Single for the Summer

This is a perfect feel good summer read from Mandy Baggot and a definite one for the suitcase. I have never been to Corfu but it is clear the author loves the place and I now feel I should go there. The imagery is so vivid I can picture the island clearly and can almost smell the sea.

Single for the Summer: The perfect feel-good romantic comedy set on a Greek island Tess Parks has made up her mind: love isn’t for her.
When it comes to dating she has one rule: after six weeks with a guy, she ends it. So when her heartbroken best friend invites her for a girly getaway in Corfu, Tess is sure she can stick to their pact to stay single for the summer.

But then she meets the gorgeous restaurateur Andras
To keep his overbearing mother off his back, Tess agrees to pretend to date him. But as the two spend time together, Tess begins to realise that this fake relationship is starting to feel like the best one she’s ever had…

Andras is very sexy – how do I know this without seeing him?  Because Mandy Baggot had him embedded in my mind’s eye from the moment he started doing pull ups on the door frame while shirtless!! It’s probably a good job there is no picture – not sure my hormones could take it. Initially I thought he was a bit of a wimp by not standing up to his mother, but he is just being a good son who doesn’t want to upset her.

Tess has some very weird ideas- coke with 3 sugars! My teeth hurt just thinking about it. She also refuses to walk anywhere barefoot, which seems a bit neurotic but we do get to find out the reason why eventually. She doesn’t know what she wants, everything was clear before she came to Corfu but as the days pass she starts to re-evaluate her life.

There is a great cast of supporting characters providing lots of humour along the way. The Greek wedding of Andras’ brother takes up a lot of his time and some of the escapades had me laughing out loud. The conversations between the characters in the wedding party are great, although his mother is a bit scary.

Sonya of course plays a large part in this book and helps Tess to see the beauty of Corfu while dealing with her own uncertain relationship.

And Hector definitely deserves a mention – how did he keep escaping?

This is a perfect feel good summer read from Mandy Baggot and a definite one for the suitcase. I have never been to Corfu but it is clear the author loves the place and I now feel I should go there. The imagery is so vivid I can picture the island clearly and can almost smell the sea.

I have read all of the author’s books and can honestly say her last couple have been excellent, and this is no exception. If you are looking for a romantic read that will have you laughing as well, look no further. I loved it.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Mandy Baggot
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Ebury Press
  • Genre: Chick Lit
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Deadmen Walking

The author, as always, does a great job of immersing the reader in the setting, and Devyl like all her heroes is super sexy and definitely not someone I would turn away if he came knocking. He has a lot of secrets and suffered scorn and hatred from Marcelina, rather than expose himself. He is focused on revenge, but like all the Deadmen, he is hoping for redemption.

Deadmen Walking: Dark-Hunter: Deadman's Cross To catch evil, it takes evil. Enter Devyl Bane – an ancient dark warlord returned to the human realm as one of the most notorious pirates in the New World. A man of many secrets, Bane makes a pact with Thorn – an immortal charged with securing the worst creations the ancient gods ever released into our world. Those powers have been imprisoned for eons behind enchanted gates . . . gates that are beginning to buckle. At Thorn’s behest, Bane takes command of a crew of Deadmen: humanity’s last hope to restore the gates.

But things are never so simple. And one of Bane’s biggest problems is the ship they sail upon. For the Sea Witch isn’t just a vessel, she’s also a woman born of an ancient people he wronged – a woman who is also sister to their primary target. Now Marcelina, the Sea Witch, must choose. Either she remains loyal to her evil sister and watches humanity fall, or she puts her faith in an enemy who has already betrayed her. Her people over the totality of humanity? Let’s hope Bane can sway her favour. . .

This is a new series based in the Dark-Hunter world, although there is very little about them other than the odd mention. It was a bit confusing initially as it is set 300 years before the contemporary series. When Acheron was mentioned, there was nothing about his current situation (but that makes sense as it wouldn’t have happened yet!) This is a good thing however, for people who have never read the Dark-Hunter series as there are no spoilers!

The author, as always, does a great job of immersing the reader in the setting, and Devyl like all her heroes is super sexy and definitely not someone I would turn away if he came knocking. He has a lot of secrets and suffered scorn and hatred from Marcelina, rather than expose himself. He is focused on revenge, but like all the Deadmen, he is hoping for redemption.

The romance between the protagonists took a while to materialise, but surprisingly for me I didn’t mind.  This is probably because there was so much else to think about, plus a lot of scene setting for future books. As the book progressed the secrets came tumbling out, and Devyl became more exposed than he has ever been, while Marcelina has to re-evaluate everything she thought she knew.

As this is the first in a new series there is a lot of background information and lots of new races to learn about, and as such, I did find it hard to keep who was who clear in my mind at times.  Once I got into the story though,  I was hooked and read it in one sitting.

A great new cast of characters who I cannot wait to find out more about, especially Thorn, who seems to be to the Deadmen what Acheron is to the Dark-Hunters.

Overall it is great to be excited again about a new series, I really enjoyed this and look forward to the next one.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Series: Deadman's Cross (1)
  • Format: Hardback
  • Publisher: Piatkus
  • Genre: Paranormal Romance
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

 

The Lucy Kincaid Series

I absolutely love these novels and cannot stress enough how great I think they are. Each book manages to drag my emotions through the wringer and the last couple in particular have had me sobbing.

Allison Brennan is an author that is new to me, who I discovered about 6 weeks ago. I devoured the books so quickly I felt it would be better to review this series as a whole rather than individual books.

The Lucy Kincaid series consists of the following books :

  • Love is Murder (0.5)
  • Love me to Death
  • Kiss me, Kill me
  • If I should die
  • Silenced
  • Stalked
  • Reckless (novella)
  • Stolen
  • Cold Snap
  • Dead Heat
  • Best Laid Plans
  • No Good Deed
  • The Lost Girls

NB: I have read all of them except Love is Murder and Stolen.

Lucy Kincaid is an aspiring FBI agent who survived a horrific attack as  a teenager but is determined not to let it ruin her life. She comes from a family who fights injustices both on the right and sometimes wrong side of the law.

This series starts while Lucy is in the application process for the FBI and moves through to her working as an FBI agent- and there are more books to come – yay!! It also focuses on her developing relationship with Sean Rogan and the trouble they manage to get into together.

I absolutely love these novels and cannot stress enough how great I think they are. Each book manages to drag my emotions through the wringer and the last couple in particular have had me sobbing.

While Lucy does have emotional scars, she is a very strong character who is constantly fighting against the protectiveness of her family. They think her earlier experiences mean she is unable to deal with the challenges of everyday life. Sean is a security expert and super hot 😍 but comes with his own baggage, but together they are a formidable force.  Sean does not always work within the law and Lucy does not like working outside it, so while he usually ends up involved in her investigations, the results are not always positive.

The mysteries in each book are complex and intriguing and I love the way both Lucy and Sean’s families are often involved with solving/ interfering in the various cases. As the series progresses we see more of their involvement, in particular Kane Rogan and Jack Kincaid who both work as mercenaries, but often end up helping the FBI. We also see Lucy working with partners other than Sean and as she is having to adapt to their various styles, this does not always go well!

While each book has a stand alone story, I recommend reading them in order to truly appreciate the character nuances and development. Having said that, I have not read Stolen and do not feel I missed anything. If you can’t read them in order, I recommend that you definitely read ‘Best Laid Plans’ before ‘No Good Deed’ as they do follow on.  There isn’t a cliffhanger in ‘Best Laid Plans’ but these two are by far the best in the series.

The latest book I have read is The Lost Girls, and again this is brilliant. I was completely immersed and was even thinking about the book when I wasn’t able to read it! It is very emotional and has some very dark moments. There is a lot going on and tension builds between Lucy and Sean as they both deal with the emotional fallout from their respective cases.

I absolutely cannot wait for the next in the series which I have pre-ordered – the only disadvantage is that these books are not available on kindle in the U.K. 😒 And the new book comes from America so having to get it 3 weeks later than release.

This series is, in my opinion, as good as if not better than the In Death series by J.D. Robb – if you know me, you know that is high praise! Hopefully these will be available on Kindle in the U.K. soon so that a new set of readers can discover this amazing set of books.

If you wanted to read the series before this, where Lucy is attacked (set 6 years before these novels occur) you need to read the Evil trilogy, but this is not essential to appreciate the Lucy Kincaid books.

  • Speak No Evil
  • See no Evil
  • Fear no Evil ( this is the one with Lucy involved)

I discovered this author by accident but am so glad I did!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Allison Brennan
  • Series: Lucy Kincaid
  • Genre: romantic suspense

 

 

 

 

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New York Actually

New York, Actually An agony aunt seen as an expert at relationships but with no relationship of her own and a cynical divorce lawyer who thinks relationships are a bad idea. Meet Molly and Daniel – what could go wrong!

Molly only has one love in her life – her Dalmatian Valentine and no interest in developing another. Daniel doesn’t own a dog but decides the only way to get to know the girl he sees with the Dalmatian is to get one. He borrows a dog from his sister and sets about getting to know Molly.

Sarah Morgan has again created a wonderful story with great characters – and I’m not just talking about the human ones. The interactions between the characters is believable and real and I love watching Daniel gradually turning into a dog lover against his better judgement.

As always there are some bumps in the road as secrets are inevitably uncovered as both characters are hiding some big ones! But the romance is perfect without being over the top and humour is threaded throughout. It is emotional in places and one of the things I love about Sarah’s books is her ability to make me feel everything along with the characters.

There are links with the authors previous New York trilogy but it is not required to have read them first. As someone who has read them however it is great to see snippets of how those characters are doing.

This book does not disappoint and if you are looking for an uplifting, feel good book to get you through the dark, cold winter days I highly recommend starting with this.

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Sarah Morgan
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

As the Crow Flies

If you like short, sharp police procedurals, and don’t mind too much about flat characters and awkward dialogue, there’s enough here to keep you entertained for an evening, but only just.

As the Crow Flies (The DI Nick Dixon Crime Series Book 1) I fancied a police procedural without any weird magical stuff, so I gave this a shot (Kindle version, as part of a free 7 day Kindle Unlimited trial).  DI Nick Dixon has recently moved back to his home town, leaving the fast pace of the Metropolitan police force behind.  It’s early days, and while he hasn’t made any obvious enemies in his new role, he’s not making friends fast either.  With hardly any furniture in his house, few friends other than his dog, but plenty of memories of the area, his day is about to be ruined as he becomes involved in investigating the death of his one time climbing partner and friend, Jake.

As the Crow Flies is Damien Boyd’s first novel and it’s pretty short; at 173 pages it took me about 3 hours to finish.  The pace is flat, the dialogue is stilted and the prose is extremely workmanlike.  Half way through (and I was surprised to find myself half way through) I wondered if the author was in the police force, because most of the novel is written in the style of a police statement.  DI Nick goes here, has this conversation, records these facts, then goes and buys some chips.  There’s very little character development, and the prose is very light on emotional content.  Perhaps the dialogue is accurate in the sense that it is how people talk in police briefing rooms, but it doesn’t work very well in a novel format if that’s the case.

The plot is reasonably simple, but engaging, with one suspicious death leading to various interesting events.  It’s just that the delivery is so straight and flat that it’s hard to care about anyone involved.  Boyd’s clearly spent some time rock-climbing, and there are plenty of climbing references (many unintelligible to me) throughout, with descriptions of some nice climbing locations which I assume are real.  If you like climbing, you’ll get more from the book than a non-climber.

To give Boyd his due, I did finish the book, I was interested enough in the crime to keep going, especially when I realised how short it was going to be, but honestly it has the feeling of a first novel in need of much more depth.

Boyd, it turns out, is a former solicitor and I can’t help but wonder if that is where the style comes from – having had to spend so much time writing out factual accounts of events.  There are plenty more books in this series, so people are buying them, and I hope that Boyd manages to loosen up his style as the books progress.  I’m just not sure I’m going to immediately turn to them as my next read.  I’m giving this a pretty low score generally, but the book has plenty of five star reviews on Amazon.  If you like short, sharp police procedurals, and don’t mind too much about flat characters and awkward dialogue, there’s enough here to keep you entertained for an evening, but only just.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Damien Boyd
  • Series: The DI Nick Dixon Crime Series (1)
  • Format: Kindle
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
  • Genre: Crime
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

The Hanging Tree

The Hanging Tree is like a gentle, rolling hillside. It’s a pleasant walk in the summer with a little bit of exertion towards the end, but nothing you can’t handle before settling down for a nice pint and a pie.

The Hanging Tree: The Sixth PC Grant Mystery I’ve read a number of different urban fantasy series.  Jim Butcher’s Dresden stuff, Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books and Simon Green’s Nightside stories among them.  Along with Aaronovitch‘s Rivers of London, they all have some stuff in common; a male protagonist with some supernatural ability who is investigating crimes or tracking down people or spirits.  In the case of Dresden and John Taylor (Nightside), they’re private investigators, Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist, and in Ben’s books, we have Peter Grant, a police officer and practitioner (wizard).  In all four series, there’s some crime or incident to resolve against the backdrop of a deeper and darker mystery which deepens further as more books are released.  It’s a common format and it risks getting a little bit tiring.

However, despite the similarities the books all have very different flavours.  Jim Butcher writes loud roller-coasters with explosive conclusions and long lasting impacts.  Mike Carey’s books are a bleak look at human nature and how we live, or don’t live, with our actions.  Simon Green writes weird fantastical stories in weird places with weird outcomes and big characters.

Ben Aaronovitch it would seem, writes very British urban fantasy.  It’s all very polite and erudite and intensely focussed on not making a fuss.

The Hanging Tree is the sixth instalment in the Rivers of London series (not counting the graphic novels), and it’s a very fine read indeed.  Don’t take my comment about it being polite as a negative, it’s just a very different feel to the rest of the urban fantasy market.  The police element of the story is as strong as ever here and I love it.  One of my major objections to a lot of police serial stuff is the lack of banal activity, actual policing and the proper consequences of actions.  In The Hanging Tree, we get a clear view of how the police handle real crimes and situations, and although they’re clearly exaggerated in order to handle Falcon Incidents (i.e. weird magical shit) it feels real, grounded and truly interesting.  Peter and his colleagues fill in reports and do interviews, they follow suspects and only actually arrest them if they have some decent evidence.  There’s very little shoot first and deal with the fallout, and a lot of risk reviews and tactical planning.  It’s not mired in detail, and so it’s not boring, but it is present and it makes the world feel so much more real.

Ben’s descriptions of London, architecture and history fascinate me throughout the books, and make the location a character in its own right.  The source of the name of the series (pun intended), the rivers of London, are enticing and interesting and provide a real foil for the rest of the characters and stories.  The other characters are well developed where necessary, as well as interesting and engaging.  They’re also, it seems to me, representative of the feminist, multi-cultural, multi-sexual nature of London.  I’m not the right person to say how well that’s handled, but it’s the first time I’ve read an urban fantasy book where the male protagonist isn’t white and where (in this case) the strong female sidekick is a modern Muslim.

Dialog is witty and sharp, with some laugh out loud moments and some great character interactions.  The plot is pretty light again, however, and really plays second fiddle to the characters and the broader story arc.  As a result, the plot in The Hanging Tree very quickly turns towards the deeper mystery in the series, and doesn’t really carry any interest on its own.  Personally, I didn’t mind because I enjoyed the progression of the main story, but some people might find it a little light, and it’s very much not stand-alone.  You’re going to have to read the previous books to understand this one.

You could argue that The Hanging Tree is too genteel for urban fantasy.  There’s certainly a gruesome death or two, there’s a magical battle, and a flying car, but it’s so very calm.  I think that’s a result of Peter Grant’s narration, and it’s clearly an intentional choice by Ben.  However, if you’re looking for giant explosions and epic magical battles, you’ll need to look elsewhere, because The Hanging Tree is more personal, smaller, and written for TV rather than Hollywood.  I don’t think it suffers for it, but if you’re not expecting it, you’re going to be left feeling slightly flat.

A stand out element for me personally, is that Peter Grant isn’t the most powerful good guy in the story.  He’s not even the best cop.  He’s just a guy, trying his best, surrounded by other good coppers and some very powerful players.  Sure he can hold his own in the fights, but he’s not Harry Dresden, growing increasingly powerful and increasingly hard to beat.  Ben keeps him grounded, surrounded by reality, with enough magical power to deliver surprises, but not so much that the enemies have to become world threatening.

I’ve often described the pace and mood of a book with a simple line graph.  Time along the bottom, excitement or pace on the y-axis.  Many books have lines which look like roller-coaster rides, or castle crenellations, or steep hills rising to a crescendo.  The Hanging Tree line is like a gentle, rolling hillside starting and ending in pretty much the same place.  It’s a pleasant walk in the summer with a little bit of exertion towards the end, but nothing you can’t handle before settling down for a nice pint and a pie.

Ben ensures you care about the characters, you’re interested in the story progression and you want to keep turning the pages.  It’s fascinating, engaging and interesting, but it’s not the kind of book that’ll blow your socks off.

You should buy it and read it though, because it’s the best version of magic in the real world I’ve ever read.  Also, Muslim Ninja.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Ben Aaronovitch
  • Series: Rivers of London (6)
  • Format: Hardback
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Site updates

As part of reinvigorating the website and getting back to adding content, I’m taking steps to make the site easier to maintain.  This means changing the theme and various plugins, and so over the next few days the site appearance will be in flux.  Some features may not work correctly for a short time until things settle down, but hopefully it won’t last long.

Thanks for your patience.

The Obsession

As with all books set in a small town there is a great cast of characters and the writing made every single one of them seem believable.

The Obsession Naomi Carson is a survivor. As a child her family was torn apart by a shocking crime. It could have destroyed her, but Naomi has grown up strong, with a passion for photography that has taken her all round the world.

Now she has decided to put down roots…but as Naomi plans for the future, her past is catching up with her. Someone in town knows her terrifying secret – and won’t let her forget it…

This is another great book by Nora Roberts, I was hooked from page one, as 11 year old Naomi follows her father through the woods. The description in those early pages was gripping. The first third of the book focuses on Naomi during adolescence, dealing with the aftermath, while the rest focuses on her putting down roots and trying to come to terms with her past.

As with all books set in a small town there is a great cast of characters and the writing made every single one of them seem believable. This book focuses on the difficulties Naomi faced growing up and her inability to trust others, the actual murder element comes in much later than you would normally expect. I worked out who the killer was pretty much immediately but I think this book is as much about Naomi’s journey and her courage as it is about the suspense.

No Nora Roberts book would be complete without a gorgeous hero and Xander fits the bill no question! I liked the way he didn’t allow Naomi to push him away and called her out when he felt she was doing so. Strong, sexy and supportive. I must give a mention to the dog – Tag. I loved him and he was a hero in his own right.

My only criticism is that the ending felt a bit rushed, but it is still a great book and highly recommended. I have to confess I read it in one sitting – deep into the night.

Nora Roberts is one of my go to authors whatever genre she writes in and under whatever pseudonym. If you haven’t tried her yet you should give her a go!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Nora Roberts
  • Format: Hardback
  • Publisher: Piatkus
  • Genre: Romantic Suspense
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

Why do I keep books I have read?

I was talking about my books the other day with a friend who asked what the point was of keeping a book I have already read. I said to re-read of course to which they asked me why?

Well this made me think a bit, why do I re-read books when I have so many other books still yet to read? For me the answer is twofold, firstly, when a new book in a series comes out it may have been a year since the last one so I will re-read the previous book. If it is a series I love I will read all the books before starting the new one – I am a very quick reader so this does not take as long as it sounds! The second reason is that sometimes I want to read something I know I will love, I might not be in the mood to read something new or be in an odd mood reading wise. For me then sometimes books are like comfort blankets, old friends into which I can escape.

Over the past few months I have re-read a number of series including the JD Robb In Death series, The Wallflowers by Lisa Kleypas, the entire Cynster series by Stephanie Laurens and Gaelen Foleys Knight Miscellany series. Clearly I have been primarily in a historical romance mood!

Ultimately you never know when you will want to re-read a book – with a kindle it is easy as they are always there but there is something wonderful about walking into a room and seeing shelves of books floor to ceiling. I can escape to anywhere I want to in the past, present, future and even to worlds that don’t exist – or do they!

Would love to know what other people do, do you keep books or once read do they go forever?

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Before the Awakening

Star Wars The Force Awakens: Before the Awakening: Meet the Heroes of Star Wars The Force Awakens I was really looking forward to the new Star Wars movie, although there was without a doubt some element of fear.  Would it live up to the hype, would it erase the bad taste left by parts of the prequels, would it really deliver everything the nerd in me wanted?  Why you might ask is this relevant to the book and a book review?  Well, like the origin Star Wars movie, the new one assumes you know a bunch of things you have no way of knowing.  It trusts the viewers to fill in the blanks.  For completely new viewers, this is really easy, there’s a resistance, and the New Order, and some other stuff.  However, for people who saw the original, it raises a few questions.  What happens after Return of the Jedi to give rise to these new groups, is a good example of one question you might find yourself asking.  There are others, but they may spoil the film or the book so I won’t mention them.

If you look on the ‘net you’ll find people asking a lot of these questions, and for some people it has reduced the enjoyment of the film.  There is a solution, and this book is it.

Before the Awakening is a triptych really, if books ever can be, with three sections, covering three major characters from the new film.  Each section is essentially a short story in its own right.  We have Fin, Rey and Poe (in that order).  It’s fair to say, without spoiling too much, that their paths do not cross in the book, but the action all takes place presumably in parallel, and all of it in close proximity to the start of the movie.  The prose is plain, workmanlike, unadorned.  The delivery feels like narration, you get the sense that someone is telling you what has happened, describing it to you, I’m not sure if that was intentional or not.  Normally novels try and embed you in the story, but this feels remote.  Not without some element of emotion, but just as if you’re truly watching it rather than being in it.

The three sections focus totally on their respective characters, they are in every scene.  There is a little bit of character development for each of the three, and just enough extra background to really bring their story in focus in the film.

This is a pretty short book, 216 pages in the paperback, with about half a dozen of those being artwork.  Given the limited scope, the style and the length, it felt very short as well.  Not necessarily a bad thing given the intent, but I did feel like I could have done with it being twice as long perhaps.

There were a small number of emotional moments, some laughs and some interesting reveals (although given how much you learn about the characters in the movie, not that many).  The most interesting bits outside of the characters are present during Poe’s section, where we learn more about the Resistance and the First Order and I found those very interesting.  The most emotional bits also come within the last character’s section (Poe), and his story definitely got the best deal.  There’s one moment where Poe is flying with other X-Wing pilots, and they all report in using the phrase, “Rapier Two, standing by.” (or Rapier One, etc.)

That moment dropped me right into the first film and sent shivers up my spine, but there were sadly too few of those moments throughout the whole book.

All in all, Before the Awakening is very easy to read, light on emotion or depth, but a good introduction to three of the main characters in the film.  It answers questions you might have if you’ve already seen the movie, and it sets some stuff up ready for you if you haven’t.  My enjoyment of the film has increased after having read the book, even without watching the film again.  Well worth it for Star Wars fans, but not a good introduction to the franchise for someone who’s never experienced it before.

May the Force be with you.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Greg Rucka
  • Illustrator: Phil Noto
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Egmont
  • Genre: Sci-fi
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)