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.

Alistair Grim’s Odditorium

Alistair Grim's Odditorium (Odditorium, #1)Alistair Grim’s Odditorium by Gregory Funaro

This cinematic, action-packed middle grade fantasy adventure set in Victorian London brims with fresh magic and has the cozy feeling of a classic.

Grubb, age twelve (or thereabouts), has never known anything beyond his miserable existence as a chimney sweep, paid only in insults and abuse by his cruel master.

All of that changes the day he stows away in the coach belonging to a mysterious guest at the inn that he is tasked with cleaning. Grubb emerges from Alistair Grim’s trunk and into the wondrous world of the Odditorium. Fueled by a glowing blue energy that Grubb can only begin to understand, the Odditorium is home to countless enchanted objects and an eccentric crew that embraces Grubb as one of their own.

There’s no time for Grubb to settle into his new role as apprentice to the strange, secretive Mr. Grim. When the Odditorium comes under attack, Grubb is whisked off on a perilous adventure. Only he can prevent the Odditorium’s magic from falling into evil hands-and his new family from suffering a terrible fate.

Grubb knows he’s no hero. He’s just a chimney sweep. But armed with only his courage and wits, Grubb will confront the life-or-death battle he alone is destined to fight.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book, and my kids thought it was fantastic–which makes me love it even more. If you can get an eight and nine year old to pay attention to anything for more than half a second then you know the author must be doing something right.

This book speaks to the imagination of kids (and adults, or at least this one.) The humour is appropriate for middle grade and lower kids and as a parent, I was impressed with the writing, as it didn’t seem to be stunted or less intellectual than a book intended for adults. I like it when my kids can read something that challenges them and teaches them a wider range of vocabulary, and you get that with this book.

The story is full of adventure and doesn’t stop until the last page is read. The main character is unique and quirky, and just as exciting as you want a good, unlikely hero to be.

If you have kids that are reluctant readers, this would be a good book to help them get interested in reading.

Five stars well deserved.

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 12 Screams of Christmas ( Goosebumps)

The 12 Screams of Christmas (Goosebumps Most Wanted Special Edition, #2)The 12 Screams of Christmas by R.L. Stine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s Goosebumps! For Christmas? Okay, so that seemed kind of weird at first, being that Christmas is a time of cheer and good tidings, but I thought this worked pretty well. It seemed to me that this book was a might more grown up than previous goosebumps titles I’ve read. The characters had a bit more depth and the story was a little scarier than I recall the other books being.

Still, this had the original Goosebumps flair, with laugh out loud moments and goofy characters to fill in the tense spots. I think kids of all ages will enjoy this book just as they have done with the rest of the series before it.

The frights in this story were original, and I liked that the main character had other drama in her life besides seeing ghosts. I’m sire kids could relate to the issues she brings up.

I love these books, and this series will never cease to please, in my opinion.

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

Treasure on Lilac Lane by Donna Alward

Treasure on Lilac Lane (Jewell Cove, #2)Treasure on Lilac Lane by Donna Alward

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the beginning, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the previous in the series, but that changed soon enough. Within a few chapters I was happily settled back into Jewell Cove and loving this story.

Once again, Donna Alward reminded me why she has become one of my very favourite authors. Her characters are heartfelt and her story is captivating, bringing together everything you want in a romance as well as a small town atmosphere that allows you to feel close to the characters. She handles tough subject matter such as death and addiction with grace.

In this story some of the characters from the previous book take centre stage, whereas before they were supporting cast. I love the way this author connects her characters through more than just family relationships and friendships. Through the use of common places, the local diner, the jobs the characters do and the course life takes them in, they develop bonds with one another and with the reader.

I am looking forward to seeing what she does next. Recommended for those who like depth in their stories and want to feel like they are part of something special.

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

Seeing the Dead by Sheila Connolly

Seeing the Dead (Relatively Dead Mysteries Book 2)Seeing the Dead by Sheila Connolly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are a fan of history/paranormal then this is a book series that will likely appeal to you on many levels. Once more, Sheila Connolly proves that she can take the ordinary world and create characters that make it seem extraordinary.

This was a fun book to read with a lot of historical accuracy and interesting plot twists for the main character to face. I didn’t feel like the main character knew where she was headed relationship-wise throughout most of this though. Her intent with Ned was often confusing, although that may have been intentional on the part of the author.

I like that the author uses family lineage as the base of her story and connects her characters on so many levels. The setting is easy to visualise and feel part of.

This was a good book that I was able to read through quickly and get a lot of enjoyment from. If you are looking for some light reading that will make you smile and even laugh out loud, Sheila Connolly has a book for you.

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

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 Mathematician’s Shiva

It isn’t often that I feel the need to recommend a book to a specific person, especially not fiction novels, but in this case, Chris McMullen, I thought of you.

 

 

The Mathematician's ShivaThe Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer

A comic, bittersweet tale of family evocative of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and Everything Is Illuminated

Alexander “Sasha” Karnokovitch and his family would like to mourn the passing of his mother, Rachela, with modesty and dignity. But Rachela, a famous Polish émigré mathematician and professor at the University of Wisconsin, is rumored to have solved the million-dollar, Navier-Stokes Millennium Prize problem. Rumor also has it that she spitefully took the solution to her grave. To Sasha’s chagrin, a ragtag group of socially challenged mathematicians arrives in Madison and crashes the shiva, vowing to do whatever it takes to find the solution—even if it means prying up the floorboards for Rachela’s notes.

Written by a Ph.D. geophysicist, this hilarious and multi-layered debut novel brims with colorful characters and brilliantly captures humanity’s drive not just to survive, but to solve the impossible.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m going to keep this review short so I’m not tempted to give away parts that you need to read for yourself. I loved this book, plain and simple.

This is a book that will make you laugh out loud, make you smile and keep turning pages long into the night. It is the kind of book you want to talk about with the neighbour you’ve never spoken to or the guy on the bus next to you, because it is so good you just want people to know.

Read it.

The characters are so vibrant and alive and the family dynamics are wonderful. If you are a maths geek, you won’t be able to resist.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley.