The Mask of Mirrors, Rook and Rose Book One, M. A. Carrick
Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy
Having been caught before by trilogies that I loved – and series – which never got any further I contacted the authors to see if there were plans for the next two books. Hurrah, there are. Book two, The Liar’s Knot, is out later this year in November, with book three scheduled for November 2022. Given how complex and detailed this story is that’s good going 😉 It must be a nightmare to write, having to constantly check things, unless the authors have become fully immersed in the world they’d created.
I loved this story but…I almost gave up, its so incredibly detailed it took me well into the book before I began to get a sense of this world and its characters. I think I didn’t really feel familiar with the place and characters until about the halfway mark. I’m so glad I stuck with it. The end section with the explanations of who and how people fit together, and some of the terms used was incredibly helpful, I found myself referring to that many, many times! Read it before you start, and then keep checking back, it really helps.
If you’re struggling with the beginning as I did, stick with it, it really is worth it. I already know this is going to be one of my re-reader series, where I indulge in a few days back to back reading of all the novels.
Its really hard to write a review. Its a new world, with, pretty much like here, two main classes, the rich and the not rich….but within that there are different heritages, religions, and those groups are further divided with the ruling classes having a complicated and rigid structure in place and the underclass being divided further into different groups and knots.
For the ruling classes life is about appearance, never showing your hand, never showing or admitting to feelings, and under that there are the deals, the money making, the backbiting, cheating, manoeuvering, but all done with smiles and unseen.
Then of course there’s the actual story, with Ren and Tess being in for a long con, persuading House Traementis that she’s a lost relative, with Grey Serrado of the Vigils, wanting to find out who killed his brother, and who is stealing children from the streets, Derossi Vargo, well, with Vargo who knows what he wants, he’s like spider with bits of web touching everything.
Its seems everyone is hiding something, planning something or doing something they shouldn’t. Ren gets deeper and deeper, constantly involved in deals for different people, all the while pushing her claim forward, but along the way finding there’s much more to this society than she imagined, and finding she hasn’t left her past as far behind as she thought.
I wasn’t sure about Ren at first, but her loyalty to Tess and the things she’s been through make her what she is, and I grew to really hope for her. I loved Tess, clever Tess with her nimble fingers and ways of chatting to staff and finding out what she and Ren needed to know. They work together so well.
Donaia Traementis I really felt for, trying to keep the house together, keep up appearances despite lacking finances. Leatro, her son, I loved him. He’s on the surface all light and fluff but there’s a lot more to him. Then Giuna, his sister. We didn’t really seem to get to know her well, both her mother and her brother seem to keep her incredibly sheltered and I’m not really sure why.
Grey Serrado, one of the Vigil, a kind of police force, though mainly a corrupt force, was an anomaly there. He’s there to do right, to protect people and I wondered why he joined, knowing its full of corruption.
Derossi Vargo – who couldn’t be intrigued by him. And Peabody! He’s from the streets, has a fearsome reputation and yet he can be smooth and cultured when it suits. He’s got a fount of secrets, one of them huge and I really want to know how that came about. Sedge, one of his henchmen was a great character too, we soon find out he’s got more connections than he knew.
I did find some of Ren’s/Renata’s deals went a little too easily, given that the others had been struggling to get things done, but there’s so much else going on that it didn’t really bother me, it was needed to push events forward. At times I just continued reading even when a bit lost, til I found my ground again, the story is so complex that if I tried to reason every event I’d never get through it 😉 The dreamworld events, night of hells, was one of those. Its all made sense later.
I’d got a good idea of who The Rook was and was pleased I was right – that doesn’t happen often, and tbh I just got lucky!
The practice of Pattern and Numinatra was fascinating, I’d love to know more of that.
I loved the ending, wrapping up parts neatly and yet opening up a whole deal more. Yay.
I guess its time to stop. Hopefully I’ve not given anything away, its a really fascinating read, despite my first fears. Stick with it, if you love complex fantasy this is a perfect trilogy.
Stars: Five. Fantastic, complicated story. I really enjoyed it and know its going to be a long time favourite trilogy.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
Friends With Benefits, An absolutely uplifting, feel-good romcom, Lisa Swift
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction.
Two gripes to get off my chest before I start.
One, the usual. Women’s Fiction – just why? Men read romance, men write romance, its 2021 not 1821!
Second thing, I hate when a book tells me how it will make me feel. This isn’t as bad as the “ you will find this hilarious/ side splittingly funny” type title additions, but tbh titles should be just that. Nothing more, apart from a series number of trilogy installment so the reader knows more about where the book fits.
So, the book. I’ve enjoyed several of Lisa’s stories, they’ve not yet been five star reads but a solid four, feeling very real. This book is just like that.
The characters and situations feel real, and the plots are ones I could see playing out in many family lives. I loved Lexie, Theo and Connor. And Tonya, the step mum in law kind of connection – she was wonderful, I want to be her.
As usual the romance takes times to progress, then hits some hiccups, but this book covers more than just the Lexi/Theo romance, and delves into Connor, his life and loves. That part was really well done, he’s an incredibly mature young man, and my heart broke for him at times. Its tough being a teen, without having had your mum die when you were a kid, your dad skip off to work abroad, but thankfully Lexie has been “mum” to him for so long that he’s happy to rely on her, and he can talk to “uncle” Theo for the male side of things.
He’s angry with his dad, and I could understand that. Darryl really was a first class jerk. And then Lisa expands on the past and has me, despite myself , feeling sad for Darryl. I still didn’t like him but I did understand him more.
Lexie is devoted to Connor, won’t date because she doesn’t want to bring strangers into his life. Plus she knows it will make Darryl even more difficult to deal with. I loved her, she treats and sees Connor as her child, and why not? She’s been mum to him for a long time. Connor adores her too, though of course it doesn’t stop the usual teen issues…
Theo was Darryl’s best friend since they were kids, but he really made things difficult for him when he closed down the business they shared without warning, skipped off with the money he had and left Theo in the lurch. He doesn’t take that out on Lexie and Connor though, stays their support and in their lives. Even more now he and Lexie share the cafe.
Its a fun read, delving into what makes people the way they are. First off Darryl seemed a jerk, Theo the consummate playboy, love ’em and leave ’em type, but when we learn more about them its easier to understand why they are that way. There’s some sizzling sex, lots of humour but married with some darker emotions too. Overall its one I really enjoyed, but I’m not sure I’d reread.
Stars: Four. Fun read, with some real depth to it.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
Room to Breathe, Liz Talley
Genre: General fiction (Adult), Romance
I really enjoyed this. Its good to read romance from someone older than twenties. Its just a few little niggles that let it down for me, stopped it being five star, things like Ellery pretending to be her mum in emails, Clay, the notorious man whore, wanting more, things that didn’t really feel true to character. Overall though its a great read.
I loved Daphne, pregnant at 16 she married Rex and made the best of things. They’re both devoted to their daughter but over the years Daphne and Rex grew apart, and then divorced. Daphne’s career has grown and daughter Ellery works as her PA, having failed to get the internship she’d set her heart on.
Its easy to see why Ellery is selfish, both Daphne and Rex have done everything for her since she was tiny, indulged her, let her think the world revolved around her and her wants. She’s now 23 and they’re still doing it, and Ellery just assumes they should, that they’ll continue to pay her rent, pay her credits cards…but of course outside mum and dad the world is harsh, Ellery isn’t central. I really disliked her, and understood why Gage saw her as spoiled princess type.
Ellery doesn’t have many true friends, maybe her selfishness bleeds through and that’s why. That may also be why she pretended to be her mother in that strange pen pal relationship. TBH I found that part of the story odd, didn’t really fit as I never really understood why she did it, why she continued. It was an integral part of how things developed though so I guess I’ll have to suck it up 😉 Ellery has a fiance though, Josh, who’s in med school, and whom she lives with. We don’t really see much of him though, he’s always studying and though I felt for Ellery when she tried to carve time for them as a couple and got rebuffed, I felt she still saw things only in terms of how they affect her.
When Ellery gets wind of the issue with Clay and her mother she goes berserk. She was a first class bitch, and I do so love it when characters are like that. It creates drama in spades and I love that. Its not like she wants Clay anymore, she’s still sore from him dropping her after just a couple of dates, and of course she has Josh. Its more that like so many spoiled kids she sees her mum as always being mum, doesn’t see her as a person in her own right. If mum has to date it should be someone age appropriate, someone Ellery can approve of.
Rex the Ex, ( nice term that!) was a typical jerk man of a certain type, happy when Daphne was running the business with him, so long as she kept in the background and let him take the success, he couldn’t deal when she got her own successful career. He was obnoxious – in the best way of course. Good books need someone like him as a foil, offsets all the good.
Then there’s Evan, he was just wonderful, and his nephew Gage was also. Loved those two, and the whole vineyard experience.
Stars: Four, Its a fun read, fabulous characters, some terrific drama, some great surprises, and a satisfying ending.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Tangled Up In Christmas, Lisa Renee Jones
Genre: General fiction (Adult), Romance
Well, having read several of Lisa’s books now this one caught me out. I’m used to her hot and sensual, suspenseful and edgy reads, and this one – well it felt like Lisa Renee Jones does Mills and Boon. It was a fun read and I enjoyed it but I didn’t love it.
Maybe if I’d read the previous book I’d have got more from it, although they are stand alone reads. I might try the truth about cowboys and see.
Roarke, wow, what a man, hot and sensual he drips sex with every word. And horses, he helps horses, so how could I not love the guy. Yet I didn’t feel his excuse for not coming after Hannah was really enough. I also wasn’t convinced by her running away – did she love the guy or not? That though does get a proper and plausible explanation later in the story.
Of course poor Hannah is still in Hate Roarke mode, and yet deep down she still harbours feelings for him, something that’s obvious to the whole town, and which Roarke makes full use of. They end up having some steamy encounters, so maybe its M&B racy version 🙂 I did like that there was lots going on in the novel, not just Hannah and Roarke, but little side plots that added to the enjoyment for me.
Its a fun read, easy to follow, but although there was a lot going on it lacked real depth for me. I felt the past issues were glossed over too easily, especially with regard to her parents. I’m not sure I could be that forgiving.
Stars: Three and a half, more than just a simple Good read, but not the drama I look forward to in a LRJ novel that makes for four and fives.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Bad Breakup, Billionaire’s Club Book 2, Elise Faber
I liked the sound of this, wasn’t expecting intense, but sometimes though I love drama, angst, intensity I want something a little softer and this sounded great for that.
Sadly it wasn’t a good fit for me, nothing wrong with the writing, the characters or the story in itself, it was the characters actions that spoiled the story for me.
I don’t like the way two “so in love” characters wouldn’t even speak to each other after a major event like that, especially after they’ve already had one bad break-up. Having got past that would they really not talk about what happened? Most of us would want to know why at least, its human nature to want to know why we weren’t good enough.
That let the story down from both characters, I really liked them but didn’t feel that behaviour was reflective of the people they were – or seemed to be.
The past/present format is one I quite like, it lets me see the past as it plays out, not via a POV of someone who may have slanted opinions.
The Present in this novel covers so little time though that I just didn’t really get a sense of reality, of the seriousness of what was happening. It felt like events were very lust driven when both characters were the strong type that I felt would have wanted to know they whys of the past first.
I couldn’t see that Cecelia would have caved so quickly given what she thought would happen, and likewise Colin. Would he really have pursued her believing what he did? I know it was a pretty convincing lie that was set up, but to so easily be duped when you supposedly love someone enough to share the rest of your life with them?
Its a shame I couldn’t empathise with the couples’ actions as the story plot and set up was excellent. I could see that others actions may well lead to That Event, in just the way its described. Its the shock factor, the sense of betrayal that governs immediate reactions, not the side of our brain that says “this person loves you, would they really do that?” so a short breakup is understandable. I don’t feel either lead behaved in the way I’d have expected them to, by letting it go on not just months but years. Its hard to believe either would just let all that time pass without trying to find out what, why and how, for a couple so in Love to just let it drop, fade away without challenge.
Maybe a much shorter separation, a few weeks say, and more reality in the present actions, and this would have been a perfect read for me. Still, as always what I want isn’t what everyone wants, and this will be perfect for other readers as it is.
Stars: Two and a half. I didn’t dislike all the book, loved the characters, and the cause of breakup number two was so cleverly done. Sadly the actions, or rather the inactions, of the couple let to it being a story that didn’t work for me.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Staged, Olivia Cunning.
Way back when I got my first kindle I found a free book I liked the sound of. It was Brian and Myra’s story, the first Sinners book. I loved it and went on to buy the rest. I wasn’t so taken with the Sole Regret novels, liked them but as one off reads. I was so keen to read Exodus End books, having met Dare several times in Sinners novels. I’m still keen to read his story, he’s a solid, quiet, unassuming guy, and I think his novel will be special.
Still, we’re book three into Exodus End, and I’d expected to devour this story. I’ll be honest, Steve wasn’t one of my favourite characters, but we see some suprising depth to him here. At first though I really disliked him, sulky and sullen, whining because his best friend’s band has been replaced as opener, and the way he treats ladies….yep, he was misogynistic. Speaking of his best friend, Zach is a great character, and though he’s not involved in any of the bands so far, I think he has a great story in him.
I really wanted to like this story, but it took a while before events of last two books came to me, its been a while and several hundred novels since I read them. As well as the characters we already know, there are quite a few new ones. I did find this and some of the plot-lines a bit confusing, and at times the story was hard to believe, mainly the Tamara/Bianca/Susan aspect.
I felt too, that in this book the sex became the story – its fine for many readers but not me. In other novels the sex has always been to the fore, these are very erotic novels after all, but balanced with solid plots. Here the main plot seemed pretty thin, much of it only developing in last part of the book, and at a pace that felt rushed. I felt there were pages and pages and pages of sex, interspersed with a little bit of story and then yet more sex. To be honest after a while its gets boring, there’s only so many times I want to read about sex, only so many ways to write it without it becoming repetitive. Here it became just mechanics rather then sensual. There were several times when I felt the sex and the conversations about sex became OTT, frankly reading about Roux not being hungry any more because she’d had too much come, ( no I just can’t use the US expression…) and whether it was vegetarian or not was more than I wanted to read. Likewise his request for her to text him everything – even when she was “having a dump”. Really, that’s a good line – or lines, it came up more than once- for the story??
Then there’s That event, which I felt was incredibly serious, sadly happens too often, but between brushing it off or demanding it be reported I felt it wasn’t really given enough time, not the treatment it deserved. When copious pages have been devoted to sex surely a few more could have been spared for this. Its a horrific thing to happen, would it have been treated this way if it happened to a female? I felt it really let down its importance that it was just added almost as a quick filler plot.
Stars: Two. Overall this book wasn’t a success for me. I still love the others and want to read Dare’s story, but this one just didn’t cut it.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers
A Boy Called L, (A Taboo Love Story 1), Amy J. Heart
Genre: Erotic Fiction, Romance
this is a novella prequel, around 14K words. I’m not a novella fan usually as I find they’re just too short for me to deliver a story, but of course as a prequel or a side to a main series its something entirely different. It doesn’t need to give the whole story, just the background.
So this starts of with a bang, or rather a BJ! L avoids the bangs if he can….
It alternates from L’s POV to Eden’s POV. It does feel a bit disjointed at times but I think that’s because of what it is, trying to deliver background without giving away the full story. I loved the restaurant scene and – I’ve forgotten her name – but the lady who opens his way out of the awful position he’s in, she is just wonderful! Really drawn well as a character, I could just see her, all smart, out with friends at top restaurant when in walks L, bedraggled, dirty, and yet she sees under that to his striking looks, the potential for big money in him – for both of them.
Eden, she’s in a bad situation, though I’m not wholly sure of just why Coop holds her strings, and I really really want to know what the connection is between L and Coop too.
There are some pretty graphic scenes here, they fit the story perfectly, but if you don’t like things like that then stay away. Personally I was really moved at one scene towards the end which could have gone disastrously wrong for the characters, could have been written in a sleazy way but which was really well handled IMO.
My only criticism is that slightly disjointed feeling, where its L then Eden, now then a couple of years in the future, and I couldn’t really get a clear sense of what was happening and how. All very mysterious and I’m the impatient sort! Book two should sort all that out though, and I’m really looking forward to that.
Stars: Four, an interesting and tantalising preview of what’s coming for Lightening Boy
ARC supplied by author
The Perfect Husband, Buffy Andrews
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Writer K.J. Charles wrote a blog post recently about what is and isn’t a romance novel. She says romance needs to have that happy ending, a HEA or at least a HFN between the two (or more) main characters and that’s exactly how I feel. This ISN’T romance, its a great read, I really enjoyed it but romance it is not. I’ll skip my usual moan about women’s fiction 🙂 For me this book is better categorised as General Fiction, Drama/Dark fiction.
It starts well, that careful meeting when adults are thrown back into the dating field, after death, divorce, break-ups. Shelley meets Eric and her best friend Jackie and her workmates all agree he’s the perfect man. Even at this early stage we can see one of two red flags but Shelley, blissfully immersed in Love Land misses them.
How easy that is, how we make excuses, tell ourselves “he/she didn’t mean it that way./its understandable, I shouldn’t have…/well he/she had past issues that make that reaction normal for them.
Eric’s like a whirlwind, and Shelley is so in love, feels so treasured, so taken care of, even though she is perfectly OK at taking care of herself. Everyone loves a bit of pampering, a little special treatment and I could see so much why Eric appealed, such a contrast to her ex.
And before she knows it they’re moving in together, and of course it doesn’t make sense to keep her stuff when Eric’s is so nice, and he says he’d rather not have things from her life with Scott. Some of the things were hers alone though, and he’s all “well, of course if you really want to keep them we can change things round, make room somewhere…” sounding like he’s doing her a favour almost. She knows he doesn’t really want anything of her past in their new home, and she loves him, she wants what he wants.
Suddenly she’s married, and the cracks start to appear. Sadly this is real life for so many people, men and women, and it’s so easy to say “just leave” but by the tome things are that bad all confidence in the victim, in Shelley, has been lost. Life becomes just a constant struggle to watch out for anything that might make Eric angry, and then after pretending she accepts his remorse, his words of “you need to try harder Shelley, I don’t like having to get angry at you” That’s a classic, turn the blame around, and something abusers are so good at.
The real kicker is can she escape, will she find the strength, will he let go? The drama parts of this novel were superb, so carefully done its easy to see how outgoing, attractive, confident Shelley becomes a shadow of that person, and yet all the while presenting a front of the perfect marriage. I was so rooting for her.
I moaned about genre classification, and if I was a solely romance reader I’d have been so disappointed. Happily though I’m an eclectic reader. Its a fabulous read, not romance by a long shot but an incredible dark, ( not as in horror dark thankfully) psychological suspense, mirroring what is real life for many people, sucking us in to Eric and Shelley’s world, wondering how it can all end.
Stars: Five, a wonderful read, breathtaking in places with superb pacing, slowly revealing the real Eric.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
Melt for You, Slow Burn: Book 2, J. T. Geissinger
Genre: General Fiction ( adult) , Romance
I loved the first book in this series, and looked forward to this one. I really liked it, just not quite as much as I loved book one.
Great characters once more, though to begin with I thought Cam was an obnoxious, arrogant ar se. Soon saw his softer side peek through and got a glimpse of that steely determination and fierce intelligence that has taken him to the top of his game despite his poor start.
I love characters like Joellen too, she’s a sweet girl, tries to please everyone and somehow her own personality and wants take a back seat. She’s got that loving family who just aren’t really supportive, she doesn’t fit the family beauty mould and feels inferior, too tubby, too dark, too unsocial, and that constant criticism from her childhood ( for her own good of course!) spills over into the rest of her life. She always feels the unwanted one, the one on the outside of a group. I know that feeling, I guess many of us do.
She’s had an unrequited love for her married boss for ten years now, and then he tells her he’s getting divorced and – wow – he really seems to see her, to be attracted to her. Somehow Cam catches on to her self improvements and along with fitting him into her life by way of meal bribes for keeping the music down, he’s now training her to make the best of herself. He’s not keen on her “air diet” so helps her to take up fitness training, and they end up spending more and more time together.
Its a read full of humour, some of it very subtle and some – Denny’s jokes – more overt and in your face.
There are some great secondary characters too, Joellen’s cat, Mrs Dinwiddy her neighbour, Portia and others from work. They all add to the “real” feel of the story.
There were some minor irritations though, small things but they niggled at me. Lassie – we know her well in UK, and Cam being a Scot he’d be well aware of the story. After all it takes place in Yorkshire and Scotland so Joellen wouldn’t have needed to explain that to him. You can’t just sweep up your cat, board a plane in an ordinary carrier with it, and the UK has pretty strict rabies Laws, and there’s a plethora of paperwork.
Set against those though was the fabulous humour, and this bit really made me snigger. Joellen is talking about a former date’s comment on her rather aggressive kissing “That was my lung you just licked” – loved it!
Great read, cleverly written and after the story ends the author has written a bit about negative body image and the harm it can do to some people. Very thought provoking and something I fully agree with, having always had that issue myself.
Stars: Four, a perfectly written transformation story, sensual and heated, but not Sex all the Way as so many stories are, and with some terrific characters.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
Royal Love, (Last Royals Book 1), Cristiane Serruya
This was a fun read, though it took me some time to warm to Angus, he was alpha male but on the OTT side, and there were times when I wanted Siobhan to just tell him where to go. She veers between wanting him and wanting independence and I did feel the whole getting together part was a bit rushed. I felt both acted out of characters and one thing that really annoyed me was the lack of condoms. That’s just not a good message to send out in this day and age!
There’s a little suspense, I’d kind of worked out what had happened and who was behind it, but it was still a good addition to the story and gave it a little extra edge.
I loved Angus mum and aunt, perfect snobbish b itchy characters – they really add to a story for me, make a contrast to all the sweet stuff.
Its not a story I’d re-read, a little too light and sweet for me, I need a bit more drama but its a fun read for when you want something easy to relax with.
Stars: Three, a little light but a fun story.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers