Survivors luck?

Hard to Feel Whole Mandy Thomas

This is Mandy’s first book and she’s brave soul as it deals with childhood abuse.

I was reminded of Mandy’s book today when UK media reported the former Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England as saying that child sex abuse in the UK is so widespread that there is ‘not enough land’ to build all the prisons needed to incarcerate offenders.  Shocking.  Terrifying.  Sickening.

The worry of course is that if there isn’t enough space to lock up sex offenders, what can victims expect?

Hard to Feel Whole is the story of Abbie falling in love as she heads out of her teen years.  She hasn’t yet shared the secret of her abuse so she hasn’t had counselling or support.  Her odd behaviour and social remoteness has led to her being bullied at school.  Abbie’s relationship with the mother she holds responsible for putting money before her safety is strained and fraught with tension.  She’s withdrawn and angry.

Her saviours seem to be re-connecting with the little boy she was friends with when she was 8, her best friend and a passion for running.  It felt like she was lucky – yet you know she’s not.

As a book, its a good but uncomfortable read (as it should be).  The two main characters are well crafted and the story flows well.  I found there were some elements that were a bit too convenient – for example Callum and Josh’s fast friendship and the mother’s dinner party.  I wanted more from the ending, but there is a sequel so that no doubt resolves the outstanding issues.  I just prefer a book to be complete.


Thanks to TBC on Facebook & the author for a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Gotta have Faith

Visions of Heat (#2 Psy-Changeling series) Nalini Singh  (spoilers below – watch out!)

This was another re-read for me.  I’m shocked at how much I’m getting out of a book the second time round, especially as I know what happens in the next eleven books!  This is an absolute credit to Nalini Singh’s skill and imagination.

It’s easy to talk about the amazing world she’s created, but its so much more than that.  Its an intricate story arc, with each book carefully developing the story.  Ms Singh doesn’t waste a phrase, its all beautifully crafted to give you the insights you need as the story goes forward.  Clearly, her imagination runs riot (thank god!) but its her story telling skill and the link from one episode to the next that keeps you hooked.  She’s a master craftswoman.  Be very envious!

I’m quite surprised I didn’t realise that Faith’s father Anthony was leading a fifth column inside the PsyNet.  Although, I’d not twigged at the time (or perhaps forgotten since reading) his response to Faith’s defection and his subsequent conversation with his daughter and Vaughn made it quite clear.

He knows where he needs to be and what he’s doing – I wonder why he never told Faith?  Perhaps he really did see her as the perfect Psy as he intimated. (or should I re-read that bit?!)

However, now in hindsight the clue was in Faith’s name.  It’s an interesting choice for a member of the Psy race that eschews all emotion and lives by science and data, seeming only to value business growth.  Unlike the other two virtues – Charity and Hope – Faith is all about believing in something that you cannot know or prove and probably never will.  It’s an unknown concept to the Psy, yet it was Anthony’s choice for his elder daughter.

As for her clan name – NightStar – it seems perfect for Anthony and Faith, reminding us of how the night star can guide the lost home.  And when seen its a point of fixed point of clarity – something (or someone) to follow.

From now on, I’ll be scrutinising those book names.

With book 14 Shards of Hope due out in the UK on the 4th June I think I’ll abandon my re-reading until after I’ve read that instalment.


Do you know them?

The Broken Tamar Cohen

Divorce – you know someone who’s been through it, right?  Well, the simple but compelling premise of The Broken is that we all know a couple who’ve broken up.  We’ve all been affected, but where did you draw the line?  Was it tea and sympathy before you moved on or did you really get drawn in?  Did you take sides?  Did you face consequences?

Tamar Cohen’s novel focuses on two couples – best friends since the birth of their little girls.  When Dan decides to leave Sasha, Josh and Hannah set out to remain neutral and be supportive.   Quite quickly, they get drawn into their friend’s hostility.

What draws you in and makes these characters so engaging is that they could be your neighbours, your in-laws, your friends.  Tamar Cohen’s characters resonate because you recognise them.  Being so ordinary you might find yourself comparing Dan and Josh to men you know – don’t do it, it won’t end well!

Of all the characters, September the four year old daughter of Sasha and Dan is the most challenging.  You know its wrong to find a small child creepy, or disturbing.  Yet, she displays all the manipulative tendencies you see in her mother and it feels so real.

September’s behaviour shows the impact of parental decisions on children.  Sasha, Hannah, Gemma and Sienna are all women who’s adult reactions and decisions are largely impacted by their own parents choices.  Dan’s ability to twice fall for such damaged women and have so little understanding of the impact of his actions on both of them is shocking.  You have to fear for September as an adult.

As the story unveils there are a number of interesting twists. Ms Cohen’s ending may not appeal to all.  I don’t want to give it away, and initially I wasn’t keen on the ending but on reflection I think its perfect.

Hopefully, if your best friends divorce don’t have Hannah and Josh as your role models.

Want to be a winner?

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh

Dominated by a triumvirate of three competing races – psy, changeling and human, Nalini Singh has created pretty much the perfect fictional universe.

Unusually for me this was a re-read.  Given how full Amazon’s shelves are I’m not much of a re-reader.  What’s the point when I know what will happen?  However, with the 14th book in the series out June 4th and a new cover reveal there’s a bit of buzz about it and I’ve been swept along.

In actual fact I didn’t re-read it, I savoured it.  This time there was no rush to the end to see what happened.  Ooh what a delight!

Two things struck me this time round.

The concept of sensation.  Like the rest of her race psy Sascha Duncan has been programmed to shun all emotion.  An emotionless state isn’t totally unique, but the psy live in an airtight vacuum.

When I first met the psy I thought they couldn’t feel but I needed to expand my understanding of feeling – its also touch, smell, taste.  Sascha’s world isn’t just devoid of emotion but anything that might appeal to the senses.

Think about it – no silk dresses, no freshly laundered sheets, no sand between toes, no sloppy kisses, no hazelnut lattes, no chocolate, no smell of home.  Certainly, no gorgeous male like Lucas Hunter to inflame all your senses!

But the real shocker was Ms Singh’s genius.  In this first story she put out the tentacles of a story still coming together fourteen books later.  Its an intricate universe, carefully balanced and wonderfully crafted.  Now, I know where she takes the story I am in awe.

If you want a HEA romance with passion, you’ll enjoy it.  But if you want romance plus – something that takes you to another world and lays down the possibility of so much more you’ll love it!

First time round I gave it a solid 5 stars, this time round I’m annoyed there isn’t a 5 star plus.

Want to see what all the fuss is about?  To celebrate the new cover for Slave to Sensation and introduce new readers to this fab series ahead of her 14th book, Nalini is offering the chance to win the first 5 books in the psy/changeling series.  Its open to readers everywhere – so no excuses for not entering!

And here’s the new cover – I liked the old rather intense paperback image better but maybe this one captures Lucas a lot more?


Rock chick not author

Stage Dive Series – Kylie Scott

To see her author pic you’d think Kylie Scott was a bit of a sweetie, definitely maybe a romantic.  But to read her Stage Dive series you know the woman is all rock chick.  And by that I don’t mean groupie.  No, she’s not with the band – she’s the real deal!  Or at the very least she has done her homework!

This is a lady that knows a rock star and delivers.  In all she delivers four rock gods and their ladies.  Each relationship explores a different aspect of love in such an intense public arena.  Ms Scott develops each character beautifully.  I can’t say that Mal and Jimmy warmed my heart in quite the same way as David or Ben, but they were great characters.

Unusually for a rock star romance, I think Jimmy and Mal were deliberately hard to like.  But boy did she nail Jimmy (the character not the man, obviously!) – talented, self centred, addicted, handsome, immature, confident, angry, bitter, scared.  All up a gorgeous problematic man.

As for Mal – if you had a ridiculously cheeky class clown then you’ve got Mal’s starting point.  It was interesting to see how this persona panned out as a grown man who, thanks to his career hasn’t been limited like any of the kids I knew at school.  Nope, for Mal it takes two special ladies to rein him in.

Clearly, David is the favourite – he’s sweet, achy and just yummy!  And its interesting that he’s the one who falls first and who has to convince his lady a bit more.  I really like David and knowing that most people (me included) would choose his brother just made me want to watch out for him a bit more.

I’ve already blogged about Ben, so I won’t repeat myself, but definitely the last story wasn’t the least!

As you’d expect from an Aussie Kylie this series has plenty of glitz and glamour, exquisitely delicious complicated but loveable men and ladies who can kick like a roo when they need, to but have hearts of gold shimmer!

“Who the hell is Talyn Batur?”

Born of Defiance (League Series #8)  Sherrilyn Kenyon

‘Who the hell is Talyn Batur?’

This review on goodreads amused me and summed up Ms Kenyon’s challenges.

With as many fans as she has they have strong opinions on what you do, especially which character’s turn for a book it is!  Imagine book 8 and its a brand new character and even worse the time line isn’t linear in fact she’s gone backwards to before the beginning.  Wow!  Clever or what?!

So, without too much of a spoiler I can tell you that Talyn Batur is connected to several of the Andarion characters.  I’m guessing he’s going to become important – but then again I may well be wrong.

I was a little nervous about this latest instalment of the League series.  I first found Sherrilyn’s work with the Dark Hunter series, which was one of my faves.  Its lost its way a bit (no a lot), I didn’t even bother with the last book.  I say all this to show how tough it is to keep a series going especially one that’s quite intricate (which SK specialises in).

By this innovative (genius?) approach SK gave real fans a different look at loved characters and a well known piece of League history and kept those who love the formula happy but with a fresh twist to it.  As it starts before the series its totally stand alone so there’s every chance she’s going to find new fans.  Pretty good hey?!

As for the story, its fast paced has a bit of everything with likeable and well founded characters.  Whilst you know you’re headed towards an HEA, its not that obvious how you’ll get there and its not quite the HEA you might expect.  I loved it.

I wanted to give it 5 stars, but if you know the League series you’ll know that the ongoing story is dominated by politics.  Seriously, I am not a politics aficionado.  If you’re going to have the most intricate politics dominated by family loyalties and a range of personalities please, please can we have a chart or at least a glossary?  I so needed it.

Was she still or stilled?

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

This is a book defined by its title.

Like any book with the main protagonist’s name in the title, you’re immediately wondering about the character. Who is this Alice? Is the book only about her?  Given she’s an Alice you have to ask – is there a connection with Wonderland?  As the book is about memory and the brain; I guess the choice of the name Alice isn’t a coincidence?

Most readers will focus on the word “still”.  Talking about it with my book club, it’s clear that the notion of what defined Alice and whether she was still her and indeed would continue to be, was a strong theme.  Is she “Still Alice” and will she still be Alice as her illness progresses? Indeed what makes her Alice?  The question is what makes you, you.

However, that wasn’t the notion of “still” that I read into it. My introduction to Alice was to this hugely intelligent and intellectual personality. She was a person with a brain that whirred at a phenomenal rate, someone who was at the pinnacle of her academic career and still looking for more, a wife with an equally successful and intelligent husband and a mother pushing for the same success for her children. In fact she, her brain, her career, her life was anything but still. Her intellect pulsated on the page.

For me the book was about her journey from the frantic and intellectual life she led to a real stillness in her brain and self, and what that meant for her and her family. Having an aunt with a similar condition, what’s heart breaking is to witness the stillness descend. Of course, it’s a tragedy for anyone, but in Alice’s case it wasn’t just about a dynamic woman who lost her physcial dynamicness but also the loss of an extraordinary brain. Indeed Alice was stilled. And it was in parts chilling.

Ms Genova’s downloading of medical information was somewhat annoying but I could see it strengthened the story. I felt the irony, that whilst so much medically was going on in her brain as the illness progressed Alice became more and more stilled.

Medical stuff aside, it’s a book about relationships and choices. I found Alice and John’s relationship mostly baffling. Many will applaud the author for writing a book without sex in it, personally I found it odd. Neither character was easy to like, but it seemed easy to make excuses for John. I really questioned what was going on before Alice was diagnosed definitively. The comparison between their relationship which floundered with the illness and that with Lydia which seemed to blossom was powerful and intriguing.

But it’s the choices the characters make that had me thinking in their shoes. If you could cure cancer, should you give it up to care for a loved one? Would you take the test to predict your future? And at what point in your illness would you swallow your final pill?

He’s no Joe Dolce

Welcome to Wherever You Are by John Marrs

John Marrs’ second book proves he’s no one hit wonder.  In fact, he demonstrates he’s a master of stories that flit across time and distance.  If you read The Wronged Sons you’ll know he loves a dark dark character and a horrid twist – that’s definitely consistent!

I wonder if the author read Hansel & Gretel a lot as a kid, because he sure knows how to pepper his stories with little breadcrumbs (or in this case gems).  Believe me, if you’re not quick you’ll miss them!  I did way too often.

The story is about eight different seemingly unconnected individuals drawn to the one hostel – sounds complex and it is.  Yet, what surprised me is that its a doddle to follow.  Not once did I get lost and trudge back over a chapter to work out who is who.  Its simply written and totally grabbed me, but the characters, their back stories and their motivations are complex.  It should have been harder to keep – thankfully it wasn’t!

There was just enough humour and grit in his characters to bring the odd smile as you dealt with the next hit to your solar plexus!  Having back packed myself I can vouch for the accuracy of the way the characters interacted.  Although I admit I turned my nose up at any establishment that rough!

What’s annoyed me however, was that the author has yet again gone the independent route to publish his book.  Clearly, I don’t know the many conversations he’s had since the success of The Wronged Sons, but there’s something very very wrong with an industry that hasn’t adopted John and these two books as the next big thing.  I hope its just that he likes being independent, but he deserves international success for both books.

Despite being given an ARC a few days before publication, I happily bought the kindle version – power to the indies!

Thank you to John Marrs and THE Bookclub on FB for the ARC in return for an honest review