The Autumn Throne (Eleanor of Aquitaine #3) by Elizabeth Chadwick

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Synopsis: England, 1176 Imprisoned by her husband, King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England, refuses to let her powerful husband bully her into submission, even as he forces her away from her children and her birthright. Freed only by Henry’s death, Eleanor becomes dowager Queen of England. But the competition for land and power that Henry stirred up among his sons has intensified to a dangerous rivalry. Eleanor will need every ounce of courage and fortitude as she crosses the Alps in winter to bring Richard his bride, and travels medieval Europe to ransom her beloved son. But even her indomitable spirit will be tested to its limits as she attempts to keep the peace between her warring sons, and find a place in the centres of power for her daughters.

My review: I seem to be developing quite a taste for royal historical novels. I’m slowly expanding my reading beyond that of the Plantagenet/Tudor times and that’s one of the two reasons I downloaded this as an arc from netgalley.

The other reason was more personal. I’m keen on genealogy and Eleanor (or Alienor in the book) is actually my 25th great grandmother! I know this is a work of fiction but as with many of these based on extensive research so fascinating to discover what this woman (and great granddad King John) was potentially like. And what a woman. I love the idea that well into her 70’s she was still extensively travelling and being involved in politics. 

I really struggled to like eldest son Richard (Lionheart) and wondering if that’s latent DNA of being related to his brother. It made me chuckle anyway. 

In terms of the actual book, it’s a long story covering 30 years and sometimes I felt that time span. It’s 520 pages (according to Goodreads) and I couldn’t seem to read at my usual pace. I wouldn’t say the story dragged, it did keep my attention but I struggled with the length on this one.

The writing is excellent though. You can tell there has been a lot of research as the characters are very well rounded and fit the personalities we know of them. Alienor is a very strong woman but the author isn’t afraid to show her more vulnerable side. It’s a fascinating insight into a woman who once travelled by horseback to Jerusalem when women were meant to be at home producing heirs and also gave us a couple of iconic kings and an incredible dynasty. 

My first book with this author but I’ll be going back to read the first two books to see if that Jerusalem journey is recounted as it’s caught my interest and to see the other works this author has done. Highly recommended

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Don’t Doubt the Magic!: The Story of Bernice O’Hanlon Part Two by Cathie Devitt

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Synopsis: Bernice O’Hanlon is a contemporary witch with a troubled but determined soul, raised on a small Scottish island and now living in Glasgow. Follow Bernice as she tackles the issues which face her in her search for contentment. Can she finally use the tools she has always possessed and take the leap into her potential? Don’t Doubt the Magic is the second book in Cathie Devitt’s trilogy of novellas about the life of Bernice O’Hanlon.

My review: The blurb at the beginning of this book says that although all three books tel the story you don’t need to have read the first one to follow the plot. I kind of disagree a little bit. The action picks up straight after the events of the first book and there are so many people in the first few chapters that it took a while for me to figure out the relationships between everyone. This may have been explained in book 1.

And Bernice is one angry woman. In fact for the first half of this book she’s pretty much unlikable because until then it’s not really explained why she’s so angry and nasty to people. Once I knew the problem I could see why but I think just a few paragraphs as a preface would have cleared all the above up and made everything a lot less bitty for me. 

The book itself is very short. I’m not sure why it’s released in three parts when it could easily make one good full size book with three sections. 

Being short it’s quick to read and you can read this in one day. The story has good promise and I would probably go back and read the first one to get the full picture before finishing (and I do want to know the final outcomes). I get the feeling there are a few more bombshells to come especially the true identity of the mysterious Liam and just what happened to Bernice’s child. This is where I could definitely have done with a preface as I’m not sure if he died or was stolen. He just appears to have been ‘missing’ for 20 years.

Overall it’s not that bad a book and has enough to get me to finish the series. 

Free arc from netgalley

Wolf Hunter (Arctic Brotherhood #5) by Jane Godman

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Synopsis:
Six months ago, the Arctic Brotherhood was torn apart when a respected former member, Hendrik Rickard was murdered. Cindy Harper, Hendrik’s best friend and housekeeper, is still struggling to come to terms with his death when she feels an invisible presence watching her. Alone and frightened, she turns to the only man who can help her.

Sebastian Novak is the maverick of the Arctic Brotherhood. Infuriated at the lack of progress they have made toward defeating their sworn enemy, Chastel, Sebastian wants to go on the attack. The discovery that Cindy is being targeted, increases his fury further. Forced to deny his feelings for Cindy in the past, Sebastian is overwhelmed by the strength of his desire for her as he protects her from this new threat.

Sebastian and Cindy succumb to the intensity of the attraction between them, but their lives are thrown into turmoil by a series of unexpected events. Before they can claim the happiness they have long denied themselves, they must face the evil mastermind determined to destroy the brotherhood.

My review: I really do like this series. It’s a regular paranormal male meets female wolf, realises they are life mates and overcome all the obstacles that they’ve kept hidden for centuries. The difference with this set of books is the link to Norse mythology.

The brotherhood were created by the goddess Angrboda as a kind of werewolf superhero team meant to protect the Arctic race of werewolves from enemies such as Fenrir the giant wolf (son of Angrboda and Loki). This is where the books originality comes in and adds just that bit extra to your run of the mill romances.

It’s as well written as the other four books. It’s a quick read and perfect for those nights when you’ve had a long day at work and just want to unwind with a good book. Being the fifth in the series the characters are now well rounded and as each book focuses on one member of the brotherhood you get some really good character development for that particular one.

It’s been a great series so far and I’m about to start the next one. Much recommended series

Free arc from netgalley

Wolf Leader (Arctic Brotherhood #6) by Jane Godman

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Synopsis: Their sworn enemy is dead, but the Arctic Brotherhood can’t relax. Fenrir, the Norse god of destruction is still determined to destroy the world. Vigo Durand agrees to lead the team against the most feared werewolf the world has ever known, but dark secrets from his past are threatening to catch up with him.

Amber Merova has been on the run for the last five years ago. When she meets Vigo, her werewolf mating impulse almost overwhelms her human instinct for survival. Almost. Feisty, determined, and hostile, Amber initially turns down Vigo’s offer to stay with the Brotherhood. When it looks like the men who murdered her pack have caught up with her, she has no choice but to take his offer of protection.

Both seem damaged beyond repair, but, as they work together to bring down Fenrir, they discover hidden ties that bind them together. Before they can look to the future, they must unravel the mysteries of the past.

My review: The final book in what turned out to be a really enjoyable series. Focusing on the last of the brotherhood Vigo as he not only struggles to put his demons to bed but learn to lead. 

Not only is he leading but the newest recruit to the brotherhood is the mate he never knew existed. Again the romance is typical of any paranormal book and the unique selling point in this is the Norse mythology and evil werewolf Fenrir. He also thinks new member Amber should be his mate. 

There are lots of twists in this one and even though this is the last in the series, all the brotherhood are loved up there’s a tiny little loophole that can always lead to more books should the author ever get the urge. 

It’s a fun series, the books aren’t too taxing.The characters are all enjoyable and I would really recommend them

Free arc from netgalley

The Ghosts of Galway (Jack Taylor #13) by Ken Bruen

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Synopsis: Jack Taylor is recovering from a mistaken medical diagnosis and a failed suicide attempt. In need of money, and with former cop on his resume, Jack has been hired as a night-shift security guard. But his Ukrainian boss has Jack in mind for some off-the-books work. He wants Jack to find what some claim to be the first true book of heresy, The Red Book, currently in the possession of a rogue priest who is hiding out in Galway after fleeing a position at the Vatican. Despite Jack’s distaste for priests of any stripe, the money is too good to turn down. Em, the many-faced woman who has had a vice on Jack’s heart and mind for the past two years, reappears and turns out to be entangled with the story of The Red Book, too, leading Jack down ever more mysterious and lethal pathways.
It seems all sides are angling for a piece of Jack Taylor, but as The Ghosts of Galway twists toward a violent end, he is increasingly plagued by ghosts–by the disposable and disposed of in a city filled with as much darkness as the deepest corners of Jack’s own mind.

My review: This book was far too short! I’m just going to have to read the previous two and any other works to enjoy more of this author. So another new author to me and another back catalogue to be added to the TBR pile.

It just flows so well. The writing is different to many books I’ve read so far with it’s lyrical style and breaking sentences

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Jack, is an ex-Garda turned PI. At least I think he is, it’s never worded that way. More that Jack is known for getting things done, finding lost items and generally getting beaten up (and kicking the bad guys too). There’s such a mix of characters in here: Ukrainian gangsters that ended up having a smaller part that at first thought, various priests and a femme fatale that plays every side but especially her own

The whole thing is a wild ride, really enjoyable and I look forward to more.

Free arc from netgalley

 

The Diet Detox by Brooke Alpert

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Synopsis: Why Your Diet Is Making You Fat and What to Do About It: 10 Simple Rules to Help You Stop Dieting, Start Eating, and Lose the Weight for Good

My review: It took a few goes to be able to read this as the ARC from netgalley does not transfer to kindle. It’s an absolute mess when it happens and judging by the reviews a few people have fallen foul of it. However it did let me download to Adobe and I managed to read from there.

It’s an okay book. The 10 rules are simple and things that make complete sense. However if like me, they make perfect sense and yet you never use them and so are overweight and having to read these types of books!

I found one little quote fascinating in that half of the female clients Brooke has are ex-Weight Watchers members. I’ve done WW many times and it’s counterpart Slimming World and yup it gets very annoying counting and weighing that I give up. None of them ever help me get to heart of the reason for being overweight. And this doesn’t either but then she’s not claiming to be a psychologist.

A bit of a niggle – I was allowed to download this living in the UK but the food sections are aimed at those in the US. Supplements that are used we don’t have and I can’t really find the alternative. That’s not fair on the author  but the publishers should really make it clearer as it becomes half a book.

What is there that I can use looks good, the rules as I say are simple to follow and it makes for a nice kick up the bum to get you started on a healthier lifestyle.

The King’s Champion (Book 1) by Xina Marie Uhl

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Synopsis: A generation ago, a great war convulsed Cantwin. Amidst blood-soaked battles the Stormlifter kings rose up to save the kingdom by imprisoning the dark god Moleck in hell for all eternity.
Or so they thought.
Seventeen-year-old Lance thinks his life is just about perfect now that the prettiest girl in the village wants him. Sure, he dreams of fighting far off battles, but that’s nothing more than a fantasy. Until the elders order him away to find a name for himself.
In the dazzling capital, Lance navigates court intrigues with Prince Kieran’s unlikely friendship. Yet the glitter and gold obscures a dark conspiracy. Soon the two friends find themselves propelled to the edges of the world on a desperate quest. The stakes: Lance’s life, Kieran’s throne, and the survival of the Land itself.
Hunted by assassins, and haunted by the awakening of a strange and frightful power within them, they must find proof of Kieran’s claim to the throne before a dark god’s vengeance destroys them all. For the Power is summoning a champion, and it will not be denied

My review: I really enjoyed this. The fantasy style made a nice change from the many miserable dystopian Young Adult books about. And the biggie: no romance! Having the story focused on two 17 year olds and a ten year old boy on adventures meant no moping teenage girls making goo goo eyes across the wastelands with the tortured hero. And I say that as a one time teenage girl (no matter how long ago). It was a great change of pace to have a bit of boys own adventure.

As the central three characters are all learning to know each other on their journey, so we as readers find more about them as the story unfolds. Some strange things are happening to our narrator Lance as he appears to be harnessing the power of the land whenever danger is near. A bit of a surprise to all and something hopefully that will be explored more as the books are released. 

There’s a lot of action: sword fights, horse chases, everything you would expect in a fantasy series as the two older boys search for proof of their heritage and the cause of their strange links to each other. 

I was a bit disappointed it ended so quickly (yes me who hates long books wanted this to be longer!) as I was quite happy to go on reading. Overall I really enjoyed this and look forward to the next in the series

Free arc from netgalley

Return of the Magi: A heartwarming Christmas story by P.J. Tracy

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Synopsis: Emil Rice’s heart is in the right place – it’s just his hands that always seem to end up in someone else’s wallet. Facing yet another Christmas behind bars, he’s surprised when he’s offered a way out – community service at a mental health facility. Emil thinks it will be a piece of cake – but he hasn’t reckoned on two elderly inmates, who need Emil for a very special plan…

My review: This book was just adorable. A Las Vegas retelling of the story of Jesus complete with 2 wise women and one man plus a host of other characters identifiable as from the original story. 

I loved all the characters. You can see the story arc a mile off in terms of Emil and his journey but the fun is how he gets there. I really enjoyed the arc of his probation officer Foster – that is probably the most heart warming part of the story and as much as I wondered how his arc would end I didn’t guess at all. 

It’s humorous, it has delightful characters, it’s festive and it has a happy ending. After reading a ton of gritty dramas and detective stories it’s a lovely change of pace. What more could you ask for? 

Free arc from netgalley & Penguin books.

SonofaWitch! by Trysh Thompson (editor)

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Synopsis: No one is perfect—not even a witch. Witches have amazing power at their fingertips to do unbelievable things. That magic can come in really handy sometimes too. They can make someone fall in love, poison an apple to enact a sleeping curse, to banish an enemy to an alternate reality, or just to conjure up some Nutella when there is none in the house.
But what happens when those spells go horribly awry?

My review: Six quick and easy reads full of magic gone wrong. It’s a fun and simple book to read when, like me, you’re currently stuck at home ill and feeling sorry for yourself. It’s light and fluffy and not too taxing on the brain. Something that you need once in a while. 

It also works as an introduction to 6 new authors for me to explore further. It’s an entertaining read and I quite enjoyed it

Free arc from netgalley

A Kiss Before Killing: Nothing can keep the doctor away… by Keith McCarthy

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Synopsis: Edward Marsham is admitted to the Royal Infirmary having hung himself in his prison cell.  As predicted, he dies.
In the wake of several unexpected deaths at the hospital, however, Dr. Claire Woodforde suspects there is a killer amongst the staff. As Detective Chief Inspector Beverley Wharton and her new sergeant Tom Bayes begin to investigate Marsham’s death, they too start to wonder if it was natural or whether someone… helped him along.
But as they start to make headway on the case, something much more sinister comes to light.
A body is found in an empty house.
A body without its limbs. And head.
Dr. John Eisenmenger is tasked with examining the torso to uncover clues which will lead to its identity and cause of death; a grisly job even for the most hardened of pathologists.
But as the investigation unfolds, the team discovers that there is much, much worse to come, and in addition, there is growing suspicion that there is a link between the two cases.

My review: I was a bit surprised to find that there are quite a few of these books in the series and this isn’t a first one. I got the impression that most of the characters were new to each other and hadn’t worked with each other before. 

While I liked the serial killer angle and the grisly way of dealing with the corpses (liked may be the wrong word there!) there was a brief one line towards the end of a ‘Grand Plan’ and then nothing. I am assuming it’s the old story of abused becomes abuser but why the dismemberment? Why men of a certain age? It all left me a bit unsatisfied. 

Then again so many evil geniuses feel the need to explain their grand plans (before being caught natch!) that maybe the author thought they were doing something different? It was a bit annoying though. 

As was Wharton and her boss Lambert. Both quite cliched & unlikable characters. Why does the female cop always have had to sleep her way to the top? One thing that again was never explained was the antagonism between the two. He obviously hates her but why? I’m guessing that it’s explained in one of the previous stories but I would have liked a little bit of a link back to it. 

What I did like was the pace of the story. Being an unlikable ‘I want results now or you’ll lose your job’ type issuing time demands meant everything got to be tied up quite quickly and I think the writing matched the pace really well. I did like DS Bayes – he at least seems interesting and the end of the book focused on his future which threw me a bit because the synopsis ignores him completely.

Overall it’s not a bad book and I did like the story. I’m just not overly keen on the characters.

Free arc from netgalley