Saturday, 15 January 2022

Cold to the Touch

Finished January 10
Cold to the Touch by Frances Fyfield

Fyfield is one of the queens of the psychological suspense novel and this one is no exception. The central character here is Sarah Fortune , a woman who has made a career out of helping men overcome a variety of issues and build relationships. This is the sixth book in the series featuring Sarah. Here she has a younger friend, Jessica, who she encounters one early morning in London and takes back to her flat. She tries to find out what is going on with Jessica, discovering only that Jessica had gone to the Smithfield meat market in hopes of meeting a man she has strong feelings for and ended up making a fool of herself. Jessica is a very spontaneous, emotional young woman, and when Sarah makes an offhand remark about wanting to leave London for a cottage near the sea, Jessica immediately seizes upon it, and arranges for Sarah to rent a house that Jessica's mother owns in the small village of Pennyvale, where Jessica grew up.
As Sarah enjoys the village, spending time walking through the countryside, watching the people, and the sea, she stays in touch with Jessica, and tries to find out why Jessica feels she can't come home, and also tries to advise Jessica about this mysterious man she can't seem to get over. Sarah hasn't yet engaged directly with Jessica's mother who seems to be a sad figure, unhappy and yet somehow still involved in many of the village goings on. 
When Jessica tells Sarah that she will come visit, and never arrives, Sarah must go back to London, looking for the clues for Jessica's fate, and trying to find her mystery man. 
Sarah is a very interesting character, a woman who is open-minded, intelligent, and kind. She seems to have good relationships with the men she's been involved with previously, and is attractive to men in general. She has good instincts, and pays attention to details. She is a good friend and cares about people. 
And yet she can also be ruthless when needed, and calculating. 
I really enjoyed both the characters here (Andrew the local vicar, and Jeremy the butcher's helper in particular in addition to Sarah) and found the plot quite intriguing. A great read. 

Between a Book and a Hard Place

Finished January 5
Between a Book and a Hard Place by Denise Swanson

This is part of a series of books set in the small town of Shadow Bend, Missouri. The main character, Devereaux (Dev) Sinclair runs the local five-and-dime store, which also has a soda fountain. She moved back to town for family reasons leaving a career in the investment industry. When Dev was sixteen, her father Kern went to jail (for a crime he didn't commit) and her mother Yvette left town, dropping Dev at her paternal grandmother' Birdies house as she left. 
Now Dev's dad works at her store and both of them live with Birdie. Dev has a few close friends: Poppy who runs a local nightclub called Gossip Club, and who is estranged from her own father, the local police chief; Ronni, who owns the local bed and breakfast; and Boone, who is on the town council and hopes to find funding to reopen the local library.
Dev also has a couple of boyfriends, and is struggling to choose between them. One is Noah, a local doctor who was her high school boyfriend, but who dumped her when they both went off to college. The other is Jake, a former US-marshall, who now lives on a neighbouring farm, helping out his aging uncle. 
Now Yvette is back in town with her latest husband Jett, it looks like the local library will be getting funding, and a strange professor claims to see lights from UFOs in the local area. But when Jett turns up dead, Dev must not only protect her family by finding out who the killer was, but also take on other local issues. 
A light read with a lot of side plots that will likely lead to more possibilities for future books in the series. 

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

The Apothecary's Curse

Finished January 3
The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara Barnett

This story has mystery, pain and suffering, romance, and friendship. Gaelan Erceldoune is an apothecary in Victoria London, working in Smithfield and helping the poor as best he can. He has a dedicated clientele who depend on him. But he is threatened by a man who controls much of the crime going on in his neighbourhood, and has isolated himself lately from his colleagues after the death of his wife and child. When a former acquaintance, Simon Bell, comes to him in desperation for a remedy for his wife's illness, he gives in and supplies a medication he has never created before. When it doesn't work as expected, Simon takes the remainder of the flask, and finds himself changed in an unexpected way.
When his world is destroyed shortly thereafter, and he becomes an object of experimentation in Bedlam, he nearly loses his mind. When Simon eventually learns of Gaelan's situation, he saves him, taking him into his own home, and requests a solution to the problem he himself now finds himself in. 
Revealing his own secrets, Gaelan and Simon join together to search for the book that Gaelan has been entrusted with by his father. 
By 2016, the two are still searching, and Simon follows every clue he can, growing ever more desperate. When Gaelan's actions put him in danger of revealing his secret to the world, he finds himself helped by a woman he never expected.
This is a story of cruelty, greed, and man's inhumanity to each other. But there are pockets of hope, of selflessness, and of true caring. It is a story of magic, but one less unbelievable than most. 
Gaelan is a man who loves strongly, and who cares not only about those close to him, but for all humanity, and his sufferings and resulting PTSD haunt him throughout his life. 
I found myself drawn into this book, not wanting to put it down, hoping that the characters would find some kind of happiness. 


Finished January 3
Hidden by Fern Michaels

This is the first book I've read by Fern Michaels, and I was surprised how badly written it was. She is an established author with a large fan base, which led me to suppose that she was a good writer. I plan to read at least one of her earlier books to try her again to see if this is an outlier for her, but if it isn't, I certainly won't be recommending her to readers. 
This book follows a few characters: brother and sister Cullen and Luna who have broken away from parental expectations to do what they want, for him furniture restoration, for her a cafe and psychic readings. There is a lot of backstory for her, less for him. She met a police officer several years ago when a small child was lost and she helped find her, and developed a crush on him, and has worked with him a few times since, but the relationship never developed on a personal level. This part just seemed odd.With such a strong reaction from her, why did she do nothing to show her feelings. She talks much younger than she is and a lot of the conversations in the book are very stilted. 
There are a wealthy couple, stereotypically evil, but not very smart, who are looking for something that they think may be hidden in a piece of furniture they disposed of. Their actions are not well planned, and they seem to be very flat characters. They hire a detective to search for a woman, and he appears for a while and then is dropped from the plot. 
The woman they are searching for appears and she seems more normal, but still not well-developed. As the storylines come together at the end, a lot of things happen without being documented in the book and it is wrapped up very quickly, especially given all the description and backstory earlier.
Not a winner. This is supposed to be the first book in a new series. Hopefully an editor gets involved before the next one. The cover art seems to have no connection to the plot either.

Sunday, 2 January 2022

Sign-Up for 2022 What's In a Name Reading Challenge

I've done this challenge a few times. It is hosted here

This challenge has six prompts and you have to read a book to match each to complete it. For 2022, the prompts are: 

* Compound word

* Speed

* Person and their description

* Mythical being

* Season

* Colour

TBR 22 in '22 Reading Challenge Sign-Up


This challenge is hosted here

The aim of this challenge is to read books you already own to clear them off your shelves and make room for new ones. I certainly have a lot of books on my shelves unread, so this is a perfect challenge for me to join. 

2022 European Reading Challenge Sign-Up

 The goal is to read 5 books set in different European countries. The challenge is hosted here

I've done this challenge for several years now and always enjoy it. I'm looking forward to seeing if I get some less common countries this year, maybe ones I haven't done before.