Hammers, Strings, and Beautiful Things by Morgan Lee Miller

Hard hitting

I was drawn to this book first by a GR friend’s review, then by the beautiful cover and finally the description. I expected much from it, yet it has to come with some warnings – the alcohol and drug abuse is written so well, that you can feel the pain coming from all sides.

I guess, even with knowing that, I hadn’t expected it to be so hard hitting. Blair might seem to come off as quite selfish, as she sinks into despair, but the truth is she’s been trying to handle anxiety and depression in an extreme way. None of her friends have any real understanding of what she’s going through, placing the blame firmly on her side, which in the beginning just makes things worse. It takes her hitting rock bottom to truly be able to find a way out, whilst completely leaving her on her own once more.

This book shows the price of fame, whilst also showing humanity at its best and worst. Whilst I can be disappointed at the reaction of the side characters to Blair’s condition, it wasn’t at all surprising considering general opinions of addiction. The only way out is with support and help, which she was forced to find herself.

Running along behind all this is the romance element. Blair opens herself up to someone new, but neither is truly able to handle all of it until she’s clean. Luckily there is a HEA to be found behind all the drama and destruction, as things pull good in the end. But considering how hard won it is, I am surprised that Blair doesn’t have any bitterness towards those that let her down whilst she was letting herself down.

For me, I did find it well written, as well as enjoyable and relatable. The only thing I personally didn’t like was the awkwardness of some of the sex scenes. They didn’t always flow as well as the rest of the book did.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Secrets and Suitors by Joanna Barker

Beautiful

Typical me, I’m behind on my reviewing again! Yet this one sticks in the mind plenty enough for me to still be able to give my thoughts and opinions on it.

I will start by saying that I usually avoid Regency romances as, quite like contemporary billionaire romances, they can be unrelatable, reading more like a fantasy world. The description and the cover sucked me in on this one and, I am relieved to say, that the writing made the story relatable. The characters felt real, fragile yet headstrong, each with their own unique characteristics.

It is hard to understand from a modern perspective a time period where men, particularly the heads of the family, very much had a final say in anything that women did. Despite having read so much, I’d hate to live without my modern freedoms. Yet here we have a young lady who is willing to test her father’s resolve so she can marry the man she loves, rather than the one that may give her the greatest comforts.

We have a great main character, accompanied by a slew of side characters who make the story even more colourful. I especially like the Countess – quiet and calculating, with a great sense of duty, but with an even greater sense of humour.

All in all, I have to say that I’m very glad that I picked this up!

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Wolf by Chris Fenwick

Needs time to grow on you

In the beginning, I was bored. The constant one-sided POV, with no intermittent dialogue, just dragged. What made it worse was that there were tense inconsistencies: moments of internal monologue in italics written in past tense, or a mixture of the two; moments when the tenses were confused amongst the rest of the story. As the story is all told from Cassidhe’s POV, you have to get used to her voice, and it didn’t warm to me at all in the beginning. Even when the first dramatic event happened, it was near impossible to empathise with her.

Things appear to change when she meets the wolves. The story starts to gain more depth, Cassidhe herself appears more interesting, as well as others that she meets. Although, even then, it takes time for the characters to appear more than one dimensional. The best part of the whole story, for me, was the final dramatic event where, even though Cassidhe was completely on her own, she finally had more character than she had had for the majority of the rest of the book. It’s for this reason alone that my rating finally reached four stars, rather than the two to three it was struggling with at the beginning.

An interesting upcoming point is how the pack is going to deal with the sexuality of the heir, when a key part of pack dynamics is based on the ability to produce children and secure the pack’s future.

Also, a side note is that the cover doesn’t really reflect the main characters, with their described colouring being different from what is shown. A minor niggle, if any, but I do like it when a cover helps to assist me in how to imagine the characters.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

All Bleeds Through: Ten Stories of Hemomancy and the World It Shaped by Bartholomew Lander

Dark, vermillion arts

This book is a compilation of linked stories. In it we see the very “human” side of Hemomancers (those born with the ability to control blood). It shows fear, jealousy, revenge, as well as stigmatisation and the effects of being ostracised from society, from mere bullying to being hunted down and killed. These are people who are both feared and reviled, sometimes correctly, other times less so (the hunting of Hemomancer children is seen to be as just as if they were fully-fledged adults, the fear is so great).

This is a book full of well-filled arguments, from both sides of the coin, from the Human side and the Hemomancer side, and how each action affects the other. We have murderers, thieves, but also scientists and defenders. In this book, through the stories, you come to truly understand what it is like to be a Hemomancer, or a Human living in fear of them. Never have I read a story that links different POVs to truly allow such understanding.

At the beginning, I wasn’t so endeavoured with the story, after reading the first part. But, by the end, as all parts started to link through, I was wowed. The end links into the beginning, to create a round circle that allows everything within this book to make sense. Each character has their own attributes, to allow you to live with them. The pain, the fear, the anger, the determination, it all shines through.

Quite a remarkable collection of stories that I definitely want to continue with.

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Four Bodies in Space by Luna Harlow

Agatha Christy in Space

This book started full of a truckload of well-worn clichés, making it read like Agatha Christy in space. The first murder, particularly. The first two chapters were just cringe worthy with their typical set up. But, instead of the infamous Hercule Poirot appearing to analyse the scene, we have the Spock-like Solaris.

Luckily this character is partly what eventually made the book interesting. Once I got past all of the clichés bouncing from each wall, there was a reasonable story there waiting, with a handful of well-written characters, in between further clichés. It was enough for me to eventually ignore the continuing clichés, and not cringe too much at the ending, to actually enjoy the story.

Solaris is analytical, but has a curiosity that makes her occasionally dance across the line towards insubordination. Good job that others find her intriguing enough to let her misdemeanours pass, especially considering that she appears to lead them in the right direction towards solving the puzzle.

This Poirot-Star Trek cross is good fun, if you can cope with all the clichés (I hope my continued mention of clichés doesn’t turn into a cliché). There’s enough there that I’d definitely be happy to continue the series.

Final rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*