The Christmas Ranch by RaeAnne Thayne

The Christmas Ranch (Cowboys of Cold Creek, #13)The Christmas Ranch by RaeAnne Thayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It isn’t very often that I leave a five star review for a contemporary romance, let alone a holiday themed contemporary romance, but in this case I really felt this book deserved nothing less.

One thing I have said in the past and feel compelled to say again, is that you should never start a RaeAnne Thayne book before bed if you actually intend to get any sleep. She did it to me again (toothpicks holding the eyes open as I write this review.)

I liked this story because although some of it followed the usual romance formula, girl meets boy and there is some drama preventing them from being together–this book didn’t go exactly as I expected. Neither Hope nor Rafe responded to the big events in the book as I would have imagined and both characters remained mature throughout the story, which made me respect them.

I liked the Christmas theme in this case and didn’t feel that it overwhelmed the story. The characters seemed to fall into a natural rhythm and the story seemed to roll out without being forced. Plus I want a reindeer named Sparkle.

This is a charming story that involves a whole family, neighbours and good friends rather than just the two main characters. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes a good holiday romance. Magic.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the author and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

Escape from Witchwood HollowEscape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this story from the beginning. The author is clear, imaginative and gives life to her characters early on so the reader is able to get a good image of them mentally and identify with them easily.

The author did a good job of telling a multi-generational tale with a lot of unexpected twists. Some of this story reminded me a bit of Moll Dyer, especially early on in the book.

I’ve read a lot of books that fall into this genre in the last year, and many of them have been disappointing, but this one, filled with mystery and a bit of terror was really worth the time to read.

The ending chapters sealed the opinion that this is a stand out book. I liked the way the author made the reader think and do some solving of their own rather than just explaining everything to death.

Overall, I thought this was a great book, and would be perfect for a Halloween night read.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

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The Winter Sea by Di Morrissey

The Winter SeaThe Winter Sea by Di Morrissey

Escaping an unhappy marriage and an unsatisfactory job, Cassie Holloway moves to the little Australian coastal town of Whitby Point. There she meets the Aquino family, whose fishing business was founded by their ancestor, Giuseppe, an Italian immigrant, some ninety years before. Life for Cassie on the south west coast is sweet as she sets up a successful restaurant and falls in love with Giuseppe’s great grandson Michael. But when the family patriarch dies, a devastating family secret is revealed which threatens to destroy her dreams. Cassie’s future happiness now rests with her quest for the truth.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully written and captivating novel that will not let you put it down until the last page has been read. This story begins many years ago and allows the reader to become acquainted with the family at the heart of the book before moving to the present.

Through multiple years and generations, this story bends and weaves around the D’aquino family as well as a main character that you can’t help but love for her personality and passion for life.

This is a book that I found it easy to get lost in and didn’t want to put down. It has been a long time since I got so involved in the lives and world of characters that I forgot about my own, but the break was appreciated.

This author has a certain talent for painting pictures with words and allowing you to really get a sense of the character’s intentions and emotions. If you are looking for a book with a quick pace and a lot of action, this will not be your thing, but if you enjoy generational family tales with secrets, amazing writing and a lot of heart, this will be perfect for you.

Simply put, it is a wonderful book.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and was provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane AustenFirst Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett

A thrilling literary mystery co-starring Jane Austen from the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookman’s Tale

Charlie Lovett first delighted readers with his New York Times bestselling debut, The Bookman’s Tale. Now, Lovett weaves another brilliantly imagined mystery featuring one of English literature’s most popular and beloved authors: Jane Austen.

Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield.  Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie’s life.

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is certainly a book that will pique the interest of Jane Austen Admirer’s as well as warm the heart of bibliophiles. It is a book very much about books, but also has an unexpected mystery at its core.

As a love story, I enjoyed this book for the fact that it showed many different facets of love, not just the romantic type that readers usually encounter.

Charlie Lovett is good with words. He knows how to bend them and craft them carefully until he has chosen just the right ones. This was true in his first book, and now again in his second. He seems to understand what we as readers, want to see in a character and a story and ensure that we do not leave disappointed.

I found myself caught up in this novel quickly and was more than pleased with it overall. Both of the stories were interesting and the way the author co-mingled the past and the present was sheer talent.

I’d definitely recommend this book to other book lovers.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley, all opinions are my own.

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The Carpathian Assignment by Chip Wagar

The Carpathian Assignment: The True History of the Apprehension and Death of Dracula Vlad Tepes, Count and Voivode of the Principality of TransylThe Carpathian Assignment: The True History of the Apprehension and Death of Dracula Vlad Tepes, Count and Voivode of the Principality of Transyl by Chip Wagar

Kalvary Istvan, widower and former Hungarian cavalry colonel, hopes for a quiet life when he accepts the position of chief of police in the Carpathian city of Bistritz. It’s no less than a man deserves after years of service to his Kaiser and king. Sadly, Istvan’s going to be disappointed. Someone or something haunts the streets of Bistritz and the surrounding Transylvanian mountains. Ask Istvan’s new colleague, Gabor Kasza of the Royal Hungarian Gendarmerie, and he’d say evidence points to a well-established serial killer, possibly hidden among the oppressed and reviled Roma, who call the nearby Borgo Pass home. Ask Freudian devotee Baron Krafft-Ebing and he’d agree, although his interest lies more in studying the psychopath’s mind than bringing him to justice. Ask the mountain people of the Carpathians, however, and they’d disagree. They’d point to the long history of killings and disappearances in the region, which stretch back longer than any one man’s lifetime. They’d speak in hushed voices of the Roma’s supposed master, and an abandoned castle where he lives with his demonic wives. The bravest residents might even risk whispering a name: Dracula. Kalvary Istvan, like Kasza and Krafft-Ebing, considers himself a modern nineteenth-century man, with little time for legends and superstitions, but as he and Kasza pursue their investigation, reason and deduction begin to give way to dark, ancient truths and local belief. At once a thrilling detective yarn and intriguing backstory to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Carpathian Assignment immerses readers in the rich setting of the Hungarian kingdom at the end of the nineteenth century, a nation in which science and logic clash with centuries of cultural conviction and superstition.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So…this is possibly the best sort-of-Dracula-like-book I have ever read. It is also possibly the worst ARC copy that I have ever bloody seen. Through no fault of the author, there are large chunks of text missing and most of the beginnings of each paragraph. The Final copy, of course will not look like this, so it is of no real concern to the final book readers, but I would have felt bad if I didn’t mention that there were parts of the book I did not get to read.

As far as the story goes, this is very well written and has the historical backing that most books of the sort completely lack. It is obvious that Chip Wagar is familiar with the geography of the places he writes about as well as the historical matter. This was a nice change from many books that simply have Dracula featured as a bloodthirsty vampire.

This story progressed nicely and at a good clip, with lots of mysteries to be solved and a villain that did not simply skulk off into hiding or get defeated at the drop of a….wooden stake. I liked that the historical angle was used to back up the story and flesh it out.

The only thing that irked me about this novel, were the sex scenes. It wasn’t that they were poorly written, but they seemed misplaced, as though they were an afterthought. People have been dying for years due to this monster, we should have sex! Really, it just didn’t work for me.

An entertaining romp into the remote Carpathian wilds, exciting for a girl from Romania. If you are interested in the historical Dracula, then you will likely enjoy this novel.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg

The Moonlight PalaceThe Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg

Agnes Hussein, descendant of the last sultan of Singapore and the last surviving member of her immediate family, has grown up among her eccentric relatives in the crumbling Kampong Glam palace, a once-opulent relic given to her family in exchange for handing over Singapore to the British.

Now Agnes is seventeen and her family has fallen into genteel poverty, surviving on her grandfather’s pension and the meager income they receive from a varied cast of boarders. As outside forces conspire to steal the palace out from under them, Agnes struggles to save her family and finds bravery, love, and loyalty in the most unexpected places. The Moonlight Palace is a coming-of-age tale rich with historical detail and unforgettable characters set against the backdrop of dazzling 1920s Singapore.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a lovely novel. The voice of the narrator is not only strong but makes you feel compassionate from an early point in the book. Those qualities, mixed with the exotic setting and torrid family history (although somewhat imagined–see chapter two) made this a very interesting book.

This was a story that I was sorry to see end. The main character is such fun and her observations about life and her family are often times hilarious. I felt like I was walking alongside a friend during this book and that made it special.

I loved the strong sense of family and culture in this novel. I never knew quite what to expect next as the story takes unexpected turns in places that I wouldn’t have imagined.

If you enjoy stories that come from true storytellers, this is a perfect example. The author has a gift for making you see pictures through her chosen words. I will happily read another book by this author and recommend that you check this out.

Really enjoyed it.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

How to Climb the Eiffel Tower by Elizabeth Hein

How to Climb the Eiffel TowerHow to Climb the Eiffel Tower by Elizabeth Hein

A moving, surprisingly humorous, sometimes snarky novel about life, friendship… and cancer

Lara Blaine believes that she can hide from her past by clinging to a rigid routine of work and exercise. She endures her self-imposed isolation until a cancer diagnosis cracks her hard exterior. Lara’s journey through cancer treatment should be the worst year of her life. Instead, it is the year that she learns how to live. She befriends Jane, another cancer patient who teaches her how to be powerful even in the face of death. Accepting help from the people around her allows Lara to confront the past and discover that she is not alone in the world. With the support of her new friends, Lara gains the courage to love and embrace life. Like climbing the Eiffel Tower, the year Lara meets Jane is tough, painful, and totally worth it.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first read the blurb for this book I had my reservations about it. I am a cancer survivor as well and I was really hoping that this book would not fluff up the experience. It doesn’t and on top of that, it is just a genuinely well written and entertaining book. I later read the author bio and saw that the author is a cancer survivor as well, so I really felt like although this was fiction, she wrote it from a place of personal knowledge and that made it even better.

The things that the main character goes through in this story are written with sincerity and realistic qualities that make you feel close to her and her situation. She struggles to understand why the things that have occurred in her life have happened and comes to new understanding about herself throughout the course of the story.

This book will make you laugh, make you cry in places but also make you realise that no matter what adversity there is in life, there is a way to overcome it. The strong female characters in this book do not come off as abrasive or intentionally feminist. They represent real women with real lives.

I was impressed by the pace and flow of this novel as well as the way the author chose to end her story. If you enjoy women’s fiction and like books that border the line between fiction and reality, this would be a good one to choose.

Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.