Mike & The Mechanics – Let Me Fly (15/52)

Love the piano intro to this ballad, the verse and then the soaring chorus and the moment the backing singers come in gives me chills.

Some of my favourite pop/rock songs are those that combine a little bit of a gospel choir in their tunes.  I dare you not to be singing along with this by the time you’re halfway through.

Excellent song from an awesome album.

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal al-Sharif

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s AwakeningARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 5*

One-Sentence Summary: Growing up as a woman in Saudi Arabia

Review: This book gave a fascinating insight into what of the most paradoxical countries in the world – on the one hand there are Saudis competing who can drive the most expensive car and buying into all kinds of Western ideals, on the other hand they won’t even recognise women as being their own person and not in need of a male “guardian” to speak for them.

I have no shame in admitting that I didn’t know too much about Saudi Arabia. What I knew was a balance of the stereotyping I hear in the media and a friend trying to tell me it’s not as oppressive there as the media makes out any more. I think the media got it right for once!

One of the most fascinating things for me was learning that Saudi Arabia went the opposite way to nearly every other country out there: instead of becoming more open and less oppressive in the mid-end 90’s, it actually became more dictatorial and it was the younger generation that forced religious extremism on their parents.

Manal al-Sharif gives a very honest description of what she went through as a child from regular beatings from her father to female circumcision. Her change from religious extremism to fighting for women’s rights was really fascinating to read. Hardly any of us can fathom how anyone could get imprisoned for the crime of being a woman driver. A real eye-opener and reinforced the belief that even if could travel there (which I can’t), I wouldn’t want to.

Holiday in the Hamptons (From Manhattan with Love #5) by @SarahMorgan_

Holiday in the Hamptons  (From Manhattan with Love #5)“Long story. Come to think of it, everything in my life is a long story. I don’t seem to manage the short, simple version. Forget novellas, I’m War and Peace meets Game of Thrones, without the dragons and dead people.”

ARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 4.5*

Trope: Reconciliation Romance

Chemistry: Simmering

One-Sentence Summary: Broken hearts learn to heal at the beach

Review: Ahhh this was everything I hoped it would be ever since we first met Fliss in New York, Actually.

Seth and Fliss gave me all the FEELS and the build-up and UST between them was borderline overwhelming. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of their story so that’s all I’m going to say about their relationship for now.

Other things I loved was the beach setting and the relationships between Fliss and Grandma and Fliss and Harriet (hope we get to enjoy more of that in the next book) – I love the contrast between Fliss the impulsive feisty one and Harriet the quiet reliable one. I thought it was a nice idea bringing back Chase/Matilda from the novella that started the whole series and cameo appearances from the three heroines from the first trilogy in the series.

If all that wasn’t enough to win me over then the abundance of cute dogs sure did.

I am looking forward to Harriet’s story but can’t help but feel that the series has peaked with this book as writing reconciliation romances definitely seems to be Morgan’s forte.

Last Breath (Detective Erika Foster #4) by @RobertBryndza

Last Breath (Detective Erika Foster, #4)ARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 4*

One-Sentence Summary: A serial killer is targeting young girls and Erika must stop him

Review: One of my favourite crime authors is back with the latest book in his fantastic crime series and it is everything you’ve come to expect from an Erika Foster novel: the detective forces herself on a case and will stop at nothing to solve it.

I love her relationships with Moss and Peterson and they were at the forefront of this novel just as much as her battles with her superior officers.

Like I’ve said before, the fact that most of the story takes place in familiar locations to me of South East London and Kent is a real added bonus and Bryndza’s descriptions certainly make me feel like I’m right there with the characters.

Now we’re four books in, I can’t help but wonder when the case that killed Erika’s husband is going to come back to haunt her ….

‘It’s your bed… I’m not used to sleeping on such a soft bed,’ she said, tipping her head back and enjoying the release on her tense shoulders.
‘Erika, that’s a really expensive memory foam mattress.’
There was a knock at the door and Moss entered, just as Erika said: ‘Well, it’s not hard enough for me…’
‘Sorry, is this a bad time?’ said Moss, looking between them. Peterson dropped his hands.
‘No, we were… It’s fine,’ said Erika, sifting through the papers in front of her.
‘And we were talking about my mattress, my mattress not being hard…’ said Peterson, moving back around the desk.
‘It’s memory foam. The mattress. Very soft,’ added Erika. There was an awkward pause.
‘Thank God for that,’ grinned Moss. ‘Although I do have a friend who’s tried Viagra, and he says it’s changed his life… Another friend thinks laughter is the best medicine, but I suppose that’s not very helpful when it’s things going soft.’
‘A soft mattress is very good for you,’ said Peterson, a little defensively. Erika and Moss started to laugh. ‘It is!’
‘Come on, I’m only teasing,’ said Moss, giving Peterson a nudge.
‘Idiot.’ He grinned. Erika was pleased they’d had the opportunity to laugh, even for a moment. It had broken the tension.

Jack Savoretti @ Royal Festival Hall, London (29 March 2017)

Jack Savoretti – what a guy. There is nothing he doesn’t do well, whether that be songwriting, singing, whistling, guitar-playing or general performing and that is why I decided to go and see him in concert twice in four months.

The venue was different (November was the gig-friendly Eventim Apollo at Hammersmith whilst this time was in the more traditional all-seated Royal Festival Hall) but the setlist (and all the few “stories” in between songs) was pretty much the same as in November. Hearing the excellent renditions of the same songs again by no means diminished the enjoyment.

It’s so hard to choose highlights as it was true perfection from start to finish.  However, special mention has to go to the solo ‘Soldier’s Eyes’ which was just Jack and his guitar in all his glory, the amazing vocal solo at the start of ‘Breaking The Rules’ during which he was accompanied by his music director on piano and of course the ones that got everyone on their feet singing and dancing like ‘Home’, ‘The Other Side Of Love’ and ‘Start Living In The Moment’.

It was the closing night of the tour and I loved that Joseph J. Jones the support act was invited back on stage (accompanied by a beer in his hand) to sing with Savoretti on’“Knock Knock’ during the encore

As someone whose favourite band is Fleetwood Mac, I am used to going to concerts where I am one of the youngest people in attendance (though I wouldn’t consider myself actually young any more!) but I have to admit that I was surprised at the fact that the grand proportion of the audience was indeed of the slightly maturer generation. I feel sad that youngsters these days have no taste in music and a guy with an excellent voice who plays his own guitar and writes his own songs has no appeal.

Acoustically the Royal Festival Hall was without fault but the ban on photographs was very disappointing and the first time I’d experienced this during a gig. You are never going to get everyone to comply to the rules but watching the numerous venue employees walk around trying to get people to stop taking photos was incredibly distracting. I can understand this rule for plays and musicals where you are relying on people to pay to see the same thing night after night but the people who go and see live concerts probably already have the songs  in their music collection so some photos or videos of the gig floating around the internet are hardly “spoiler alerts”.

Here are a few photos I managed to sneak (and no I wasn’t one of the ones who got told off!).

Lastly I just wish to say Savoretti firmly deserves all the success he has gotten recently and I have never been more glad that he decided not to give up on his music career when the going got tough a few years ago.  As a fan from the beginning, I hope that in the next concert, I will get to hear the song which first introduced me to Savoretti : ‘Blackrain’.

Hot on Ice: A Hockey Romance Anthology by Various

Hot on Ice: A Hockey Romance Anthology (Chicago Rebels, #.5; Station Seventeen, #1.5)ARC received from: the authors

Rating: 2.5*

Review:

The rating reflects the average rating for the anthology as a whole. Individual ratings given below.

This book almost defeated me but I was determined to get through it all so I could give it a fair review, even if it meant speed-reading and skimming a few of the stories which really didn’t work for me.

Overall, this anthology is worth buying just for the 4* reads given that a percentage of the profits are going to charity and you never know, you might discover a new favourite author.

Kimberly Kincaid – Deep Check
4*
Love this author and the firehouse series.

Katie Kenyhercz – Bear Naked
4*
An interesting introduction for me to the native American world and the juggling of cultures

Desiree Holt – Body Check
1*
No consistency with the absence of the “Keeper of the Cup” and a hotshot hockey guy thinks he can get his old love back now that he is injured and finally has time for her? Ugh.

Angi Morgan – Breakaway Brook
1*
Paranormal super powers in a contemporary romance? No thanks.

Kim Golden – Under A Midnight Sun
1*
I am sensing a repetitive theme here ….. cocky hockey guys who, once they’ve won the cup, think they can go back to their hometown and reunite with an ex-girlfriend.

Kate Meader – In Skates Trouble
4*
This was what I really tried this anthology for and it didn’t disappoint!
I am really looking forward to Harper’s book, the first full length novel in a new series from one of my favourite contemporary romance authors!

Misty D. Waters – Checking Yes
1*
I’m pretty sure I read this before in this anthology ….. hockey star abandoned his childhood sweetheart when he went off to play hockey and now he wants her back …. This one just has additional family and Southern drama thrown in for good measure.

Robin Kaye – Penalty Box Blues
2*
The hockey star who can’t even remember the girl who used to tutor him every day

Robin Covington – Free Agent
2.5*
I’m usually not a fan of 1st Person POV but I enjoyed this one more than I expected to

Avery Flynn – Blade
4*
Interesting set-up with two old acquaintances having to work together to stop the cup being stolen

Susan Scott Shelley – Making His Move
3*
Coffee addict hooks up with a sweet girl from his childhood whilst spending more time with his sporty family.

Christi Barth – Check My Heart
4*
Really liked the background of she being his brother’s hospice nurse and loved the chemistry between these two

Heather Long – Blocked
3*
Hockey star helps pop princess avoid the press.

Andie J.Christopher – Full Contact
3*
A virginity story with a difference. Really weird to see Eddie turned into some kind of bad guy though

Lena Hart – Courage
2*
Not really interested in a story about a marriage in trouble especially when the guy is so self-involved

Nana Malone – Ransom (The Player)
3*
A story around the size of a hockey player’s dick and the geeky classmate he lusted for from afar.

Virginia Nelson – Caged
1*
A desperate small town girl tries very hard to get a hockey star to realise he’s in love with her by making him a plastic trophy

Xio Axelrod – The Warm Up
3*
Flirtation on the cancer ward.

Hot for the Fireman (Boston Heat #1) by Gina L. Maxwell

Hot for the FiremanARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 4.5*

Trope: Firefighter

Chemistry: Off the charts Scorchio

One-Sentence Summary: Firefighter Versus Therapist

Review: It’s been awhile since I’ve read a romance that gave me all sorts of tingly feels but this one certainly did it!

I loved the set up of Erik and Olivia meeting each other and not knowing that they were going to have to work together in “real life”. Erik’s persistence at getting her to go out with him was nicely mirrored in the latter half with Olivia refusing to give up on him.

Whilst I spent the first half wondering when Erik’s PTSD, the whole reason for them meeting, would come into play when it finally did, it did so in a big way. It felt so raw and real and I really felt for him.

Erik’s condition keeps him off work for the duration of the book so for those of you looking forward to a book full of sexy firefighting action, you may be a little disappointed but I am sure Maxwell has plenty of time to explore that side of things in the rest of the series

One of my favourite things about the book was undoubtedly the introduction of Dozer and Angie. I am guessing their book is up next and I, for one, absolutely can’t wait to read it. I love a good reconciliation romance.

PS. Loved the shout-out to Kate Meader’s awesome Chicago firefighting series!

Ed Sheeran – Galway Girl (9/52)

I was not, like everyone else in England seems to be, an Ed Sheeran fan right from the start.

I was put-off from trying him out because I couldn’t understand why a singer-songwriter and ace guitar player would want to insert rap into his songs.  Also, I’m not keen on the constant references to smoking, taking drugs and drinking alcohol in his lyrics.

But as much as I wasn’t won over by +, I was hooked by some catchy songs on X and Divide is more of the same.

Galway Girl is really catchy and I love the Irish fiddle.  I can’t believe Sheeran even had to justify this song to his record company!

Nothing Stays Buried (Monkeewrench #8) by P.J. Tracy

Nothing Stays Buried (Monkeewrench, #8)In retrospect, she probably could have been more tactful, but that was another thing she considered a deplorable waste of time.

ARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 5*

One-Sentence Summary: The Monkeewrench crew Versus a Cartel serial killer

Review: The Monkeewrench series is without a doubt my favourite crime series out there and P.J. Tracy never disappoints.

This plot in this book revolves around Magozzi and Gino’s hunt for a serial killer targeting female joggers and leaves a calling card next to the bodies. At the same time, the Monkeewrench crew are looking into a missing person’s case as a favour to a sheriff out in the country. Needless to say, it soon becomes apparent that their cases are linked leading to a manhunt out in the middle of nowhere.

In addition to the serial killer manhunt, Tracy throws in a tornado to amp up the action and I was riveted by the last quarter of the book which read like something out of Twister the film crossed with Criminal Minds the TV show.

As ever though whilst the whodunnit element is interesting, what really makes this series the best is that the mother-and-daughter writing team have created such a fantastic family in Magozzi & Gino and the Monkeewrench gang that it is an absolute pleasure coming back to them time-after-time. There are also a number of secondary characters in this book, like Walt and Jacob, that you warm to and you’re on tenterhooks hoping and praying that the serial killer’s latest victim will be found alive.

It saddens me to hear that P.J. has passed away. I only hope that Traci will continue writing this series in her memory.

“Lesson number one—don’t ever argue with a pregnant woman, or she’ll take a pound of flesh, and it’s not the flesh a man wants to lose.”
Magozzi crawled out from under the crib. “That’s kind of a generous weight estimate, isn’t it?”
Gino smirked. “Speak for yourself.”

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