driving Back

Drive by Kate Stewart 

Good God where do I start?!  I loved this book sooooo much.

I read it by the pool, and as I looked left and right I was gobsmacked to see that people were reading other books.  What was wrong with these people? It was as if life was going on outside of this book.  How was this possible?!

‘Drive’ is the story of Stella’s journey.  After a bit of unexpected news she gets in her car and drives.  But that’s not really the journey she takes the reader on.  It’s the exploration of how she moves from young adulthood into womanhood and the people who make that journey with her.  It’s their journey too.

This is the past told purely from Stella’s perspective, looking at the choices she made, the good, the bad and the really ugly.  It’s about how life happens to you, how you can’t control so much and sometimes no matter what, destiny is out to get you. Or is it?

It reminded me of the John Lennon quote:  “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

It’s kind of appropriate to make a music quote, as music is the backdrop to Stella’s life.  Ms Stewart totally nails the playlist.

‘Drive’ messed with my emotions.  Even writing this review has me in tears.  He was far from a rockstar but I had my own Reid, and Ms Stewart’s writing twisted my heart and stomach as I fought to focus on Stella and not wallow in my own history.

As you travel back through Stella’s past you not only question her choices but you’ll find your past seeping into your conscience.  What could or should you have done differently?!

An emotional, challenging and intriguing read. Bravo Ms Stewart!

Angry puppy love

Bane by L.J. Shen

“Falling in love is when you lose yourself slowly, piece by piece. Infatuation is when you lose yourself all at once. Love is like ivy. It wraps around you, chokes every part of you quietly. It is not patient, or kind, or gentle. It is needy, cunning, and suffocating.’

Well, this was a read and a half.  It was raw, angry, claustrophobic and mean.  And I bloody loved it.

I adored how the author took all this gritty angry’ness and turned it into a sweet almost puppy love story.  God only knows how she did that!

This is a masterclass in how you redeem the unredeemable character.  Many have tried, few have done it with half this style.  Read and learn peeps!

Apparently it’s part of a series, I can only say it’s completely stand alone. I’ve never heard of this author before, I only bought this book because of an Amazon sale as I’m looking for new authors. It didn’t just fulfil my expectations, it blew me away.

The cover has it

Ocean Light by Nalini Singh (Psy-Changeling Trinity #2)

Bowen Knight the de facto leader of the Human Alliance gets his book.   We left Bowen clinging to life following a catastrophic shooting and with a failing chip in his brain.  We find him in the care of the BlackSea changeling group and meet Kaia.

Given time is of the essence, I expected a fast paced romance with breakneck speed and passion.  Ms. Singh however, delivers a slow burner, that’s sweet, touching and totally endearing.  With absolutely no time to spare we find two people who above all become friends.  All around them is a freneticness (including the pregnant doctor), yet there’s something almost logical about their connection against the ticking timebomb in Bowen’s brain. It made my heart ache and was simply beautiful.

Whilst the romance might be a slow burner, the story is a cracker with dynamite on board.  If the romance made my heart swoon, the twists and turns made my head spin and my blood rush.  And don’t forget those glimpses of the enigmatic BlackSea.  A whole book based with them and quite honestly I’m still not sure!

Please indulge me what I talk about the international cover.  Clearly, it’s divine but that’s not the point.  This cover is important.  So many romance readers are lucky enough to see people who look like us on book covers all the time.  I was so disappointed that the cover for probably my fave Nalini Singh book ‘Mine to Possess’ didn’t reflect Clay’s darker Egyptian heritage.  Diversity in romance is like anything else, the more diversity the more innovation, connections, learnings we all benefit from.  Romance and diversity bring love and richness – they go together.

If you’re interested in diversity in romance have a look at this report https://www.therippedbodicela.com/sites/therippedbodicela.com/files/2017%20diversity%20study%20%281%29.pdf

 

Meandering intent on a knife edge

The Box by C.C. Mono (#2 Eagle Kings Academy)

Without a doubt this is one of THE reads of the year.  Imagine Harry Potter and James T. Kirk set up a school for their future selves and Darth Vader invested in it. That’s it!

There’s a scene at a ball in Venice, it’s bursting with intrigue, costumes, opaque conversations and dastardly players.  I was so lost in plotting who I’d take on, I forgot I was reading.  It is one of the most finely crafted fanasty/magical scenes I’ve ever read.  J.K. Rowling wants a peak!

I loved the first book but this is on another level.  There’s a richness of detail and a meandering intent.  I choose the word intent deliberately.  Because it feels like C.C. Mono is teasing us with his true purpose.  It’s as if you are in a Middle Eastern bazaar getting just a hint of an elusive fragrant, as you chase it there’s veil after veil obscuring your vision.  You want to pull it all down and breathe in, but the trail is cold now.  However, you know it will be back, you know it’s hidden waiting to pounce. And you delight in it.

The Eagle Kings Academy is all about leadership, selecting, crafting and setting up our future leaders.  But how do we define true leaders?  Are they unique innovative wild cards?  People who choose their own paths? Or are they people who learn, who absorb the very best and lead swathes of people to an agreed outcome?  Is there room for both?  Is the first too risky? But with the second can we progress?  These are the tantalising glimpses we get into Mono’s thoughts on the matter.  I seriously need more on this.

As for the story, it’s beautifully plotted, Mono’s ingenious story leads to plenty of gasps and shakes of the head.  He has left me hanging on a knife edge and it’s so damn cruel.

PS I used the term setting up deliberately because there’s plenty of that going on. But by who? And why?

Thank you to Helen at TBConFB for encouraging me to read this series. Her passion for it was infectious.

 

 

Counting stars

Marek by Sawyer Bennett (Cold Fury #11)

Sawyer Bennett doesn’t just tell stories, she makes you question what you think. Every damn time!

As a total romance junkie I’m all about the hero, especially a bad boy.  But when the hero despite his gorgeousness and bad boy ways, isn’t redeemable and actually isn’t even a decent guy, what do you do?  Is it a bad book because the hero isn’t hiding a heart of gold or misunderstood or suffered a dreadful childhood?  Usually, there’s plenty of angst to overcome and the journey cements the hero in your heart, not so here.  Regular guy, fantastic life, just pretty much zero emotional intelligence and pretty selfish.

And then, there’s our heroine.  All will be forgiven, she’s going to be our star. Nope.  She’s as awful and dim witted as him.  And for all the comments about her parenting skills, she’s a pretty rubbish mother. We learn in the previous book that she hid his child from him and his family.  And for no good reason at all, plain spite.  How nasty.

What was she planning to say when her child asked about her father?  And when her child realised that the financial difficulties they faced were unnecessary how would she explain it?  The epilogue makes it clear that all along she knew that his was an open door.

So, do you judge a book by how much you love the hero and heroine?  Well, this book shows me that with Sawyer Bennett it’s all about purpose. Don’t be fooled by the ice rink, Ms Bennett always writes purposeful dynamic fiction. This is one of her better books – an excellent farewell to the Cold Fury.

I might not have loved the story, but I couldn’t put it down.  Neither character are ingrained on my heart, but they’ve got my brain buzzing.  If you’re still thinking about a book well after you’ve finished it – you know it’s a cracker.

Nice guys and gals arent actually the most compelling characters.  We all know that.  But us romance fans, maybe we like it too simple.  Usually a great hero gets 5 shiny stars from me, and the ones I don’t like are heading towards the one star. But this one is a 4 and a half from me.

And for me that’s a big deal. How would you have rated it?

PS this isn’t stand alone you have to read the fantastic Reed first.  Ms Bennett is now leaving Cold Fury, those Arizona boys need to up their game!

Krill or meaning?

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

“He had noticed that events were cowards: they didn’t occur singly, but instead they would run in packs and leap out at him all at once

I like to think that my blogs help authors promote their books, and of course give me a creative outlet.  Mr Gaiman kills that.  When the author writes something as simply perfect as this what’s the point?!  You don’t need blogs to promote this kind of genius, a couple of quotes will do.

This is urban fantasy that sets out to delight, bewitch and scare you.  It succeeds.  It’s a kind of gender inversed Alice in Wonderland for jaded grown ups.   If you love London then it’s for you. And if you’ve never ventured here, then you’ll see things the Londoner misses.

“Young man,” he said, “understand this: there are two Londons. There’s London Above – that’s where you lived – and then there’s London Below – the Underside – inhabited by the people who fell through the cracks in the world. Now you’re one of them. Good night

For all the fabulous characters what sung to me was the perfection of London for an urban fantasy.  I won’t look at Harrods quite the same again or Earl’s Court.

When fantasy is this fantastic do you worry about the “meaning” or do you just enjoy?  I decided to wallow in it.  Completely, I was like huge whale feasting on a swarm of krill.  Even at the end I could have had more. What’s it really all about?  I’m not actually sure, but when it’s this well written who cares?!

The other issue with Neil Gaiman’s writing is you realise you’ve not read enough of it.  So, less with the blogs and more with the reading.

 

A beneficent cover

The Duchess Deal Tessa Dare

Yes, we all know that you mustn’t judge by its cover.  From my last review you’ll see I’m a bit guilty of this.  And yep I failed again.  I adore this cover and I just downloaded it.  The designer needs to be on Ms Dare’s Christmas card list for all time.

As for the book?  Well, it lives up to the cover. An absolutely gorgeous read.  I was hooked from the first page and giggled my way through the rest of the book – well, when my heart wasn’t pounding that is.

We’re often warned not to read a book on the tube as you don’t want fellow commuters seeing your tears or hearing you snort.  This isn’t a snorting book, it’s a very delicate witty humour.  Yep, you’ll be the Cheshire Cat grinning at all those stressed commuters.  So go on, read it on the tube – make someone’s day!

I hope I won’t give away too much by saying the book revolves around a proposal or rather a deal.  Ms Dare’s demonstrates her complete mastery of English wit and characterisation:

“If it’s a wife you want,” she said, “surely you could find many women—many well-bred ladies—who would be willing to marry you.”

“Yes, but I’d have to find them. This saves me so much effort.”

She threw him a sidelong glance. “Can you not hear yourself? Do you truly not know how insulting that sounds?”

“I should think it sounds beneficent. I’m offering you a title and fortune. All you have to do is lie back in the dark, then spend nine months swelling up like a tick. What could possibly deter any woman from accepting?”

What indeed? I’m still cackling!

Ash and Emma are simply wonderful, I fell hook, line and sinker for him.  And he’s so deserving.  As for the heat between these two – ooh you’re going to love it. Smoking!

I have to mention Ms Dare’s dedication, I won’t spoil it for you.  Let’s just say there are a few chapters that you might want to rush to read.  Don’t!  Read it properly!

 

Hitting that G spot

          

My Gift to You  by Tracie Delaney 

I wasn’t looking forward to reading this one.  Not sure why really, the blurb, the title, the cover just didn’t do it for me.  But when one of your fave authors offers an ARC – what’s a girl to do?  Say yes of course, and then cross your fingers.

(Updated to say that the author has recently redone the cover, with this gorgeous new image I’d have been pushing to the front of the queue to read  it.)

Well half a page in I’d uncrossed those fingers and then I hit the sweet spot.  Now, I read something the other day that said the female g-spot was a myth. Well, I’m not going to comment on that (you didn’t really think I would did you?), but I can confirm that the reading g-spot exists.  I know, because Tracie Delaney’s latest hits that reading g-spot, grabs hold of you and kind of blows your mind!  And then there’s the after glow – yep, it gave me the warm squidgies all over.

I must mention Gabe.  He’s a hero so hot and so nice that he must have bruises from all those signed pre-nups women throw at him!  He’s just that yummy!  What a departure from all those mean, moody types who find their inner nice guy only with the right lady.  Gabe was born lovely.

As for Livvy, she’s going to grab your heart and squeeze hard.  These two will have your emotions roaring in your ears and tears running down your face. And you’ll love it.  It will warm you up better than tomato soup.

Ms Delaney has certainly hit the sweet spot with her writing style, her Winning Ace series was fab, but this new stand alone book is her best yet.

Thank you to the author for an ARC.  Obviously I wasn’t influenced by being offered an ARC as this is my honest opinion.

Questioning history

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Well, this has to be one of the more creative and challenging structures for a book.

Two sisters who never meet form the basis of this book as each alternate chapter follows their and then their descendants’ stories.  It is a little hard to read as it does come across as a series of short stories.  There are some wide open and very definite holes in these vinaigrettes.  The impact of these missing stories is gruelling, and it’s hard to accept that was (and is) the reality for many.

This book will challenge most reader’s views on slavery and race.  It’s powerful and disturbing with a real strength of purpose, a first class choice for bookclubs.

There are many ‘lessons’ in it, but what has stayed with me was the reminder that history is written by the victors, by the powerful.  In this time of fake news and global perspectives, it’s a reminder we all need.  And one we must like the teacher in the book impart to our children.

This quote has remained with me:

“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”

Put it on your list for your next bookclub choice, loads to think and talk about.

Gorgeously brutal

Heart’s Insanity by Ellie Masters

This is a brutal read, it will hurt in more than one place.  But it’s truly gorgeous. Gorgeously brutal. I loved it.

His endless optimism crashes into her awful reality.  Watching from the sidelines as he slowly wins her around made me happy.  I could feel myself cheering him on. I wanted to step in and hold her hand maybe even push her a little. But he got the timing just right. What a perfectly lovely hero he is.

I told you, I’m in this for the bigger prize.  That means all of you, not just pieces of you.”

When I first read this, I loved it. What a hero he wants all of her!  It’s like John Legend telling Chrissy Teigen he wants her curves and edges. Or when Billy Joel told Christy Brinkley that now he needed the rest of her.  The struggle here is that Skye knows how damaged she is, Ash might be a hard core rocker but he is clueless.  Billy and John are talking about pieces of a whole person, Ash doesn’t know it but Skye is in pieces.  Her pain is unbearably sad. And yet her fight and strength warmed my heart.  Even now I want to cry.

I wondered had he understood the scale of the challenge would he have pursued Skye? I think so, as not only is Ash lovely but he’s gritty and unorthodox.  And he has an ego!  But he is there for the long haul.  For me perhaps the only negative was the epilogue came to soon for me. But that’s my perspective, maybe her reality was different.

As for Forrest – good god!  What a juicy character he is!

This is a beautifully written complex and engaging story with two characters that I truly loved.

 

Thank you netgalley for providing me an arc in return for my honest review.