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.
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
Fox Blood, (Moon Marked Book 3), Aimee Easterling
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, Romance
Well, adventures galore after the antics at the end of books two. Trouble in the pack for Gunner, Trouble for Mai with Kira excelling herself in brat mode here. Honestly, at times I wanted to shake her. She a kid though and gone through such a lot. And because she’s a kid then social services are always overlooking what the two do, and checking Mai is looking after Kira properly. Of course she can’t tell them whats going on “ ah well, you see, actually we’re fox shifters, Kitsunes…” – “ right, OK dear, now lets just give you a nice shot to clam you down….”
There are possible relatives for the girls who though they had none, Gunner has pack troubles, getting wolves to accept him having a fox mate. Kira’s mum is still throwing in unhelpful tips, and its really chaos all round. All Mai wanted was a quiet life for her and Kira, then she met Gunner and he convinced her they could make a life together. The pack has been through such a lot though and they are not happy.
Stars: four, its a fun finish, packed with action and suspense, but the actual ending did feel a little rushed. I’m not usually one for books following the ending of a story but I think a longer epilogue with a peek into the future would have finished this off well, just to let us know that after all the chaos and disasters things did work out, that the pair had not just a HFN but a HEA.
A bought book!
Shadow Wolf (Moon Marked Book 2), Aimee Easterling
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy, Romance
So, after the last adventures Mai and Kira are hiding out with Gunner and the pack. Of course that doesn’t go down well with many of them, historically the two Do Not Mix….and Kira is fading fast. Trying to be helpful we saw in the last book things she did that are now affecting her badly. Kira is desperate to help her sister, but can see her sickening daily. Kira is still a brat though, in a nice way, she adores her sister but it seems the fox/kitsune playfulness and trickster genes came out in force in Kira. She means well, but somehow ends up doing the opposite, causing chaos. If she was a NI spirit she’s be Coyote!
Its a fun read, I loved the fact the Pack weren’t happy and the issues that brought. I did feel a bit confused at times, sort of lost the thread of where the story was going, and it took me a while to get back “into” the story. There was a patch where I lost it completely, got confused and just kind of switched off and skimmed a couple of chapters, and of course that didn’t help. “But I wanted to see what would happen” she explains plaintively…
There’s some more surprises for Mia and Kira here, mum’s voice is still throwing cryptic comments at Mia, and some of those made me smile and think “what on earth does THAT mean??”. Its good to have some lighter moments 😉 Gunner is doing his best to help but he’s Pack and his leader brother makes it clear he needs to choose where his loyalties lie. While Mia and Kira continue to help the pack in their search they’re there in sufferance but its a thin line he treads.
I enjoyed this installment even though like other reviewers there were parts where I got a bit lost, but I love to read a series back to back, and to reread good ones, and find that works well for me. I’m sure when I get to reread this one those foggy moments will be clearer, especially as I’ll know the ending and be able to resist skipping to there 😉
And, I’ve bought book three. It takes a lot to make me buy books with getting lots of lovely arcs ( thanks authors and publishers), free kindle reads and KU.
Stars: four, a fun read, some terrific characters – including Kira’s social worker! I doubt in real life that would swing but she’s a gem. I did find parts a little hard to follow but as I’ve said I’m sure re-reading will clear that up.
A bought book!
Unearthed, A Death Seeker Novel, Cecy Robson
genre: General Fiction (Adult), Sci-fi and Fantasy
I love Cecy’s stories so was keen to read this but…I did find it confusing at times. Its got that “first novel in series” issue that often happens, where there’s so much to deliver, story, world building, type of character and what magics they have, that it can easily get confusing.
Everything here is so very different, for example Olivia is a pixie, but living among humans as so many of the Fae are, but undetected. She has magic that’s so far unknown but when it does come its kind of typical Olivia, she of the rainbow coloured hair has pink magic, deadly, dangerous magic, but pink.
I really liked Olivia’s spark, loved the humour in the book, the loyalty she inspires. I loved Jane, a fellow magic user, an Elder, but who communicates in somewhat different ways. Then there’s Ryker…swoon…who turns out to be more than just a heart throb top legal expert.
There’s a terrific cast overall, some much needed humour at times among all the death and destruction that lifted the tone just when I needed it. I had a hard time believing that all that devastation could go unnoticed by humans though, and it wasn’t really explained that well. A couple of times early in the book we get to hear what story has been put out, but later on when the destruction is massive, I didn’t find any explanations of how humans wouldn’t have noticed, or what they would have thought.
I did find the constant battles with the hell hounds a bit wearying, and too graphic for me. I know it wasn’t easy killing them, I know the deaths they caused weren’t pretty, but after the third time of reading just how they dismembered victims I got the picture, didn’t need a blow by blow account full of gore and detail every time. I ended up skipping those parts, and of course there lies the danger I may have skipped something that’s later a major part of the story.
I enjoyed this story but wasn’t riveted to it. I think its one I’ll come back to further on in the series when I understand more, and get much more from it. For now I just feel a bit overwhelmed by such complex events and characters. Its a three star now, but I suspect when I’m more into the series it’ll actually be a five star read. I’m just still a bit confused and bemused…
BTW thanks Cecy, no awful cliffhanger, my bête noire . This story ties up with indications for future books and that’s just how I like a book in a series to end.
Stars: Three, a story that’s complex, and I found a bit too packed with world setting, new events and characters. I feel when I understand more of this world I’d probably rate this a five but for now its a three.
Arc via Netgalley
Brightfall, Jaime Lee Moyer
As a child I adored Robin hood and the merry men, so when I saw this I was keen to read. I’m really conflicted though, TBH if it wasn’t about Robin and co I’d have enjoyed it far more but for me its Robin and Marion and a HEA and its hard to see them apart.
Even harder is the ar se Robin has become. He’s like a spoiled child, afraid of his own shadow, sullen, rude to everyone and with a really Entitled sense of self. I just didn’t recognise him from the Robin I remembered. That spoiled the whole book for me sadly 😦
Its a really well written novel, fabulous characters, human, Fae and otherwise. I loved Marion, a strong lady, devoted to her twins, always ready to help others, doesn’t need a man but enjoys being part of a couple. I liked seeing her skill at Craft, the stuff that’s kept Robin and his crew alive for so long, and now he sees it as Devils work. It just seemed so wrong the way he saw Marion, when from my memories he respected and adored her. Likewise he didn’t seem to have any respect for the men who he lived with, the band that were such a close knit group, who valued each other, had each others backs always.
The story took turns I didn’t expect, and was full of surprises, especially the culprit and the reasons. That came as a real shock. There were criticisms by another reviewer over the types of Fae brought in that served no real purpose and I wouldn’t disagree with that. The story didn’t need those additions, they simply detracted IMO. Likewise the Fae – all powerful and yet Marion, skilled in craft though she was, seemed to be able to work round them pretty easily. Sometimes it was made clear it had taken effort but others it was just too easy for her…again, that’s just how it felt to me.
Stars: Three, if it hadn’t been Robin and the gang I think I’d rate it higher, probably a five. Its a great read, but for me Robin being such a drag, so surly and rude really brought the story went down.
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
Shadow Hunter, (Rosie O’Grady’s Paranormal Bar and Grill 1), B.R.Kingsolver
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy
Well, I’m always looking for fantasy reads I’ll enjoy, there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, on KU so its hard to fine a gem among the dross. There are good books that simply suit different readers, different tastes, and then there are books that TBH should never see the light of day. Some people seem to think throw a few words together, cull bits from bestsellers with minimal changes and a fortune awaits. It doesn’t, but the morass of these stories do make it hard to find ones that are worth reading sometimes.
Anyway, Shadow Hunter proved to be one of those Gems, characters that feel real ( as much as they can in a fantasy setting), a major plot that will run through future story arcs, and lots of smaller plots. First books in series have it hard, deliver a story to keep reader engaged while setting out new characters and world building. Shadow
Hunter does that really well, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and promptly borrowed book two in KU.
The story is believable and has potential to stay that way through future books. I was hooked on it after the first few pages, and was keen to see just where it would take us. We’re learning more about Erin, she’s strange in some ways, a magical assaisin but incredibly naive when it comes to everyday life. She’s been brought up simply typ be a killer for the Illuminati, and at that time believes she’s working – and killing – for the greater good, but very quickly in this book she – and we- learn its all been a lie. As part of her training she’s bale to mix with the escelons of socierty so put her in designer clothes and heels, take her to top restaurants and opera houses and she copes fine, but ordering a pizza, making friends, coping with everyday life and she’s having to learn as she goes, watching others to see how they do it.
I really enjoyed meeting the main characters that seem set to lead future stories, and there’s a couple of faintly possible romantic prospects – they may come to nothing, though I’m hoping something with gel for Erin. I do love a romance within a story. Its a treat though to find a story where romance doesn’t dominate, in fact its not in this book more than a couple of hints, and when the supernatural fiction genre seems dominated by stories that are simply dross romances, but with supernatural creatures and no decent world building I was so happy to finally find this gem of a read. It makes trawling through endless samples of dull novels worth it.
Stars: Four and a half, not quite the magic five for me but a great read, and once I finish this series I’ll be looking at others BB Kingsolver has written.
Novel via KU
Wolf’s Bane (Moon Marked Book 1) Aimee Easterling
Genre:Sci-fi and Fantasy, Romance.
I love fantasy/romance reads, but so may of these seem to be all grunting, monosyllabic alphas, reverse harems or ones where the romance is all the book, no side/sub plots, no overall story line. Still, it means when I do find a read I enjoy then its like a sweet victory!
I added this one last week, it was free at the time, so nothing to lose and I’d enjoyed the sample. I’ve just bought books two and three, as it was an intriguing read, and I’ll be looking at what else Aimee has written.
Mai is great, she’s a Kitsune, Japanese fox shifter. I’ve come across these occasionally – I think the last one was in a Hailey Edwards read as a secondary character, and the Kitsune premise fascinates me. They’re not just shape shifters, but have a kind of fox nature in the way they think and behave, and usually they have some form of magic. Aimee has added a touch here where that magic is connected closely to Mai, and allows her to create real items, her sword for example, within a split second, but it needs to stay physically connected to her or she weakens. I’m still getting my head around the star ball that Kitsunes in this book have, that allows the magic.
Mai is guardian to her younger sister, and struggling. She doesn’t know any other Kitsunes, they live in a city controlled by werewolves, and she needs to tread carefully, as they see Kitsunes as something to be killed.
Its an interesting story, full of some very real characters, sub plots that add up to the whole, the star ball connection to magic, and of course poor Mai doesn’t have anyone she can ask for help to learn more about what they are. She’s never met another Kitsune. Her dead mother offers some cryptic comments at times in Mai’s head, but they’re beyond my understanding, and mostly Mai doesn’t see the logic til too late either. I do like that connection though, and trying to puzzle out what the heck she means by her strange phrases.
There’s a developing romance but its still early days, and apart from a couple of stolen kisses hasn’t gone further. So many fantasy romance reads make the romance all the story, held up by the tiniest of plots, and for me I want all the mystery, the magic, the struggles, with the romance being there but as part of the story, not all of it.
Stars: Four, a fun read, and a good start to the trilogy.
Book purchase – I do buy books in addition to receiving ARCs and having KU!
A Life Without Living, (The STREGA Series Book 1)
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance
I didn’t realise this wasn’t a stand- alone, but part of a series so was expecting it to end. And it didn’t, but ends on something of a cliffhanger. Still, its a great story and goodreads and amazon do make it clear its not a stand alone read.
I was intrigued, its a supernatural story but different to much of whats on offer, a love story passed down through the ages.
Gio, what a fabulous man and how harrowing, always searching and never quite making it in time. Then waiting for the next lifetime. Kate, I really liked her and her friend from work, Dave. Then there’s Alex, on the surface the perfect husband but when we see their relationship closer its not all that it seems, and yet despite his faults Kate is always so eager to please him. And of course there’s Claire and Willem, and the way there seems an instant attraction between them.
I enjoyed the story but there were a few sections that jarred, a few oddities such as when Gio meets Kate for coffee. They’re strangers, and he gets her an Americano. “ That’s amazing. Its my favourite. How did you know?” Well, I guess as most coffees are the basic, Americano, it wasn’t a difficult guess, but more a safe choice….
Its a story I enjoyed but didn’t have me riveted to the page, wasn’t one I couldn’t put aside for a while. I do want to read more though, want to see how things are going to work out.
Stars: Four, an enjoyable read, good story and I’m keen to see what happens next.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers