Woman Who Spoke to Spirits, Alys Clare
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
I love this kind of historical read, one where I feel I’m part of the setting, can taste the atmosphere, really feel as if I’m there in past times with the characters. It proved t be a light and enjoyable read. This is first in a new series, I’ve read a couple by Alys and enjoyed those, so was confident I’d like this one.
First books in a series have a hard ask, delivering characters, new settings along with an interesting story, and this book did that really well.
I’m intrigued by Lily’s past, we get hints of some awful trauma but I guess that’s going to come out more in further books. Likewise her new hire, Felix, has his own somewhat mysterious past. We know some of it, but there seems much more to him that just a down at heel former rich kid. He has so much experience of different things, and I’m keen to know how and where and when he learned all this. He seemed so much older than his actual years.
He and Lily make a good pair, work well together and even though in those times its odd to have a female boss, he makes it work, being deferential without seeming obsequious, and yet standing up when its needed. I feel maybe in further books something might develop between them but there’s little here except respect and a possible growing attraction. I want to know more about the guy in the houseboat – forgotten his name, but though he and Lily have only met a handful of times they have something special maybe? Or perhaps I’m reading things that aren’t there 😉
The mystery this is based around is actually two stories, there’s the one about the actress, the stage and young Julian, and then the primary one of Albertina and the evil she senses is out for her. That had me completely puzzled, I simply couldn’t work it out, though of course after its over I could see the clues Alys had cleverly weaved through. An original tale, not one I’ve come across before.
Stars: Four, a fun read and a great intro to the series.
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Storm Cursed, A Mercy Thompson novel, Patricia Briggs
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy
My all time favourite fantasy author, others come close but she’s still Queen of Fantasy for me, so when I saw this I just had to request it.
I’ve read and reread all the books multiple times and even now find things I’ve missed on previous readings. Its a fabulous series, and unlike some that go on to become long running but tired, its still as fresh as the first one.
Each story is complete but part of a long term story arc.
What I love about good authors is the way they bring in what I think of as story seeds, the little hints that are easy to miss, that become part of bigger plots further down the line, sometimes books later.
Sherwood Post is one of those, we met him a few books back, he’s grown in person as we meet him more and he plays a big part in this book. Being a fellow leg amputee I have a real soft spot for him, and it was great to slowly see more of him in this story.
He’s had a tangled history with witches, can’t recall his past but retains an awful lot of instinctive fear about witchcraft, so its probably a psychiatric issue more than physical one but who knows? The brain is a curious organ. Where usually werewolves can regrow body parts, his leg presumably was spelled in some way and hasn’t regrown. I feel for his struggles, and although he has a below knee amputation and mine is most of my leg his struggles are real. Patricia clearly either knows someone like this or has done research because unlike in so many books ( Horse Whisperer anyone?) Sherwood’s physical issues with his missing limb and prosthesis are genuine. I know, having struggled over the same things. In fact when he talks about his socket for his prosthetic I knew exactly what he meant, it was suggested as possibly suitable for me by a doctor in the early days, and though my prosthesist disagreed he made one anyway, so I could try and he was right. It was incredibly comfortable and perfect for those only missing below knee, but for people like me the weight of a whole limb was too much, and it just wouldn’t stay on 😦 I love that Patricia didn’t just give Sherwood a false limb, but made it the right sort for him. Small touches but those are what make her books so incredible to read for me. I can believe in them, can believe in the weird and wonderful types of folk she dreams up.
Once more its am amazing story, full of suspense and yet lightened with touches of humour ( nudge!!). I love that she brings in so many parts of past stories, and weaves them seamlessly with the current one. So here we’ve Mercy and the wolves still dealing with her perhaps rash proclamation, but the right thing to do, offering protection to the inhabitants of the Tri-cities. That brings in everyone in this story, the Pack, Elizaveta and her family, the vampires, and of course the Fae, including my much admired Zee and Tad. Zee’s actions here reminded me very much of his earth affinity that allowed Mercy and the others into Underhill several books back. I enjoy that kind of continuity.
Wulfe is in this story a lot towards the end and I’m kind of confused about how I feel over him. He’s a real mix, we’ve seen his seemingly uncaring, blase attitude to his menagerie, and to humans in general, his lack of loyalty to the seethe possibly in the Frost book, or maybe he was playing a long game, his strange abilities as the Wizard, and yet he seems to have a thread of doing the right thing running through. Is it because of morals ( unlikely) or just that it appeals to his sense of fun, his fondness for causing change, stirring things up? A bit like Coyote you never quite know whats behind their mechanisms. I guess its part of that long, hundreds- maybe thousands- of years of life, they like entertainment to relieve the ennui that affects some.
Mercy, well, I’ve loved her character right from the start, overlooked so, so often by Wolves, Witches, Fae and humans, yet she’s incredibly intelligent, with the strong sense of morals that guides her, and somehow gets others doing whats right. Adam ( swoon) has always seen her value though, and respects her even while he’s terrified for her as she veers into life changing difficulties. He knows that while he’s love to keep her wrapped up safely away from danger that’s not who she is, and their relationship would suffer so he respects her decisions and always has her back.
I hope she and the others have got lots more stories to come, this world Patricia has created and its evolution can take much more yet before the story gets old.
Stars: five of course. Another riveting read, taking me on a wonderful journey into another world. A book to get lost in, to leave reality for a few hours and immense myslef in the Tri-cities and its inhabitants.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
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.
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The Last Loyalty, Bernadette Lyons.
Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy
What an incredible debut read! I was blown away by this story, moved to tears by the ending, but satisfied by the way it was done even so. It was the perfect finale for this book (even if it did make me cry).
I wasn’t sure when I read synopsis if it would be a story for me, but it sounded a bit like Jean M Auel series, of which I read and loved the first book years ago. ( I might have to search the rest out now!) It does share a few characteristics via The People and the way they live, very primitively, but I feel they share more with historical Native Indians in their outlook, reverence for nature, the way they follow the horse herd, as the Native Indians followed the bison etc at different times of year.
Jessa, a classic under-dog, talented and respected as a healer, and yet ridiculed at times for her eye colour, brown, unlike the rest of the People who have blue eyes.
Hers is a lonely life, not for her the popularity among the men of the other ladies, and she’s kind of apart from the rest, few real friends, always on the fringes.
Then she gets a new patient and although he’s a stranger, a potential danger to The People, she is fierce in her defence of him. Malcolm’s uniform bears marks the People associate with Gods, and when he does open his eyes they are gray – another sign from the Gods.
Malcolm finds it hard to believe his situation, is desperate to escape and get back to his duty with the army. It’s when he looks out at night though, early on, and sees two moons and many more stars than on Earth that he realises its not going to be easy. He has no idea where he is or if its possible to return.
As time goes on and he becomes accepted among The People his desire to get back, his duty to return vies with his situation of a life he’s come to enjoy, a woman he loves, a people he respects.
And then come The Others…..and Malcolm realises that maybe he is here for a reason, that the People need him and his command of tactics to survive the upcoming battle.
Its a fabulous read, I really enjoyed seeing the day to day life of how the People live, the way the horses are so important, the way the tribe is run, the respect for nature. When Malcolm goes on his first hunt and the prayer of thanks to the Gods is said over the animal that dies, the prayer respecting and venerating its sacrifice of life, it reminded me very much of the Native Indians who did the same, and of the Scots who had their own prayers of thanks when hunting. I’ve no doubt other groups that live off the land have similar rituals, and this made the hunt feel very real.
I liked too that they didn’t just slay at random, but chose older, weaker targets, never a pregnant or nursing animal, and when the leader decided they had enough meat for survival they stopped.
All that made the People feel real to me, I loved their rituals, the way nothing was wasted, their whole way of life, tough but fair in the main. There’s a hierarchy that works, where everyone knows their place.
Malcolm slowly finds his place, and he was a man I adored, he saw in Jessa what her eye colour blinded the others to. Once he treated her with respect, as a desired woman, other men of the People saw her differently too. I was so happy at what transpired between them, at the way she and Malcolm became one unit, that he didn’t follow the Peoples custom of sleeping with any woman that invited them, but stayed true to Jessa only.
I felt I knew many of the tribe, knew them as people, as real individuals and understood their reactions. I liked that not all were good, that sometimes behind a pretty or handsome face lay an unpleasant nature. There’s a slow build up of tension between some of the characters, things that all come to a climax towards the end.
And the end- oh I really wanted a different ending, but TBH it wouldn’t have been near as good done my way. The way it happened broke my heart, made me cry but was so perfect, and among the sadness there is also happiness, not just for Jessa but for others of the People.
Stars: five, its an incredible, amazing, riveting first novel and I’m so looking forward to more from this author.
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A Shadow Beyond, Emma-Nicole Lewis
Genre: Historical fiction, Contemporary Fiction,
I don’t read books like this often, but sometimes I want to just dip into a different genre, refresh my reading tastes, and this is in the mould of Susanna Kearsley, Barbara Erskine with its past and present, characters linked by history format. Its a lovely long read too, not one of those 150 pages where story is so crammed plots don’t have time to develop.
Its not one I couldn’t put aside, and in fact I did read it over three or four sessions, reading other stuff in between. Sometimes a story just can’t be put down, other times I like to stop and mull over what I’ve read.
I recall reading about a village that closed itself off during the plague, to stop the spread, there are any number who stayed closed to keep plague out, but few who did it, sacrificed themselves to keep plague contained. That takes a really strong group. They were very devout religious folk though, and believing this edict came from God helped, convinced them they were doing what god wanted. Of course the cynic in me notes the wealthy families decamped at first sign of plague, as always it was the common folk who made the sacrifice.
Still, cynicism apart, it was an incredible sacrifice, and one that bears remembrance.
I loved reading about the historical characters, how they lived, the connections between families, and of course just what was haunting Thornycroft. The suspense is very deftly written and it seemed to me most times we jumped from past to present or present to past each new chapter started where old one left off, so Rachel would be scared by something back in the past and at the crucial moment the book would jump forward and we’d see Kate discovering what has scared her. It gave a great feeling of continuity to the story.
I loved characters, past and present, didn’t see the twist in present times, though I’d guessed some of the past twist, and whichever time I was reading I became totally absorbed in what was happening. I have a small criticism in that though the book was deliciously long I felt the ending was rushed, crammed in too small a space, and it didn’t really bring out the incredible connections of past and present. I kind of felt I was looking at % bar and thinking “ so when will we? Will she tell us ?” and it all kind of fell into one complete few pages, or at least it appeared that way while reading.
There is romance here, both past and present but its very muted, very much a tertiary plot to the main suspense angle.
Stars: Four, I really enjoyed this, but wished there was a less rushed ending. It did all tie up properly, nothing was missed but it felt like each plot came to the crux at the same time and I didn’t feel that did the story justice.
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Boundary Broken, Boundary Magic Book 4, Melissa F. Olson
Genre: General Fiction (adult) Sci-fi and Fantasy
I found the first book involving Lex and Quinn a couple of years back, and avidly devoured that trilogy, then went on to read everything else Melissa has written about the Old World.
This series and the sister one overlap with characters from each making cameos and being referenced in both. Its one of those series I love to reread, and in fact have recently just done that, working my way through all the books and novellas. I’m not certain if this is the start of a new trilogy, it certainly lays the seeds of a bigger story but this tale is complete in itself.
Its that same gripping writing as all the earlier reads, convincing me that witches and magic could be real, vampires and werewolves could exist.
Even in fantasy I have to be convinced that IF the supernatural world was real this scenario could happen, and Melissa does that for me every time.
There are no magical shortcuts, no solutions pulled from thin air but ones that are hard worn, take their toll on the characters and take me time to work out how things can be resolved. I’m usually struggling to find that answer until I reach it in the story – nothing her is predictable!
I love the mix of characters, Lex and Quin, Lex sister’s voice, chiming in on occasion, silent – constrained by rules – on others. There’s her brother in law John, father to Charlie, who’s had to be brought in to the Old World secrets because of Charlie’s abilities which make her a target.
Maven, vampire leader extraordinaire, she’s an amazing character, I like her even if she is incredibly pragmatic at times. She’s old, she hasn’t got to that age without some hard decisions. In common with many vampires and werewolves she sees humans as unimportant, and Lex balances that and reminds her of how there are better ways than just killing ones who threaten Old World secrecy.
Then of course there’s Simon, Lily and the other witches. They’re the mainstay of this story but there are others from past stories and new ones to meet.
I really enjoyed meeting Tobias again, and seeing how he’d progressed from the sad life Lex – or maybe Scarlet – rescued him. I can remember him clearly, just not which book it was…. 😉
Once more the story races along, events building to an incredible conclusion with little side plots happening and seeds being sown for what I hope are more books, further developments between the witches, werewolves and vampires. This and Melissa’s other books aren’t the usual supernatural light, fluff read, but more fully developed, real stories, events that feel genuine, and solutions that are at times hard to take. I love them.
Stars: five, another cracking read, another for the keeper files and I so hope there’s more to come 😉
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Coming Home to Holly Close Farm, Julie Houston
Genre: general fiction (adult), women’s fiction
Once more, women’s fiction. Why, why alienate men? They read books like this too.
Anyway, I’ve loved all Julie’s past stories, but this one wasn’t a great fit for me. It could well be living circumstances, I’m between homes, living in my daughter’s conservatory so getting “lost” in a book hasn’t been easy. I may reread this at a later day and feel very differently.
Its full of the usual realistic characters and events, and peppered with Julie’s trademark subtle humour. I’m always nervous when a book promises to make me “laugh out loud” as too often I fond that really means the forced, very unfunny humour I hate. Julie’s style isn’t that, is much more soft and clever humour, not pushed-in-your-face stuff .
So, the story, its kind of in two parts, and I found I loved Madge and her backstory more than I enjoyed the current time romance. Madge had such a tragic past, I loved her stoic, never give in mindset, but found it hard to believe no-one knew about Holly Close Farm, how a property so valuable would have no evidence that family would have picked up on linking her to it. No bills from the council? No demands for utilities etc? It’s possible but a bit hard to believe given that now I seem to get bills from the council in numerous duplicates constantly! Her daughter Nancy was a bit weird, and I couldn’t see her missing out on any stray info that would lead to reward for her.
I wanted to like Charlie, felt so much for her over Dominic, sadly things like that happen, and people can be horribly plausible about absences. I just found it hard to really feel for her after that, she’s a little too me, me , me for my taste. Like I said, maybe its my mindset, and I’ll feel differently at a later date.
Stars: Three, a good story, great characters, but fell a bit short for me of Julie’s others five star reads.
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Enchantée, Gita Trelease
Genre: Teens & YA, Sci Fi & Fantasy
I really enjoyed this, its a fabulous debut read, with a very polished writing style. I was absorbed into the story very quickly and felt as if I was there with the characters.
The magic part of the story felt genuine, as if it could be real. I liked that magic has a cost, the user needs to pay. I was really sympathetic to Camille and Sophie, they found themselves without parents, without money, without employment and with a drunkard brother, through no fault of their own. In real life, things like that do happen, and Camille reluctantly employs her small magic skills to buy them food and pay the rent.
Its not enough though, and faced with losing their home Camille uses a darker magic to create a persona who can gamble ( and use her magic to win) in the court of Versailles.
There were some wonderfully descriptive scenes there, and characters who were sometimes more than they seemed. Along the way there’s the puzzle of Lazare. He too may be more than a simple balloonist. Camille has a scary, dangerous path to follow. Will they have a romance or won’t it happen?
Its all set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, making a perfect setting.
There are more books planned but this one ends well, no cliffhangers but a neat closure. I don’t know it he next book will be about Camille, Sophie or possibly some of the other characters we’ve met but I’ll be keen to read it.
Stars: Five, Romance, mystery, history and Magic, all in one cleverly written story.
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Any Old Diamonds, K.J. Charles
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
I love KJ Charles writing style, very typically British gentle, self effacing humour, subtle and understated clues to plots, and a rich, realistic historical setting. I don’t want in-your-face novels, I want to explore characters, work out scenes, pick up insinuated clues to what’s going to happen, try to work things out myself.
I loved the connection to some past novels, though you don’t need to read those. I enjoyed seeing those characters some twenty years on.
I adored Alec, so felt for him. He wanted to do what was right by his siblings, avenge his sister’s death, but when its your father, however awful he is, its a tough thing to face. The Lillywhite Boys, are commissioned by Alec to work the sting, with Jerry, one half of the duo, working closely with Alec, as his friend so that he can be in the right place at the right time.
I loved the slow developing romance between Alec and Jerry, the wondering from Alec is this is just a pleasant interlude for Jerry or could he dare hope he means more to him.? Jerry is such an enigma its difficult to feel how he thinks, work out what he really wants from Alec, and I wasn’t certain either until I was blown away by that magical, unexpected declaration.
As always historical novels bring the dangers to M/M romances to the fore, and Oscar Wilde and his stint in prison gets a mention – as does the fact that he was prosecuted but the Wealthy Society Gentleman also involved wasn’t. That links to the main plot here, how Lord Alec’s father, the Duke of Ilvar, literally got away with murder, being both wealthy and having the position to take out any repercussions. Old Boys Network at its finest. Its fiction here, but things like that did – and to a degree still do – happen all too often 😦
I thought I’d followed the clues, worked plots and answers out, but as usual KJ has surprises, events don’t go as I’d planned and everything changes in an instant. Its cleverly done, the way I’d thought it would go would have left severe repercussions whereas of course the way it actually happens works well for everyone. Well, apart from the Duke and Duchess of course!!
Stars: Five, another cracking read,. Romance, mystery, history all in one cleverly written story.
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Always With You, Indigo: Book 3, Kate McBrien
Well, a very climatic, drama filled finish to the trilogy. TBH it felt – cough- a little too drama filled. I love action, intensity and drama but there was so much here that I felt it became almost wearying to the senses, took away from the actual events. Having said that its still and amazing read, and a fabulous trilogy for a debut writer. Very well written, full of excellent plots and very polished overall.
Lucy; at times I want to say to her “what are you doing!!” when she dithers. She’s grown in confidence though, and there’s a lot less of that in this final part. Justin, well, he’s just fabulous, so very solid in his love, so very protective and I enjoyed how the past events affected him in this life. I loved Lucy and Justin together, but did feel they got a little lost in the other events that filled this story. Sometimes Less is More, and for me less additional plots ( the Russian connection) and more of Lucy and Justin would have worked better. That’s just me though, others will love it as it is.
Edward…Gah, I hate that guy, but I love characters like his. He played a terrific part in the story, very believable. I wasn’t so convinced on the Rachel story-line, especially with how things ended. I disliked her intensely, didn’t want to change my stance on that and though events could have proved otherwise I’m holding fast to my dislike 😉
I would have liked to have seen a bit more connection between Justin and Lucy’s nightmares and the past, maybe snippets of what they were dreaming or something? The past in each book is really kept to just beginning and end, which makes for a wonderful ending, where we see just what did play out, but I’d have enjoyed a bit more linking through the story.
I love the way the Cross links past and present Justin and Lucy, and how its creation from Love held fast, and meant so much to them when they touched in in the present. I enjoyed the history, past and present story of Lapis Lazuli and the issues behind it. Everyone has heard of Blood diamonds, but I’d never connected this stone with terrorism financing.
From the book blurb, and important. Note to readers: This book contains scenes which may be triggering to survivors of sexual violence
Stars: Four and a half, a great trilogy, but I wasn’t quite as gripped by this part as by parts one and two, especially part one, which I loved.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers