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.

 

Beautiful

The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

I loved this book.

It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.  I very much doubt that I can do justice to it in a review.

It’s a book about love in its various forms.  It’s the story, of the well known poet Rumi and his friend and companion Shams and in modern times of an American house wife and a Dutch writer.  The story is told by a myriad of voices, which might sound confusing but was truly enlightening.  So many voices had something valuable to add.  The power of perspective.

What stood out for me was that love is about making a choice.  This was demonstrated by the choice Ella has to make. It was both heartbreaking and life affirming. But ultimately love is a path we can all follow, but we have to choose that route.

Its a book that transcends all the nonsense we live with today, all the stuff about religion, beliefs, society’s expectations etc.

Perhaps I should be ashamed to say but I’d never heard of Rumi, but there you go.  And my understanding of Sufi’ism was pretty much zero.  I’m far from knowledgeable about either topic but I’m now far more enlightened.

Please read it and talk about it with others. It’s a special book.

Live for today

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

This is a beautiful and sad book.

I suspect it will speak to people in different ways. For some it will simply be one of the loveliest but saddest books they will ever read. I’m in that category. But for some people it will really challenge and change their perceptions, perhaps speak to them in a way nothing else will.

It’s the story of Tom, for whom time stops.  Or perhaps better said he ages so slowly he is centuries old despite his youthful appearance.

Given that time has stopped for him, what will Tom do with his life?  Will he aspire to greatness? Or will he allow fear to overcome him?  If you outlive everyone you ever meet can you form relationships?  With a seemingly endless future should you focus on the unknown ahead, the reality of your past or live for the moment?  And how do you even do that?

“The first rule is that you don’t fall in love”.

Imagine going through life avoiding falling in love. Of course, many people never feel that joy but knowing it’s impossible and never being lucky enough to experience it are very different.

Tom asks us the question – is it love that gives our lives meaning?  Or by living for now can we fall in love?

“A problem with living in the twenty-first century….. we are made to feel poor on thirty thousand pounds a year. To feel poorly travelled if we have only been to ten other countries. To feel old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly if we aren’t photo shopped and filtered”.

Tom knew Shakespeare, Captain Cook and Scott Fitzgerald.  He looks backward, believing that everything good is behind him.  And yet it’s a book about our own time.  A time in which despots appeal to people who feel threatened, where likes on an FB post are worth gold and celebrity images dictate our self esteem.

The author explores the role that putting down roots and forming real connections plays in your identity and mental health resilience.  What did his lack of connections post Rose and Marion say about Tom?  Should he risk it all again?

So, we come to the ultimate question.  What would you do with such a long life?  Would the fear of scientific exploration keep you in hiding?  Or would you throw caution to the wind to live your best life?

This book is so interesting, compelling and hugely relevant for today.  It’s simply beautiful.

Another great choice for your bookclub.

Time and childhood

The Child in Time Ian McEwan

At first glance from the blurb I expected a Madeleine McCann type story.  So, I started it with some trepidation, but it was a bookclub book so it had to be done.

Whilst, Kate the missing child dominates, I was surprised how little the story was actually about her.  I came to see what happened to Kate as the starting point to look at the concept of being trapped in time.

I loved the exploration of time and what it means, especially how the author cleverly speeded up time and then slowed it down.  It totally showcased the genius of the writing.

McEwan uses various ways to play with this concept of time. There’s the role of the commitee in giving structure to Stephen’s time – time was used to show that the book had already been written (past), whilst the committe sat (present) and worked towards their report (future). Brilliant!

Perhaps most impressively McEwan used his style of writing to demonstrate his theme, with the details about the committee being dull and bringing on a feeling of lethargy. Yet other parts were fast paced and absorbing.

The other theme inherent in the title is ‘child’ or childhood.  Obviously for Stephen this began with the missing Kate and then Julie’s decision not to share her pregnancy, so he had no time to prepare. The references to Stephen’s own childhood via his ride in the train engine as if he needed this memory of his own childhood before he moved on.

The character most impacted here was Charles. His revision back to childhood and Thelma’s role in this. Did this refect her experience as never having had a child? Was this their attraction?

The book is dystopian in nature which allowed for political commentary of sorts, including the gender neutral PM, most likely a representation of the Iron Lady.  This style allowed the almost magical story around Stephen and his parents’ memories, how he could access a memory from before he was born.  Memories and how we choose what to remember is another theme.

For bookclubs the quality and diversity of themes make it an absolute winner. I’m not sure I loved it, but I found it intriguing and definitely worthwhile with lots to talk about.

I read this in November but am only just catching up on review. I ran out of time (!).

Ooh something new Mrs Prowse!

 

    

Anna (out 8th March) and Theo (out 5th April) both by Amanda Prowse

I’m liking the sound of this.  Two new books by one of my real faves Amanda Prowse.

It’s being billed as one love two stories.  Or maybe one story two perspectives?  A matching his and hers set even?!

I think it’s kind of intriguing, I read a Nalini Singh where two books in a series overlapped but were different stories, so only little hints come through.  The only other example I can think of are they rather dire EL James books from his perspective. I know this will be fab.

Neither book is out til next year (boo!)   But I’m previewing the covers above, which look kind of cute!  A bit of a departure from her covers more recently.  Personally, Amanda Prowse is one of the few authors I’m happy to preorder without knowing much about the next story.

Here’s the thunderclap that Amanda and her team are sharing today so you can preorder.

Bestseller @MrsAmandaProwse presents One Love. Two Stories. First read #Anna http://bit.ly/_Anna__ a girl you’ll fall in love with then read #Theo http://bit.ly/_Theo__ a boy looking for someone to love. Two worlds, two lives, two novels that collide to create a masterpiece.