The Hawley Book of the Dead (by Chrysler Szarlan)

Paranormal

Reve and her husband were Las Vegas magicians. Then during a show a mysterious man, the Fetch, switched the ammunition in a stage gun and her husband was killed. Being pursued by the Fetch she bundles up her children and runs to her childhood home in Massachusetts.

There she discovers things are not as they seem and she must learn the secrets of a grimoire which has been passed down through her family for generations. But the Fetch has found her and is circling.


The Hawley Book of the Dead isn’t an easy book. It’s quite dense, there is a lot going on, and for the first 40%~50% was quite slow. Then, quite suddenly, the story crashes into you and it honestly becomes a bit of a roller-coaster ride.

Overall, I enjoyed this book despite the slow start. The second half more than made up for that.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 9.12.41 pmMany thanks to Ballantine Books and Edelweiss for providing me with this ARC.

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Without Words (by Ellen O’Connell)

Western Romance

After gunning down Rufus Petty, Bret finds himself faced with a half starved mute woman burying an old man. His only choice is to take her with him or leave her to die, so with her broken down old horse and half wild dog in tow they set off together.  His plan is to unload her on the first willing person, but it quickly becomes apparent that life isn’t easy for a woman on the frontier and if he wants to ensure her safety he’ll need to keep her with him.  

As they travel the West, searching for bounties, Hassie finds a place with Bret. Despite the limitations of not having a voice, she is smart and recognises bounties that Bret would have missed. Gradually Hassie’s view of Bret changes. She goes from seeing him as a cold blooded killer, to a man of honour who will put himself in harms way to protect those he loves.

Before long she has fallen in love, but Bret plans to return to his wealthy family in Missouri, and they will never accept a woman like her, poor and with an Irish father, so their time is short.

western
Westerns tend to fall into one of two camps.  There is the idealised version where the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black hats –– where a bad guy gets shot and he dies without shedding any blood; and the gritty, more realistic and usually quite violent version.

What I love about Ellen O’Connell is she takes that more romantic notion of the West but overlays a layer of realism so it is somehow entertaining and realistic but not hard edged.  I’ve read three Ellen O’Connell books and I’ll definitely be reading more. This one is equal to my personal favorite, Beautiful Bad Man. 

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The One Plus One (by Jojo Moyes)

Women’s Fiction

Jess is a single mother, working two jobs, and struggling to earn enough money to raise her two children. Despite her difficult circumstances she is relentlessly optimistic and honest to a fault. But when she finds £500 belonging to Ed, a company director whose house she cleans, she finds the temptation too difficult to resist and pockets the money.

Nicky was abandoned by his father and mother and despite not being related by blood finds a mother in Jess. But despite her relentless optimism, there are some things she can’t solve, and as the target of town bullies he struggles with depression and withdraws into himself.

Tanzie is a math prodigy and desperately wants to attend St Mary’s Private School where her talents will be nurtured, but despite receiving a generous scholarship money is still tight and they desperately need to find a way to make up the difference.

When Jess hears about a math olympiad with a prize of £5000 she sees an answer to their problems. She will solve Tanzie’s problem and get Nicky out of town and the bullies for a while. But before they have even left town, they are pulled over by police and she finds herself in even more hot water for driving an unregistered and uninsured car.

Then Ed steps in.

Ed is a founding director of a software company, but he has been suspended from work and is being investigated by police for insider trading. Everything he has built is crashing down around him but then he sees Jess who has nothing but still manages to be optimistic and he decides to help.

As they all cram into his Audi, along with the dog, they begin the road journey to end all road journeys.  Travelling to Scotland by back roads because Tanzie gets violently ill if the car exceeds 40mph.  As they travel they manage to forget their problems and Ed finds in this odd-ball family a place where he manages to fit in. But as their time on the road draws to its conclusion all their problems come crashing back in on them and it becomes apparent that a happy ending might not be possible for them.


There is a beautiful ache to The One Plus One. At times it makes you want to cry for this family who do everything right but still get beaten down.  It’s sad and beautiful, ultimately life affirming and just a really beautiful book.  Highly recommended.

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Wildfire (by Mary Pauline Lowry)

Fiction

Railing against the path her grandmother has set for her, Julie joins a Hotshot crew, an elite team of remote area forest firefighters who use chainsaws and shovels to fight fire. At first the crew is uncertain about this woman intruding into their male dominated world but with determination and grit and a lot of hard work she manages to carve a niche for herself.

With the respect of her comrades she has everything she wants, but the job is dangerous and every time they fight fire, their lives are on the line.


hotshotsWildfire is a truly amazing book. The Hotshots are hard men and women and just like them this book is brash and occasionally crass. They speak their own language and the author has just put it out there without any explanations –– and that’s really how it should be. You don’t need to know everything to get this story.

I’m going to make the call. This is one of my best five books of 2014!

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 6.07.24 pmMany thanks to Skyhorse Publishing for providing me with this ARC

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Once Haunted, Twice Shy (by H.P. Mallory)

Paranormal Romance

In exorcising a demon from her home, Peyton found herself inadvertently possessed by the ghost of a French speaking New Orleans police officer who died in the early 20th century. Now she can connect to the spirit world and all the ghosts of the city are running scared.

It soon becomes clear that something is very wrong and the demon they exorcised has decided to make the streets of New Orleans run red with blood, starting with Peyton.


There is a lot going on in Once Haunted, Twice Shy. At times it felt like a little too much, like there were too many players. Presumably H.P. Mallory is setting the scene for future books but that busyness didn’t help this story. Added to the mix this book has a love triangle of sorts (do I have to call a four sided love triangle a square?) which is one of those tropes I don’t particularly like.

That said, despite the shaky start, the book ended strongly with a voodoo battle to end all battles. If you like voodoo, ghosts and demons in your pages, this is a pretty good read.

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 4.32.33 pmMany thanks to Montlake Romance and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Yellow, Orange, Red –– what it means: http://wp.me/P2B7b5-9l

A Love to Call Her Own (by Marilyn Pappano)

Contemporary Romance

Swamped with grief and guilt after her husband was killed in action in Afghanistan, Jessy has coped by hitting the bottle and picking up nameless men for meaningless hook-ups. The one positive in her life is the Margarita Club, a group of women who, like her, have lost their husbands.

Dalton’s wife committed suicide after both her legs were blown off by a roadside bomb. Carrying his grief he has isolated himself on his ranch and avoided people preferring the company of his animals.

Jessy and Dalton both have baggage, they both have secrets, but together they manage to find the motivation to try to move on with their lives.


 

I have a great deal of respect for Marilyn Pappano. The issues of depression, grief, ptsd which she is exploring in this series have been attempted by other authors, but I don’t think any of them get it like she does. She gets that depression doesn’t just manifest itself in one way but in dozens of ways.

There are things in this series I am not entirely comfortable with. The author is plainly a christian and that comes through in her books, but for writing these subtle and nuanced love stories I’m more than willing to choke on my discomfort. A Love to Call Her Own is another great contemporary romance in a series that are all personal favourites.

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Snow Falling on Bluegrass (by Molly Harper)

Contemporary Romance

Kelsey is the best person to have around in a crisis. She’s prepared for just about anything and can turn a disaster into a success. But when the staff of the Kentucky Tourism Commission find themselves stranded and without power after a once in a hundred year blizzard even her organisational skills will be tested.

Adding to her problems, Charlie, the guy she has secretly loved for years has been acting strangely around her and as cabin fever hits, her co-workers go on the warpath. If that’s not enough, her ex won’t leave her alone and now that Charlie finally seems to be noticing her, a sexy ranger decides to muddy the waters and express his interest.


It’s quite difficult to review this book, not because it isn’t good, it’s very good. No, it’s difficult because what I want to say I’ve said before. Snow Falling on Bluegrass is filled with witty banter and snark. It is funny, sometimes laugh out loud funny. Molly Harper delivers a book that is cute and quirky but in no way dumb. She’s one of my favorite authors and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 7.25.29 pmMany Thanks to Pocket Star and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Yellow, Orange, Red –– what it means: http://wp.me/P2B7b5-9l