powerful motive for those with no conscience.
Poor Fleetwood learns some unpleasant lessons about trust in this book. Alice too, helping someone injured ended up risking her life. She’d such a hard life anyway, and then doing something so innocent cost her job and brought her to the witch hunters notice.
The supernatural, the familiars element of the title is kind of elusive, certain animals could perhaps be familiars, and yet it could just be supposition, superstitious imaginings about innocent pets. Who knows, its never really clear but there’s enough co-incidences to make me wonder.
Stars: Five, a fabulous read, that mix of fiction rooted in reality and with a possible supernatural link, made it a riveting read for me. One I know I’ll re-read.
A Madness of Sunshine, Nalini Singh
I love Nalini’s Guild Hunter series and her contemporary romances. I so wish I could enjoy the psy-changling series, so many books I haven’t read. Maybe I’ll give them another go 😉
This time the story is as much, maybe more, suspense as romance. Its a slow burn relationship, it’s more getting to know each other tentatively and maybe starting something, than a full on romance. I enjoyed it even though I was expecting more romance from the tag.
The background of Golden Cove, and the issues of past and present was excellent. When Nalini writes there’s always that extra touch, scenery is always so descriptive I can mentally see it, characters that I feel I know, understand, even things like the coffee, I can smell and taste it from her words.
The suspense was cleverly done, a couple of main possible suspects stand out, and yet there are things thrown in that made me wonder “ but what about? Could they? ”
Its cleverly wrapped up, proper ending. I hate it when I finish a story and am left wondering what happened after, wondering about certain characters.
The reason both Will and Anhara were in Golden Cove were believable, I really felt for them both. There were other characters already there too that had some nasty shocks, life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, sometimes its just damn windy and stormy. Life’s like that for us all sometimes, throws in unwelcome surprises, things happen beyond our control, someone does whats right yet still ends up poorer for it. It made the story feel very realistic for me.
Stars: Five. I was pleased at the way things worked out in the ending. I like that kind of finishing the story and giving a hint of what happens to them in the future.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
City of Pearl, Alys Clare
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery and Thrillers
I’ve said before, this series so much reminds me of the Ariana Franklin books I enjoyed years ago, and I’m really enjoying getting to know Lassair and her world. I mistakenly came in late to the series, thinking its was an AF read, so I’ve yet to have the pleasure of reading the books from the beginning. One day – so many books, so little time…. 😉
Anyway, we start in the Fens, ( a place not many miles from where I live) but the story moves on a journey to Spain. It amazes me that some folk never traveled further than the next village, which feels usual for the time, while others like Lassair, Gurdyman and his family, and a few others, embarked upon what must have been scary and perilous travails, at a time when so little was known about where they were going, and knowing the journey would be fraught with danger.
Gurdyman has always been a man of few words, Lassair has learned to curb her impatience, knowing he will tell her what she needs to know in time, but even her patience was stretched here. I’d have been climbing the walls.
Clearly the unflappable Gurdyman has been frightened, but by what? Where exactly are they going, and why? Why go now when its the worst time to travail and Gurdyman isn’t in the best of health? Lassair though is feeling her losses, poor Rollo, who died in the last book, and Jack, who so curtly rejected her so she’s ready for a change, and thinks maybe that’s why he chosen now to travel.
Like many historical reads the book is really about the gradual progress to the end, enjoying the journey the book takes us on, rather than racing to the finish. That’s good because I enjoyed that more than the actual revelations at the end.
We find the place where Gurdyman lived as a young boy, and where he furthered his education. There are more hints of some things that are a bit more Magic, than straight Healing, a trait only a few have, and of which Gurdyman has taught Lassair only the briefest history.
There’s an undercurrent of danger running through the book, of mystery, of evil and maybe harm, of things unspoken but feared, and Lassair finds herself puzzling what, why, who, where are they going etc. She has so many questions but Gurdyman reveals very little. I would be so burning with curiosity, Lassair is a better person ( all round) than me.
She learns more about herself, and things about her mentor which are hard to accept, but in contrast to that harsh fact, and the trials that undoubtedly lie ahead for her, she has a moment of happiness when Jack follows her on that perilous journey to ensure she’s safe. He’d only do that if he cares? Right? So thinks she, and I, and I so hope we’re right 😉
Stars: 4.5 I’m hovering between four and five here, the main thrust of the story was fascinating, kept me guessing and engrossed, and felt so very real, I felt I was there in history and I love a story that can do that. Somehow though the answers to those questions Lassair ( and I) has weren’t as satisfying as I’d hoped. Though all was made clear it just didn’t really feel enough for me, and there were of course bits I wasn’t happy to read, disappointments in some people. That was just a fraction of the overall though so its a four and a half for me.
Arc via Netgalley
The Ex-Girlfriend, Nicola Moriarty
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Gah, women’s fiction: c’mon publishers, this category has no place in 2019. Men read romance, men write romance, stop trying to alienate a potential reader base.
Anyway, I found this book kind of slow at the start, and felt it was a little predictable. I was pretty sure what was going on and almost gave up.
Glad I didn’t though, once things picked up they rocketed along, with surprises way beyond what I thought would happen. Its totally absorbing, and so much more than I first thought, so although I found that first 30% a bit meh, a little obvious as to what was going on, once past that and I was gobsmacked, the story went way beyond what I’d thought.
What seemed like a simple story turned into a deliciously complex one full of unexpected events and long planned motivations.
The events had me mentally screaming “nooo….don’t” and I was so astonished at how seemingly unconnected events finally came together.
Its a shortish review for me, but its impossible to say more without giving away important events, suffice to say its a story that had me gripped once past that slow start.
Stars: four, it would be five but for that slow start. Still, for others its a five as it is so its perfect for them.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Lies Lies Lies, Adele Parks
Genre: ,Women’s Fiction, Romance
Bah, Humbug. Women’s Fiction – that infuriates me. Why do we insist on having such an outdated category?
Well, that’s out of the way so on to the book…I loved it, though at the start I thought it was going to be just meh!
Daisy and Simon seem top have the perfect marriage, adore each other and their talented daughter Millie, both have good jobs, a nice home and long time friends that lead to a good social life. Then we see a few cracks appear, the friends have a few issues, Daisy carries a grudge against one of her college friends, kept it up for the last 15 years even though the parties have all moved on. Lucy had an affair with Daisy’s sisters husband, she’s now married to him and they have a child, and Daisy’s sister is also happily married but for Daisy its an unforgivable breach. They all still meet, having friends in common but Daisy avoids Lucy as much as she can. For me this characterises Lucy’s nature, she has strict codes of right and wrong, and is incredibly loyal. This loyalty spreads to Simon when he drinks too much, he’s a functioning alcoholic and for the most part is more or less in control, always the life of the party, always a fun guy and he adores Daisy and Millie. So much so that he thinks they should have another child. It took a while for them to have Millie though, and they’re older and seek medical help. After that his alcoholism really takes over his life and Daisy just doesn’t know what to do. I really began to dislike Simon here even though I felt sorry for him. I sympathised with Daisy, been there, done that and its tough. You love someone but don’t necessarily like what they do.
Gradually the issues get worse, until things go horribly wrong. Their lives all change irrevocably, and the secrets that have been stacking up increase, there are outright lies and untold ones, lies of omission. I so felt for everyone, and the people I least expected to help stepped up, showing the power of true friends.
You need to suspend believe a little to really get into the story, when the secrets and lies get revealed and the consequences come out, but then as they saying goes, Truth can be stranger than fiction, so who knows?
A gripping read, full of unexpected events and turns, and a fabulous story. The characters felt very real though in my head, their actions very true to form. I guess I thought of them very much as “Boden Catalogue” families. UK readers will understand that, the Middle classes, university, property owning families. I’m making that point as a fact not a criticism, its just a type of family, as real as the landed gentry type and the families that never get beyond renting homes, where a stable job is an aspiration. Adele herself makes the point that Simon isn’t the typical prisoner, and sadly she’s right in that some people seem almost destined for a life or crime. The prison section, prison life, how easy it is to become accepting, institutionalised, how the hierarchy of people like the Dales who run the prisoners and some of the guards, even though they are prisoners themselves was very realistic. She’s celalry researched the prison rules for visitors etc, I learned a lot I didn’t know about visiting rules. I find when authors do that research it leads to a much better reading experience for me, that I can enjoy the realism of the events more, feeling that this is the way life, and in this case prison life, works.
Stars: Five, a brilliant read, very emotional, very well put together, turning my feelings about characters completely upside down. The ending – a little hard to believe but for me it was what I wanted so I’m happy even if its a little stretching credulity.
Arc via Netgalley
Guilty Not Guilty, Felix Francis
Genre: General Fiction ( Adult), Mystery and Thrillers.
I used to ( still do ) love Felix’ dad, Dick’s, novels. Being a horse mad child that grew into a horse mad adult, with a love of reading his books have kept me entertained for many happy hours.
Felix writes in a similar style, believable characters, a story that feels genuine, where you could place yourself in that setting and see it happening in real life. And of course there’s always the mystery of who the culprit really is. Its not a copycat of his dads style though, Felix has his own spin, his own way of writing and I find it very easy to follow, perfect for me.
I like to be puzzled as I read the story, but not so confused that I switch off. Felix lays out clues for the reader to pick up – some I got and some I missed. His books are set with a racing background but less intensely horse orientated, so this book we meet Bill as he is acting as a Steward at the races, having been a former jockey, but apart from a couple of race meets and his background in stewarding that’s the entirety of the horse content.
I felt so sorry for Bill, his wife has died and yet he can’t grieve properly because the police are convinced he killed her. With his family background its quickly become quite a high profile murder, and I guess there’s pressure on the police to find the killer. Bill has been neatly served up as culprit by his brother in law, once a friend but for the past few years he’s been viciously cruel to Bill and Amanda, his wife, causing her intense distress with his vile innuendo and threats. He’s now playing the part of devoted distraught brother, which makes Bill suspicious of him.
Bill is vilified in the press, made out to be guilty by them, and his former friends and neighbours almost all believe it. Only a handful of friends and family stand by him, one of them advising that the best way to clear his name is to set about proving an unquestionable alibi. Bill is rightly worried the police aren’t going to look further, as the way his brother in law has placed it he does look guilty, although of course there’s no real evidence, only suspicion and possibilities.
Its a raging paced read, racing from one drama to another, and I so felt for poor Bill. Once more fiction shows up the worst of the press, they do behave in this revolting way, dragging out any and all possible salacious details, spinning possibilities as fact, caring nothing for someones grief and sensibilities in their quest to be first with new details. The poor guy is mired in their web, damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. Advice is say nothing, but how hard when you know they are spouting total rubbish..
I loved this read, know I’ll re-read it, and there’s a twist at the end that completely caught me out. I Did Not See That Coming!
Stars: Five, a cracking paced read, full of wonderful fiction that felt incredibly real.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Saturday Supper Club, Amy Miller
Romance, Women’s Fiction
Bah, Humbug. Women’s Fiction – that infuriates me. Why do we insist on having such an outdated category?
Anyway, the book. Well, I love a second chance romance, and when characters stories are unfinished like this I want to know how they will end when they meet, will that second chance take, will things work out or has too much changed.
Sadly it wasn’t a great read for me. I love the cafe and how that was being set up, liked the idea of the supper club. I somehow felt the execution was lacking though, given the title, it didn’t really take a major setting.
I found most of the characters strange, except for Eve’s dad and his girlfriend. Though even Dad’s actions were not right either over one event, he meant well but it was wrong. Eve was shilly-shallying between the two men, not really being fair to either. I don’t like that behaviour, even though I understood her need to know, her shock at meeting Ethan again.
Some odd events are disclosed when Ethan finally reveals why he left and his excuse – well, it gobsmacked me. Really? She was upset so you …?? and thought it wise to cuddle someone in those circumstances? What a berk, what a stupid man. I’d have never been able to trust him again.
There are times when things happen between couples that make me feel there is some exoneration, even though its wrong but this? Nope. Out Of Order Ethan. Then he took cowards way out.
I thought Joe was great at first but as we came to know him I found him a bit creepy, manipulative…and then of course things come out that confirm that for me.
Daisy – well, with friends like her who needs enemies is all I can say. Even when the story comes out she’s still “poor me” “ I loved him first” even though he never had anything other than friendship with her.
Overall there were some interesting parts but the characters let it down for me, I didn’t really like any of them, and that spoiled the story.
Stars: Three, I just felt with a bit of tweaking it could have been a great read for me but then I’m sure others will love it as it is. Horses for courses etc.
Arc via Netgalley
His Secret Family, Ali Mercer
Genre:Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction..
Ah no, women’s fiction again….why do we insist on having this biased and outdated category? There’s no reason why men should read this book, it will appeal to anyone who likes a well written mystery.
Im not quite sure I can say I liked it, but I was certaily gripped to see what would happen to the characters. I felt so sad for Paula, an innocent victim, as were Ava and Ellie. The rest of the characters were a selfish group IMO. Jenny made an initial error and at least tried hard with her girls until she became involved with Mark, then she seemed to become a bit of a doormat. Mark was a real nasty, selfish character, his mother was awful and maybe had something to do with his character but he’s a grown man, and I felt his actions were incredibly selfish, he seemed to see everything only for how it acted or reflected on him.
Its a book full of sadness and tragedy, one that’s played out daily for so many folk, especially those with kids with issues. I did want to see what happened, it was slow starting but soon had me gripped by the unfolding events, and how they connected. It’s not a story I’d read a second time, though I’m glad I read it. At the end I felt the characters had come to some kind of resolution but there’s a lot of hard work ahead of them all to make up for events, the past can’t simply be rewritten.
Stars: Five, a book I’m glad I read, full of surprises, characters with flaws, situations that occur in everyday life, but not one I’d re-read.
ARC via netgalley and publishers
The Night You Left, Emma Curtis
Genre: Mystery and 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.
I was on the fence about this, I love books about missing people, makes me wonder what happened, why, what were they thinking etc but there were a few reviews that made it sound not my kind of read. Still, took the plunge and really enjoyed it.
Unusually for me the majority of the people in this were irredeemably awful, and usually I need to like the majority, though enjoy a few bad to the bone folk. The only one’s I liked ( apart from Lottie and Kai) were Nick and Grace.
The book flits from past to present, at varying times and occasionally I needed to backtrack to see just what time we were in. I felt for Nick as a teen, his parents even then were self obsessed. Taisie, typical kid in her actions and if any of the parenst had looked beyond what she wanted them to see they’d have put a stop to things. Fact is none of the parents were really bothered what the kids did so long as it didn’t interfere with their fun. Pretty rough, and of course had some terrible consequences, not just immediate but long term.
Where the story fell down for me was the timing, with everything from years back coming together over just a few days. there’s a saying that truth is stranger than fiction, so to a degree I can deal with what seems like just too much co-incidence but in this book there really was a bit more than I could believe in. Still, I wanted to see what happened to Nick, couldn’t believe he’d just walked out but that’s what it looked like and I wanted to know why, and if not, what had happened. Its actually something that happens very often in real life, people do just walk out, start another life, but I didn’t feel Nick would do that. He seemed to adore Grace and Lottie, and even when Grace began to find out the secrets he hid I still don’t feel he’d just walk out. As things come to a head more and more long held secrets come to light, bringing in some very real dangers.
Its a nicely paced story, letting things come to light slowly, and though I’d guessed some of the things that happened, there were others that came as a real surprise.
Stars: Four, a story that had me reading “just a bit more” needing to know what happened. I do feel some events stretched credulity too far and that’s what stopped the five rating.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
I was intrigued by this, who wouldn’t want to find a portal to the past in their home? Of course there’s the danger of seeing and hearing things we really don’t want to see, so its kind of a mixed bag. The ethics too – is it really spying? Can it be compared to reading someones diary?
Melanie and Kelsey are sisters, but very different in nature from each other. On the surface Melanie is Mrs Successful, with her job, husband, and perfect home, but underneath she’s grieving a miscarriage after she and Ben have been struggling to become parents for a while. Kelsey knows none of this, just feels that Melanie is always critical of the way her life runs, her love life sucks, her job isn’t exactly going places and she feels fiercely that her life and Melanie’s are very different.
Then out of the blue Kelsey gets a call from Melanie about selling the lakeside home they inherited, now the tenants have moved out. They both visit the house, find it needs work, and Melanie decides to stay and oversee it, needing a break after the miscarriage, just wanting to get away from her lovely husband. She just can’t take his well meaning ideas any more…Emotions can be like that, we all take a loss, disappointments differently, and though she loves Ben and he loves her, they could so easily drift apart after their loss. It happens to many couples, the constant stress of timing, ovulation charts, sex at prescribed times, somehow among all that the love gets lost, and I feel that Ben sees that as potentially happening to them, and that’s why he wants a break of a few months before trying again. To Melanie though it feels like giving up, she feels a failure as a woman, and though of course we can see another side, when you’re in the thick of a problem its all you can see.
Kelsey loves her sister but they’re not exactly close, Melanie is more careful, measured in her actions, thinks things through, while Kelsey just blunders in regardless and that’s how she’s found herself in her early thirties trapped, no great career, no loving partner, its just her and Sprocket her rescue dog. And I loved Sprocket, he was a great addition to the story. Its little touches like that which make a story feel real.
Then Melanie finds the hidden door, and, well, at first its fun, but then it becomes such that they both want to see more and yet don’t always like what they see. It does make them think about their family, see themselves, from another angle, lets them see different sides to some problems, helps them cope with events they hadn’t realised had such an impact on their lives. Sometimes though secrets are just that for a reason, and there comes a time when the two are divided about what to do next.
Would I like to see into my past? See my mum again? Part of me says yes, but part of me knows it wouldn’t change the fact she’s long gone, and the person I’d be seeing isn’t the one I know as mum. Still, there are always two sides to a story and it would be interesting to see how she viewed certain events from my childhood, and perhaps know more about hers.
Its a fun read, interesting and made me think about what I would do in the same circumstances, ( I guess I’m overly curious, I’d have to take a peek at least). Kelsey and Melanie and the problems from past and present felt very real, and even knowing the doorway into the past can’t exist the story made me feel it was genuine, that I could believe in it. Its not a story I’d reread, but one I’m glad I did read, made me think about myself and my life too.
Stars: Three, a fun read, fantasy and yet believable fantasy, with some questions that made me wonder, what would I do?
ARC via author