Side Trip, Kerry Lonsdale
Genre: General Fiction (adult), Women’s Fiction.
* sign * Women’s fiction again, oh how I hate that outdated category. Its 2020, an outdated category.
Anyway, I love Kerry’s stories, and was keen to see where this would take me. It was incredibly emotional, heartbreaking for both the young Joy and the person she is now. She’s doing her dead sister’s bucket list, mirroring what she thinks her sister wanted in life. Joy has her life planned to Judy’s lists for her future, and they are pretty fixed but Joy feels she needs to follow them. I felt she was so entrenched in Judy’s would-be life she has repressed her own wants and needs, its clear that she isn’t enjoying things in the way she expected. There’s no room for spontaneity in her life, its only whats on one of Judy’s lists that’s allowed. So what on earth happened to let Dylan on the trip with her? Well, blame Judy’s list for that :-), fortunately it has things that push Joy out of her familiar zone and having Dylan along helps her cross things off the list.
Dylan is totally opposite to joy, on his own private trip, he’s all for free spirit, no plans, spontaneity, his views are so opposite to Joys, and yet the two get on so well. I loved Dylan, was intrigued by his reasons for making the journey when it was so clear he hated what he was doing.
Both Joy and Dylan are in a way escaping from their pasts, affected by what happened then, even to the current day. The novel breaks into time periods, the past, the present and the future ( which is of course also the present). I don’t usually like stories set out like this. I find it frustrating, as just as I’m desperate to know more then time zones jump, but here Kerry keeps it short so it works – and works well. I was in tears more than once, and towards the end I was devastated. Gutted. Ugly crying. I really didn’t think that was coming, I almost stopped reading. I’m so glad I continued to the epilogue though – it was perfect. Wonderful. Satisfying. And cleverly done.
Its something I again don’t usually like, have only seen it done as a kind of escape effect when writer seemed desperate to get the H out of a situation that seemed to have no answer. Here though, I should have kept in mind the plots premise of fate v the what if’s.
“ What if Joy and Dylan had exchanged last names? What if he’d told her she made him believe love was worth the risk? And what if they hadn’t made that second deal when they couldn’t say goodbye?”
Its so important to bear that in mind and keep reading. I didn’t and it wasn’t until I re-read the description just before writing my review that I realised how intentional it was, and it made sense. Its a plot device I’m still not a fan of, but it works here. For me though it did mean I dropped half a star, as even though it works I just don’t like that kind of mechanism for a story. Maybe if I’d realised at the time I was reading, rather than next day just prior to review. If I’d not been reviewing I wouldn’t have read the description and realised that it was intentional, part of the “what if” premise that’s integral to the story. That’s my personal issues though, and of course others will feel very differently. A really emotional read.
Stars: four and a half. I’m being picky but I can’t get past how easily I could have missed that a huge part of the story was intentional, and not just the plot device I’ve seen before and disliked.
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The Widow’s Secret, Katharine Swartz
Genre: General Fiction (adult), Historical fiction
A dual POV novel, in the present Rachel is researching the history of a wreck, a ship she believes to be a slave ship, and then we see the past, where Abigail Fenton is the wife of the ship’s owner.
Its an interesting story, Rachel isn’t just learning about the ship’s history but examining her own. She loves her husband, he loves her, but its a tense relationship, with Rachel not understanding her actions so how on earth can her husband?
I got the feeling this was a tipping point in their marriage, that Rachel had always been a prickly, closed off person, and we see from her relationship with her mother that she doesn’t exactly have a loving role model there. It seems to stem from when her adored father died when she was young, but its spilled over and now her marriage is in danger. She doesn’t want that but doesn’t know how to be the person she wants, open, friendly, loving.
Then back in the past we’ve Abigail, lovely young lady, adores her husband and he loves her. Typical of the time though they are restricted by society and what’s deemed correct. Abigail is unsure of the belief commonly held that slaves are more like animals, her own experiences make her doubt that, putting her in a hard position with her husband and contemporaries. Can she speak out? What about the effect on her family? If she doesn’t though what does that make her?
Its a good story, and Rachel is escaping to the past rather than face up to the issues in her present life. It hits back though, events make it so that she needs to take action or lose everything. In a strange parallel Abigail too has to pick a side, contemporaries, friendship, marriage and the accepted view of slaves, or can she voice her opinions, and maybe hope to bring about change in a small way, but risking her marriage and her position in society?
There’s a thread of Christianity running through the past, but not in an overbearing way – its something I avoid, but here it fits the story and isn’t dominating it. Its was interesting reading about the past, the slaves ( awful trade. One wonders how many really felt as Rachel did inside) and wondering what the future held for the characters involved.
I really felt for James, a good man, but carried along with accepted beliefs until confronted with the harsh truth. For anyone with a conscience that makes things tough, and I felt his struggle. Its easier to think everyone involved in that trade was awful, bigoted, a bully, but James was a gentle man, adored Abigail but initially really didn’t see wrong in what he did. Then as facts began to solidify in his mind he was struggling, what to do? Risk everything he had earned? Leave things as they were and live with his conscience? What about Abigail, he can see her actions in a different light now.
Its very complex, being horrified at his actions and then seeing them for his POV.
I loved Antony, Rachel’s husband, such an incredibly patient and understanding man and yet eventually he feels he’s tried and tried, and needs Rachel to make an effort too. I did feel that for such huge issues as they have, the ending was a little slick, very quickly all those issues were put behind them, when really I felt they would need a huge amount of work. Of course this is bookland, where problems can have quick situations leading to a HEA, but I would have liked a bit more time for them, a little more delving into the issues, and how they were going to get past them. Its simply not possible to have a blinding revelation and say all will be well……
Stars: Four, an interesting read, the abhorrent slave trade looked at through eyes of the time, and of course through Rachel’s current day view. I enjoyed the story, just felt the ending was a little too easily fixed and settled.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
The Night Girl by James Bow
Genre: New Adult, Sci Fi & Fantasy
I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that. I’m not the target demographic, but I often enjoy YA reads, good ones appeal to all ages. While I enjoyed this I found it wasn’t one of those IMA, its one that’s a great read for YA/NA I think, but for we folk past that age its a little too simplistic.
Its got some fun characters, a bit of mystery, a lot of whimsy, and a kind of moral theme about acceptance and rights of minority groups. That’s particularly interesting given I’m writing this while the world is seeing the impact of BLM. Being in a minority group myself I understood some of the fears the supernatural folk had, and of course the frustration. I found the Amnesia Reset particularly sad, to have life wiped away like that, all knowledge of your past gone.
Its a quirky read, some fun moments and subtle humour, and though I don’t know Toronto it was easy to visualise from the descriptions given. Overall I felt it was a great reader for the target age group, but just a little too YA simplistic for me to really enjoy.
Stars: Three, its a strange read at times, some quirky events and good but weird characters, and a theme of acceptance that’s particularly poignant right now.
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The Harpy, Megan Hunter
Genre: General Fiction, Literary Fiction.
Edit: its out now in US but not in UK til 3rd September 2020
I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that.
The writing was mostly beautiful, but at times I felt it was a bit overdone, almost took away from the intent by the wordy descriptions. Even of simple things like the pasta sauce….and that for me took away the richness and importance of other parts.
I didn’t like Jake, not that we really got to know him. Right from the fist I felt he had more remorse about being caught out than for the actual affair. He was concerned too about the effects of an action on Vanessa, the lady he cheated with, when I felt it should be Lucy he worried about.
Lucy is strange, I feel her childhood wasn’t happy, with a father that beat her mother and she seemed to accept it, leading Lucy to feel that it was usual in a marriage. Then there’s her childbirth problems, that left her with some deep issues. I felt that maybe she still had an underlying Post Natal depression that wasn’t recognised.
Of course The Harpy – she was fascinated by them as a child, ( I too adored Greek and Roman mythology) and that’s persisted as an adult. Now though it feels a bit as if she identifies herself as one, doing the punishment to a man who has done wrong. Her mother described them that way, and Lucy’s depression/grief over the affair has turned inward and it feels as if she things The Harpy – her alter ego perhaps – has the answers and can make everything right.
We can see that though she appears confident and happy, she’s very much not so. Her inner thoughts are rambling much of the time, making excuses and wondering why she isn’t reacting as others do, as TV shows have taught her. She’s almost playing a role, trying to fit who she thinks she should be rather than just Being. I really felt sad for her.
Its a story that had me wondering why, how, who, what would happen if, and of course what really happened at the end. Its very disquieting in parts, but it gave me lots to think about. Its a shortish read but even so parts felt unnecessary, the minutiae of food, chores, day to day stuff that seemed superfluous. I began to skip over sections, to get to what was actually happening. Quite a discomforting read, no particularly nice characters.
Stars: Three, its a strange read at times, not really my usual genre but I like to dip out sometimes into something different. Its not a story I’d reread, though I’m glad I read it.
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The Dark Horizon, (Linford 1), Liz Harris
Genre: Historical romance
I like to dip back in time every now and then in my reading, and this proved to be an easy, fun read.
I loved Lily right from the start, she’d had a tough beginning but every opportunity she has she works hard and turns it to her advantage. I did feel she could have tried a little harder with Roberts family, the MIL and SILs could have been won over. Possibly 😉
So Robert and Lily fall in love, and ever the optimist 18 yr old Robert is convinced his family will like her. TBH even today wealthy families still have that air that some folk just aren’t good enough, and back in the 1920s he was hoping for a miracle really. His father is the most die-hard snob, and wants spouses who not only have the right background but also have money to bring to the family business. And Lily doesn’t. Never the less, once she’s pregnant and Joseph knows Robert will marry her anyway when he’s 21 he gives in.
I so felt for poor Lily, she adores Robert, but she’s on her own in a family who see her as a gold digger, taking advantage of Robert. I did think Robert could have been a little more sympathetic, but these are different times and I guess his expectations were those of the day. You married into a family and made the best of it. Sucked up the nasty and moved forward anyway, hoping things would get better.
Joseph, is irredeemably awful, once of those patriarchs who are convinced they know best for everyone, he’s determined that Robert won’t ruin his life, and he does something irredeemably awful. I don’t want to spoil it but lets just say I was gutted, totally gutted, and though that action would be harder now with IDs, CCTV, phones etc back then its plausible things could happen that way.
I loved the American part, felt very true to time, and I enjoyed reading about everyday life there, and the people we met.
Where the book falls down for me is the end. I loved the drama of what happened, how it worked out, and was looking forward to the time when Joseph and the others were discovered. I enjoyed that the drama section lasted a good chunk of the book, that I could really feel for Lily, admire her determination. I liked that once back she wanted her just desserts, so to speak, in denouncing, those responsible but then tries to soften things because of Robert and James.
What I didn’t like was everything worked out a little too slickly, too easily, I wanted Joseph et al to suffer, but everyone seemed t take the view he meat well so that’s all that mattered. To me it wasn’t. His actions mattered, not just his intention.
I did feel too that Marian, who was innocent of everything, was the one who really paid the price. I hope somehow a future book has a happy ending for her.
Stars: Four, a great read, very real but the ending was that little bit too neat for me.
Arc via author
The Chalice and the Crown, Kassandra Flamouri
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, Teens and YA
I’m way past the target age range, but reviews suggested that this book would still appeal and I’ve loved other fantasy reads aimed at this age group. Sadly I’m on the fence about this one.
I really liked the sound of this, a very different fantasy read and was excited to start. I found Sasha hard to like though, she’s really not a particularly nice girl to those around her. I know she’s worried about becoming ill like her mother, but that’s more recent and her behaviour seems to have always been like this.
I was puzzled at how things changed, how she actually got pulled in to the other world, it seemed one page she was in this world, worrying about illness, feeling strange and then she was in the next, though her body remained here. I didn’t see the transition, needed a bit more detail there.
Then she’s in a horrible situation, has become a thrall, among thousands more. For a time she simply doesn’t realise who or what she is but slowly that changes. Even then she’s still a hard to understand person, there are flashes of when she knows there’s something wrong, but mostly she carries on. As with the best war/slave/fantasy reads there’s an underground movement though and they see Sasha as someone they can help…..
I found the writing absorbing but the actual story very difficult to follow. I didn’t wholly see how things worked, how they found potential thralls, how they pulled them in. Sasha still remained someone I found difficult to understand.
I felt this book had a lot going on, but jumped too quickly from one situation to the next without fully explaining how things happened or worked. As a reader I had to follow the text and guess. There were explanations for parts, but other things just had to be accepted and the reader just go with. Its hard to explain, the apostate for instance, this person/name just popped up without explanation of who or what he was, ( other than he lived on an island) and yet he was a fairly important part of the story.
Overall for me it was an ok read, not one I’d re-read, and one that left me with questions as I was reading that largely seemed to be unanswered. If things like that don’t bother you, then like others you may love this unique fantasy read.
Stars: Three, an on the fence read for me. I loved parts but there were too many unanswered puzzles for me.
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Just My Luck, Adele Parks
Genre: Mystery and thrillers, women’s fiction.
Sigh…women’s fiction. C’mon, its 2020 not 1920.
Anyway, what a read this was, full of the very worst in people. Until the win the six have been friends for 15 years, though there are cracks at times, and Lexi has discovered something about one of them that she finds difficult to deal with. I would too. The characters are very real, warts and all, but TBH I only liked Lexi and Toma, the rest were selfish, vain, money obsessed. Toma had gone from being a hardworking family man to the depths of depression after his loss, and Lexi helps him crawl out, start living again. I rally liked him.
Jake her husband was not the man she saw, not the guy she fell in love with. I guess we all change along the way but while Lexi is all about helping others – hence her work in citizens advice – Jake is just money and self orientated.
The friends have fallen out, and then soon after their long held winning numbers come up. Jake and Lexi insist they’d dropped out, they insist it was just a tiff and they were still in. Who’s right? Who knows.
Complicating matters are their kids. Jake and Lexis daughter Emily is best friends with the Heathcote’s daughter, Megan, and the Pearson’s son Ridley is her boyfriend. We see much of the events after the win through Emily’s eyes, and she is a typical teen, spend, spend on big brands. Their son Logan is a bit younger, happy that he can have some new games.
Jake also can’t wait to get his hands on the cash and start spending. His greed shows right from the start when they ring in and one of his first questions is how soon can they get the cash. He seems to mostly want others to see how rich he is, to show off his new Lamborghini, throw a huge party, buy expensive new clothes, he’s all about flashing the cash.
We see quickly how the money brings problems, not just with their friends but themselves, it affects Lexi’s job as the CA office is inundated with people wanting help – or help in the form of money. Emily gets problems at school as Logan and Megan turn against her. The trio have been friends since childhood, don’t have other friends and it hits her hard.
Things get worse, trust is shattered and events quickly go downhill, showing how different Lexi and Jake have become. For me Jake was an awful man, I guess he must have been different when they met, Lexi is such a lovely person its hard to see what they have in common. Then the action ramps up, and the twist at the end has me rethinking things once more. I guess no-one is quite who we think they are.
Stars: Four, a gripping story, a bit predictable at times but then throwing in some curve-balls that had me rethinking.
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On Common Ground, Book 1 in the Grounded Series, Jansen Schmidt
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, Romance
I really like the sound of this, its ages since I read a western themed romance, and I really liked how this sounded.
Sadly I find I’m out of step with the majority of reviewers who loved this book. I’ve got to 40% and I just can’t continue. There’s a fine line between being a sexy alpha male and a man who isn’t listening to what a woman wants and is just imposing his own wants on her and for me that’s what Trevor is doing. Right from the start his old friend Rocky warns him off Ketra, and from what he sees she’s very skittish, very wary around men. So what does he do? Well, he fancies her so he pushes, and pushes even when its clear his attentions are unwanted. To me he was no better than another person who does a similar thing but as Trevor is the MC, handsome, sexy etc he gets a free pass. Not from me. There’s one part where she’s sick, raging temperature, vomit splattered hair but as he helps her to the bathroom her robe slips and he’s almost salivating at the sight of her nipple. That just doesn’t cut it for me, sick not sexy.
Ketra annoyed me too, she was just plain rude to Trevor even when she didn’t know him, wasn’t the subject of his unwanted attentions. On one hand we have a traumatised women, scared of men – but working in a ranch as what seems to be the only woman there – and yet one look at Trevor and she has the hots for him? Its been two years, and she’s been working among men all that while, I’m sure she’d have learned some bit of being able to get along with most men by now. I know abuse can leave traumas that take years to accept, and one never actually gets over it, but learns to live with it. I’m just suggesting that in the environment she’s in I would have thought Ketra would have been able to deal better. I struggled with the inconsistency.
I did stop about 20% in, but decided I needed to give it more chance but I just can’t finish it, I am too angry about Trevor’s behaviour and Ketra’s flipping back an forth, scared female to has-the-hots-for-Trevor…..
As I said, clearly I’m in a minority and these things don’t spoil the story for other readers. That’s fine, we’re all different, want different things. Maybe you’ll be able to ignore or excuse the bits I can’t and love this book too, as other reviewers have, maybe like me you’ll feel Trevor’s behaviour borders on his own wants and needs, rather than looking for what Ketra wants. Horses for courses really is an apt saying in this case. Its not a bad book, just characters that don’t suit me personally, you need to asses if its your style.
Stars: Two, DNF, only got to 40%. I found the characters behaviour not what I cold accept. My issues though, others love it.
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The Forgotten Sister, Nicola Cornick
Genre: General Fiction (Adult) , Historical Fiction
I didn’t realise this was a historical/contemporary story, thought it was a straight historical one but it wasn’t an issue, as I really enjoy those kind of reads too. This reminds me very much of Susanna Kearsely’s reads, stories I used to devour but somehow haven’t read for ages. Having dipped back into the genre maybe I’ll look for more.
Anyway, the story is in an alternate chapters past and present format. I’ve always felt a bit sorry for historical Amy Robsart. Back then ladies were married off for family and political allies, were just pawns in the scramble for power, and poor Amy ended up married to a fiercely ambitious man who became a favourite of the Queen. Childless, she was left languishing on his rural estates or shipped off to stay with others, while he courted the realms of power and intrigued with Queen Elizabeth 1.
Present day Amy seems in the same trap, married to a man who seems to spend more time with his childhood friend Lizzie than he does with her. Its not as simple as that though, and the parallels from the past enmesh with the present day characters. I wanted to say to Amy, shout at him, rage, don’t let him get away with it but of course it doesn’t work like that.
There’s some great characters here. I really liked Lizzie, Arthur and Johnny, but found it hard to warm to Amy and her sister Anna. Amy seemed weak, passive and her sister Anna was angry against the world after their mother died. As for Dudley, well, sadly there are a host of selfish characters like him in all walks of life, he really was shallow and obnoxious. Its difficult to write much about the actual story with giving away details that may spoil it for some.
The supernatural element added an extra frisson of excitement and danger, and was played out in a very believable way. I’m kind of open minded about supernatural events, think back to earlier periods in history where electricity would seem like magic, where a camera that could reproduce likenesses would be seen as mysterious, and maybe its just that we don’t yet fully understand everything in our world. Then read this book with that mindset and you’ll really enjoy it if you like this kind of romance, very gentle and subtle but wrapped up in a delicious historical mystery.
Stars: Four and a half, a really fun read, merging past and present perfectly.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
Born of Mist and Legend, Kat Bastion
Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy, Romance.
I’ve been waiting for this book for years. Literally. I read the first two books back in 2013, some seven years ago! So before starting this one I reread those and loved them just as much now as I did then. That doesn’t always happen, sometimes your tastes have changed but I was quickly absorbed back into the Brodie clan.
Sadly though I really struggled with this, its very focused on Skorpius and Brigid and there’s so much mental and verbal communication between the two, lots of what ifs, why, how and saying what felt like the same thing six different ways. It just didn’t feel for me as if it was connected to the other two, just the barest thread. I missed seeing the others, seeing life at Clan Brodie, much as I’ve been waiting and hoping for Skorpius top play a bigger role.
I found myself putting it aside, then restarting as I’d forgotten what was happening. I did read through to half way then TBH I just skim read through to the end, as it wasn’t doing it for me. Its possible its timing, like others this pandemic is affecting me mentally and I find it hard to settle into some stories. Possibly on a later read I might feel differently, but for now it was a let down for me. Still, as always , this is just my opinion, others will and do love it. Reading and tastes are s subjective, its just a disappointment to me as I loved the first two, love Kat and Stone’s writing style from other books I’ve read – No weddings series, a real cracker, and I love fantasy as well as contemporary romance, so it came a s a shock to me that this book wasn’t working.
Stars: Two, Sorry, this one didn’t do it for me. Love the first two, and others from the duo, this was a fail.
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