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.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Dear Child, Romy Hausmann
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers,
Well, I didn’t know what to expect but was seduced in by the description. I just had to know how things played out.
It was one of those reads where just as I thought I’d got things worked out another facet was thrown in to the mix. It was very complex, very multi dimensional.
It felt very real, I could feel Lena’s horror, feel the anguish Lena’s parents felt, understand why her dad was so angry. Yet I also got annoyed at him when he kept charging in, on an “ I know best, somebody needs to do something” I guess any loving parent in their situation would get frustrated at what they see as lack of progress.
I could feel Lena’s terror, both in the cabin, when she realised just how dire her situation was, and when she escaped. You’d think relief would come from being home, but of course she’s got some real PTSD issues going on. She really was in a bad place.
Then there’s the children – how on earth do kids ever recover from something like this? On the face of it Hannah seems to have adjusted better, although she’s a little strange she is very intelligent, and that caught me out. At the end we could see just how programmed to ignore horror she had become, even when it was right in front of her.
I just wondered what would happen to her, would she ever get past the things she’d seen? I loved seeing so much from her POV, her thoughts, her complex explanations for every little thing, the way she cited statistics and facts so thoroughly, the way everything is black and white to her, her complete obedience, devotion and acceptance of everything Papa said. I felt she’d woven a world in her head that overlapped the real world and she genuinely found it hard to tell what was real. I loved when she talked about whispers – how she described her speech and mouse voice, or when she’s really insistent, the Lion voice. I could visualise her doing that. I felt Lena did so much to try to make these poor kids lives happy. I’d say normal, but that was impossible.
I guess what I had in my mind was that terrible story a few years back where some poor girl had been kept like that for 24 years, and she and the kids she had were living underground all that while. I remember then thinking how on earth can anyone pick up life after that? The characters in this book felt real to me and made me have the same feelings, wondering what kind of life they would/could lead after their escape.
Stars: five, a fantastic read, riveting and gave me much to think about.
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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.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Pivotal Decisions, (Moonlight and Murder 2), Reily Garrett
Genre: Romantic suspense
Murder and bodies, swamps and alligators, guns and bang sticks ( never heard of them – I want one !!), drones and tech, none of which I know much about but it didn’t matter for the story as it was kept loose enough for me to keep up and enjoy. Some suspense novels get very heavy on the detail and I end up skipping pages, this had just enough to interest me and let me follow how the story fit together.
I loved Sabine – and Heath. That dog was the real star of the book 😉 Coyote too was great, it was hard seeing little Sabine all grown up, and he was struggling to keep his hands to himself. Of course Sabine had always been attracted to him so she wasn’t worried when he didn’t…. The secondary characters too, Augie, Sabine’s bestie and Coyote’s work partner and GF and sister were fabulous. Poor Nolan, Keiki was one determined lady.
The girls together brought some much needed humour among the seriousness of the story. The guys were all macho protection, Augie warning Coyote not to hurt Sabine, Coyote determined to keep her back from the danger, Nolan all het up in defence of his little sister and his girlfriend, and the girls all running rings around them equally determined to not be kept out of the action. Lucky they did, it needed all of them.
I understood the potential financially of what poor Jinx had been working on, and could see so easily for many the murders to get their hands on it would be nothing. Sadly that’s the way of the world, dominated by money and the desire for more of it.
I wasn’t entirely convinced over the capture and rescue of Augie’s lady, it seemed a bit too simple and why leave the VR goggles? Maybe its just me missed some essential connection but I really struggled with the relevance of that bit.
Where the story fell down a bit for me was the last section, the end, and the reasons for all the murders seemed to just almost fizzle off. Somewhere I even missed what happened to one of the bad guys, one moment there was still one accounted for, and then it was the end and clearly I missed how he got caught. There were times when the actions stretched credulity but not too much and after all this is fictionland 😉
Stars: Four, a fun read, humour to offset the murders and a great bunch of characters.
Arc via author
Red Hatchet Falls, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 7), Susan Clayton-Goldner
Genre: Mystery and thrillers
Each time I finish a Radhauser novel I’m in awe of how Susan manages to pull together a story, including so many side plots full of interest, taking me on a journey to find who’s responsible for the awful things in that book. She makes me think its one person, then doubt myself, as Radhauser does so often.
This book is the perfect example of when there seems like a straightforward murderer, all the clues and evidence point to that person, and yet Radhauser feels its too easy. As usual his gut feeling should have been listened to, although hopefully here that mistake will lead to future good.
I really didn’t suspect who the person was, Susan hides them with only the most subtle of clues that only make sense when we reach the conclusion.
It was good to catch up with not only Radhauser and his family, but also his work colleagues, characters from other books ( yay for Rodney!) and meet new ones.
In among the main crime there are plots about bullying, racism, domestic violence, and of course we see just how pervasive racism is, how easy it is to prejudge someone purely on looks. That happens here to an Islamic family, who have made America their home. Of course even now the fall out from 9-11 hits them, they are hated by some people, feared by others, simply because of their religion, which a few extremists used as an excuse for horrific actions. Y’know, Christians have done that too, in history and probably recent times too.
Poor Ahmeed, Daria, and their little son Kareem go through things no family should have to, and I have the feeling that this happens in real life too, from those supposed to protect them. Racism reaches all occupations, being in a “responsible” profession doesn’t stop bigots from using that position for their own ends and I could see the results of Ahmeed’s shooting ending just as Radhauser suspected it would. And that made me sad – no-one ever learns when actions get hidden.
I think In the same way as Radhauser is learning from Heron, the ME, I’m learning the way Radhauser’s mind works ( or Susan’s!). I start looking for evidence, mulling over actions, wondering what comes next. Of course its not all crime all the way, there’s Radhauser taking Lizzie to sports, talking to Gracie ( I love her), fussing his beloved horses.
I felt so sad for the kids in this book, some bullied by adults, some by kids following adults examples, but they were hurt by those actions, and of course that impacts on the adults they become. Its well known that abusers were often abused themselves. That doesn’t excuse it but does sometimes explain it, the anger comes out in odd ways, they don’t have that loving family role model. Its something I get so angry about, children missing out on the fun, secure, loving childhood they should all have. Sadly a percentage never get it and others only part of it. Horrible reflection on us as adults. I remember my own son at five being told by his then best friend he couldn’t play with him any more because he was “ a black’un”. Jay had dark skin, dark hair and big brown eyes, and clearly his friends parents had looked at him, looked at the name Zelos and decided we were foreign. We’re not, but it gave me an insight into how cruel adults can be, how easily they influence children. He was five, didn’t understand what his friend meant, and it was tough explaining bigotry in a way he’d understand.
And as usual I’ve rambled here, but the gist it, once more Susan has knocked out a five star read. Meticulously researched, everything makes sense, there are no lose ends, no stretching of credulity but a story that could so easily be real. Sometimes as series continue they get tired, feel stale but Radhauser has a long way to go yet. Each story feels fresh even though the characters feel like old friends. I was looking back after finishing this at the early books, I started with book two, maybe its time I read book one, see how it all started.
Stars: five, long may Radhauser continue his investigations. Each book feels like the best yet, and then along comes the next which is even better.
Arc via author
Truth Hurts, A captivating, breathless read, Rebecca Reid
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers, Women’s Fiction
Moan: women’s fiction – why alienate potential readers? Men write books enjoyed by women and men alike, and they read the same.
Secrets, its a novel about secrets and of course they never stay hidden. I kept wondering: what was Poppy hiding, what was Drew’s secret? I was puzzled at first when we met Drew and Poppy, and then moved on to Agnes and Caroline….but it all comes together slowly, though the secrets don’t come out until almost the end.
Its told in past/present format for Poppy, but Drew remains an enigma, a man who adores Poppy, seems to be just too good to be true. Gina, Poppy’s friend certainly thinks so, but she’s guardedly cautious, after her first open enthusiasm about him.
I loved when Gina was staying with Poppy at Thursday house, and they do the makeover, transforming it in the few days Drew was away. Then Drew’s friends arrive for a weekend and that was fun, the old friends come to meet ( aka gossip and judge…) Drew’s surprise new, young wife….some great snark there.
It’s fun read, cleverly paced so you’re always wondering what did happen, what are they hiding. Was it so bad, was it what I suspect, why are the locals so unfriendly?
There are lots of little clues, but I was never quite sure where they were leading, or if I was down the wrong track.
Then all is revealed, very suddenly near the end, but that’s not all the surprises, there’s one last one that really caught me out, shocked me and changed how I’d begun to see everyone. I really didn’t like what happened, yet it was the perfect ending, really unexpected, and something that made me feel somewhat uncomfortable about it.
Stars: five, a cracking read, surprises all the way and an ending that caught me out. Its not one I’d reread, for a long while at least, knowing the secrets now but its still an amazing read.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Genre: Romance, Mystery and thrillers
I’ve read a few of Alexandra’s fantasy reads, couldn’t recall reading a romantic suspense by her before though. I really enjoy her writing style and the way she weaves a story together.
This starts in the classic detective story way with a body. However what results from investigation is that this body has had surgery, to make her resemble an escapee of the serial killer known as The Butcher. She’s the only one to have escaped, though her father died in the attack, and Remi has lost her memory of the events leading up to it. She was engaged to Ash, but in the aftermath they grew further apart and now its been five years. I found that a bit of a weak spot, I couldn’t see Ash just letting go like that. Still, he needed to for the story. Now he’s back, his detective brother working on the current murder. Ash is scared for Remi, and determined to protect her.
Its a good read, neat build up of suspense, classic red herrings thrown in to keep the reader guessing. Although its romance, its more a pick up of past romance, and from the off its pretty clear that neither have forgotten the other, got over the love, so the bulk of the story is the suspense, the murders, the tracing of a killer.
I’m not a huge mystery/suspense reader but do like to dip into the genre on occasion and I really enjoyed this. * confession time: I sneaked a look at the end about halfway through, I just couldn’t take guessing “who dunnit” any more. For me though that doesn’t spoil a story, I catch things reading that otherwise i’d have missed. I often re-read favourite books, even knowing how they end. Some folk can’t do that, I do, I love to get stuck into a favourite series.
Stars: Five, Its a great read, genuine characters and actions, and neatly building up the suspense and alternate possible murderers.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Boundary Haunted (Boundary Magic Book 5)
Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy
I love all Melisa’s stories about the Old World, and this one continues to engage my attention as much as the rest. Sometimes when a series continues a while the stories feel faded, same-ish but not with these. The Scarlett Bernard books follow the same lines as the Boundary ones, same Old World but different city, different issues. That means there’s always something new to bring to the story, and I love both series. I’ve recently done a reread of them all, so events were fairly fresh in my mind from the last book.
This time Lex has to travel to the South, where her talents have been requested. Maven says she doesn’t need to go, its outside the remit of their agreement, but she would like Lex to go, and hopefully persuade Beau, the Cardinal Vampire there, to join the parliament she is hoping to form. She needs strong allies like him, and Lex can see the value of helping him. She’s struggling though after the events of last time, not sleeping well, and hiding it from everyone as best she can. She’s worried about going back into a world that’s stuffed to the gills with Ghosts from the wars.
The first meeting doesn’t go well, dangers soon appear, and Lex has no allies except for a spy of Mavens who can’t be revealed of course. Quinn wanted to come, he and Lex usually work together, but its too close to his human life, where his wife ( widow) and daughter still live. The temptation to seek them out, or the possibility of accidentally meeting them, would be too much. He hates seeing Lex in danger though and boy, does she get into some here….
The story unfolds, opinions change, and the dangers stack up. Lex doesn’t really know where to look but slowly she starts to get a picture of events, although the culprit shocked her – and me. I Did Not see that coming!! I love to be caught out like that.
As usual there’s a mix of info we know and new things, new spells, types of witchcraft, types of ghost, and the world Lex is in seems to be ever expanding. I enjoyed meeting new characters, wasn’t sure about Beau at first, but came to really like and respect him in the end. Even though its mostly new folk we meet, we still are connected to the usual crew by way of Lex’ thoughts, talks with Sam, phone calls and other little means, so it all felt very much a part of the series, not just Lex in a new tale. I like that connection, like the the world is slowly expanding, bringing in more folk – and hopefully lots more stories!
Things happen here that throw light on some past events, and push the whole group further forward. If I’ve a criticism its just a personal one, I adore Quinn, I missed him, although I understood exactly why he had to stay away. Without him though Lex really will struggle.
I look forward to the next from Melissa.
Stars: Five, another cracking read. Roll on the next one.
A Madness of Sunshine, Nalini Singh
I love Nalini’s Guild Hunter series and her contemporary romances. I so wish I could enjoy the psy-changling series, so many books I haven’t read. Maybe I’ll give them another go 😉
This time the story is as much, maybe more, suspense as romance. Its a slow burn relationship, it’s more getting to know each other tentatively and maybe starting something, than a full on romance. I enjoyed it even though I was expecting more romance from the tag.
The background of Golden Cove, and the issues of past and present was excellent. When Nalini writes there’s always that extra touch, scenery is always so descriptive I can mentally see it, characters that I feel I know, understand, even things like the coffee, I can smell and taste it from her words.
The suspense was cleverly done, a couple of main possible suspects stand out, and yet there are things thrown in that made me wonder “ but what about? Could they? ”
Its cleverly wrapped up, proper ending. I hate it when I finish a story and am left wondering what happened after, wondering about certain characters.
The reason both Will and Anhara were in Golden Cove were believable, I really felt for them both. There were other characters already there too that had some nasty shocks, life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, sometimes its just damn windy and stormy. Life’s like that for us all sometimes, throws in unwelcome surprises, things happen beyond our control, someone does whats right yet still ends up poorer for it. It made the story feel very realistic for me.
Stars: Five. I was pleased at the way things worked out in the ending. I like that kind of finishing the story and giving a hint of what happens to them in the future.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Ex-Girlfriend, Nicola Moriarty
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Gah, women’s fiction: c’mon publishers, this category has no place in 2019. Men read romance, men write romance, stop trying to alienate a potential reader base.
Anyway, I found this book kind of slow at the start, and felt it was a little predictable. I was pretty sure what was going on and almost gave up.
Glad I didn’t though, once things picked up they rocketed along, with surprises way beyond what I thought would happen. Its totally absorbing, and so much more than I first thought, so although I found that first 30% a bit meh, a little obvious as to what was going on, once past that and I was gobsmacked, the story went way beyond what I’d thought.
What seemed like a simple story turned into a deliciously complex one full of unexpected events and long planned motivations.
The events had me mentally screaming “nooo….don’t” and I was so astonished at how seemingly unconnected events finally came together.
Its a shortish review for me, but its impossible to say more without giving away important events, suffice to say its a story that had me gripped once past that slow start.
Stars: four, it would be five but for that slow start. Still, for others its a five as it is so its perfect for them.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers