This Heart of Mine (by Brenda Novak)

Contemporary Romance

After serving 17 years in prison for murder, all Phoenix wants is to have a relationship with the son she hasn’t seen since he was born. With that hope she returns to Whiskey Creek, the scene of the crime where the parents of the victim and her ex-boyfriend and father of her child still live. She knows there is no happy ending for someone like her –– all she wants is to be left alone, to get her life together and maybe spend a little time with her son.

When Phoenix was tried for murder, Riley was a witness for the prosecution. While she sat in the dock he hammered the nails in that left nobody in any doubt of her guilt. Now she is out and what he has been avoiding can’t be avoided any more. But it’s not long before he starts to wonder if she is the vicious murderer the whole town thinks she is.


This Heart of Mine is great contemporary romance. The Whiskey Creek series has been a little up and down for me –– some that have been mind blowingly good, others not so much. This is definitely one of the shining lights and I think it can take the title of my favorite in the series. I’d actually walked away from the series (very few series’ hold my attention for more than three or four books) but a good friend who doesn’t really like contemporary romance rated this one high and on her recommendation I picked it up.  It was worth it.

It will also work as a stand alone so no need to read the other seven just to read this.

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The Final Reveille (by Amanda Flower)

Cozy Mystery

Kelsey is the director of Barton Farm, a Living History Museum with a focus on life in the 19th century and the civil war.

When the arrogant nephew of the museum’s main benefactor is murdered on the grounds there is no shortage of suspects and considering Kelsey was seen arguing with him just hours earlier she is right at the top of the list.

With the help of a reluctant civil war re-enactor she sets about finding the killer and saving the farm.


There is a fair bit to like about this book. As far as cozy mysteries go it was unique enough to hold my interest. It didn’t redefine the genre but it’s the first book I’ve read with this particular setting. That said, it feels a little like a draft copy of a great book. I have a fairly high tolerance for spelling and grammatical errors (people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones), but it really got to the point where I was thinking the book needs a good editor. And the ending could have been much better.

So it’s a promising start to a new series but there were a few shaky moments. Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 8.51.33 pm

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Bruja (by Aileen Erin)

Young Adult (Vampires / Werewolves / Witches)

Despite escaping from her coven, Claudia remains blood-bound to Luciana, the coven’s leader. She, along with a small group of witches who left with her, has found sanctuary with the werewolves but Luciana can still invade her dreams and the blood-binding makes it possible for her to take Claudia’s power.

Desperate to break the binding, Claudia travels to Peru in search of a mysterious and possibly extinct group of white mages but she finds herself facing witches even more evil than Luciana.


I loved this book. The characters are wonderful and the story is great. It’s like Claudia reaches out of the book, grabs you by the scruff of the neck and drags you through the pages. Honestly, I don’t give up sleep for very many books but I just couldn’t put this one down.

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Many thanks to Ink Monster & Netgalley for providing me with this ARC Yellow,

Orange, Red. What it means:  red-orange-yellow-guide

Spotless (by Camilla Monk)

Romantic Suspense? 

Island is anything but special…at least that’s what she has always thought. Then March, a ruthless assassin shows up in the apartment she shares and her life will never be the same again. March is searching for a priceless diamond and he’s convinced she knows where it is. Even worse, he’ll do pretty much anything to finish the mission and she is well and truly expendable.

As they search for the diamond she learns things about her murky past she never could have imagined and with people even more brutal than March hunting her she finds herself reluctantly turning to him for help.


Assassins, 1995, (c) Warner Bros.

Assassins, 1995, (c) Warner Bros.

It’s not easy to define Spotless. Honestly, when I picked it up I was expecting a cute and quirky mystery. Fairly innocent and mostly harmless. That’s not this book. There is a bit of an edge to it that I found confronting at first. For a few chapters I really didn’t like the book at all (those who know me know why), but then it clicked –– I was thinking of it all wrong.

This book owes a lot to movies like Assassins, Heat, perhaps even The Bourne Identity. It really does feel like a great spy or heist movie…only on the page. When I made that adjustment, I found myself loving this book more with every page turn.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 9.12.41 pmMany thanks to Montlake Romance and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC.

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No Time Like the Past (by Jodi Taylor)

Science Fiction / Time Travel

Max and her team of time travelling historians return for another romp along the timeline. In this episode they visit St Paul’s Cathedral to salvage whatever they can as it’s crashing down around them. Then it’s on to 13th century Florence where the bonfire of the vanities is in full swing and a bunch of works by Botticelli have an appointment with the flames. Finally it’s to Thermopylae where they find themselves accidentally risking the timeline and possibly altering history. The Spartans can’t win, can they??


 

No Time Like the Past is great, it’s entertaining and fun…occasionally very funny. The one thing it isn’t is fresh. So while I enjoyed this book…yes I probably even loved it, I can’t help but think that the best is behind us. We’re not quite at the shark jumping moment just yet but it must be getting close.


 

Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Stories

For lovers of the madcap time travelling historians of St Mary’s there are three very short stories available in Kindle, E-Book and Audiobook versions.  At the time of this post, all three were available for free from audible.com so my recommendation is to get them from there.  They’re good, I just don’t know if they’re worth paying for.

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Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 9.12.41 pmYellow, Orange, Red. What it means:  red-orange-yellow-guide

His First and Last (by Terri Osburn)

Contemporary Romance

The people of Ardent Springs never let Lorelei forget that she was born out of wedlock to a nameless sperm donor on a Spring Break holiday. She was vilified and bullied for her entire young life. So it’s no surprise that as soon as she turned 18 she blew off the town and burned all her bridges on the way out.

Now after being away for more than a decade she has returned, broke and with nothing to show for her time in LA. But the people of Ardent Springs have long memories and they’re not so quick to forgive the things she said when she left.

With her only allies her ex-boyfriend Spencer, the guy who refused to leave with her, and her grandmother, she needs to somehow find a place for herself. Spencer is determined that he will be that place, but with the town all but shunning her she might be forced to leave before he can convince her to stay.


 

I have so much love for Terri Osburn. She really is a great writer. This is fairly typical Contemporary Romance and it hums along without breaking any of the rules of the genre. But it’s just so well written that you hardly notice that you’ve read it all before. Something I sometimes say about poets like E.E. Cummings and Rabbie Burns is their poems feel good in your mouth. They just beg to be spoken, to be read out loud. It’s not something I would have ever expected to say about an author of Contemporary Romance but there you go. She’s a favorite author and this is probably my favorite of her books.

If I have a criticism, it’s only a small thing –– the cover, or more specifically the cover models. The characters in this book are in their early 30s.  I’m just not seeing that on the cover.

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 7.25.29 pmMany thanks to Montlake Romance and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC

Yellow, Orange, Red. What it means:  red-orange-yellow-guide

The Nothing Girl (by Jodi Taylor)

Adult Fairy Tale

At the age of 13 Jenny’s parents are dead and she’s living with her evil aunt, uncle and cousins. With a stutter and low self-esteem she is a bully target at school and home isn’t any better. Then just as she’s about to end it all a magical horse appears in her room and persuades her to go on.

Thomas becomes her constant companion and her only friend. As the years go by she finds a small niche for herself in the attic with her books and Thomas the horse who nobody but her can see. Then in her late 20s Russell Checkland comes into her life and things are forever changed. She quite accidentally becomes his wife. But life with Russell is anything but easy. He is heartbroken after Jenny’s cousin rejected him and is anything but an attentive spouse. Her aunt and uncle are doing everything to get her to return to them and someone might be trying to do her in.


 

The Nothing Girl is one of the strangest books I’ve read in a while. Honestly, I had no idea what was going on for most of the book but it was quite a wonderful confusion. It felt like the hybrid offspring of Cinderella and The Day of the Triffids with maybe just a touch of Alfred Hitchcock thrown in for good measure.

Also Available…

All the characters from The Nothing Girl return for this very short story (34 pages).  The local vicar would like to borrow Jenny’s donkey for the nativity play, but with intense rivalries between the virgin Mary and the angel Gabrielle things are anything but easy.

This is available from Amazon for 88 cents, but if that seems like a lot for 34 pages, fear not.  You can pick up the audiobook for free at audible.com .