Tuesday, May 24, 2016

THE OXFORD INHERITANCE by Ann A. McDonald

 

Publisher:     William Morrow
Published:     February 23, 2016     
ISBN:        978-0062203670
Genre:      Thriller  
Format:     Print
Obtained via:  Publisher  
Reviewed by name and email address:  Gina  Ginalrmreviews@gmail.com

FIVE HEARTS

 

Cassie Blackwell has come to Raleigh College at Oxford not so much for the education, but to find out about her past and what drove her mother to the erratic, chaotic life she led.  What she finds is nothing like what she expected.  Even more alarming, she could not have begun to imagine the secrets that will be unveiled as she tries to find her mother’s past.

Running late due to her travel from her home in America to the first day orientation events Cassie is quickly caught in a whirlwind of activities.  From having her photograph taken to a welcome tea to being assigned a room only to have herself tossed out and sent to an attic room to be shared with a young, impressionable new student she barely has time to catch her breath.  Her new roommate, Evie, seems a port in the storm, albeit not that quiet of one. Evie is quickly caught up in the social whirl that is Raleigh and constantly invites Cassie to come along.  Determined to keep up with her studies and find her mother’s past Cassie initially declines each invitation.  At the same time she manages to connect with a librarian who offers to help with what he believes to be her academic research.  And then there is Charlie who seems to keep turning up where ever she goes.  Cassie struggles to keep to herself, to stay the course finding her past, yet with each new revelation she is pulled deeper into unexpected and unanticipated mysteries.  And then, just when she believes she is on the right path, when she is finally able to relax and take part in the social whirl that is Raleigh, there is a death…a totally unexpected death that takes her even deeper into the labyrinth that exists just below the surface.  Can Cassie escape the past which in turn is her future?

When Ann A. McDonald’s THE OXFORD INHERITANCE first arrived I was drawn in by the cover.  Having been an avid reader of romances and fantasizing about the hunky cover models for years I have become more or less numb to most covers.  A cute cat catches my eye, but for the most part, the story’s blurb is what gets my attention.  In this case, the cover…a book, what appears to be an old book, with a key and a red ribbon against a black backdrop caught my eye. 

And then there was the blurb…Revenge meets A Discovery of Witches.  A favorite TV show and a book I’ve read three times…what more could I want?

Let me start by saying I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Ann A. McDonald’s THE OXFORD INHERITANCE.  It is probably one of the best books I have read this year.  I started it Saturday morning and just could not put it down…sitting up reading at 3 in the morning I gave up deluding myself thinking that “one more chapter” and I’d go to bed and continued through to the very end.  And at the end all I could say was “wow” and sit there for a bit thinking over the ending.  With so many good books out there to read it’s rare I plan to sit down and do a re-read almost immediately. With this one I’ve already started to re-read because it is that good and I’m sure I missed a thing or too.

As to the Revenge meeting A Discovery of Witches – not even close.  McDonald’s writing is unique and the story had nothing to do with either the TV show or Harkness’s book and it is a disservice to McDonald’s fantastically told story to compare them. She truly stands on her own with a distinctive voice and a story that definitely stokes the imagination.  There are some wonderful bits of gothic intrigue – another plus for me. That McDonald is originally from Sussex and attended Oxford lends itself to how she not only describes the environs, but makes the reader part of what is going on in the story. Every time I thought I figured out who the good guys were something shifted making this a page gripping thriller.

This is one book you simply do not want to miss.


This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

HOPE BURNS by Jaci Burton

 

Publisher:     Berkley
Published:     September 20, 2014
ISBN:        978-0425259788
Genre:      Contemporary Romance
Format:     Ebook  
Obtained via:  Publisher via Edelweiss
Reviewed by name and email address:  Gina  Ginalrmreviews@gmail.com

TWO-1/2 HEARTS


Straight out of high school Molly Burnett packed her bags and without an explanation left Hope and has never returned.  Traveling from city to city and job to job she’s kept her heart from hurting ever again.  Her family has no idea why she left despite their asking over the years.  They finally came to accept Molly’s decision.  Now, however, she really doesn’t have a choice but to return home—her sister Emma is getting married and she’s in the bridal party.  Before she even arrives at her family’s house she runs into the one person she has spent the past decade running from—her high school sweetheart, the man she could never forget, Carter.

Carter likewise never got over Molly.  He never understood why she left her family, Hope and most importantly, him, so abruptly.   Now that she’s back he’s determined to find a way to make her stay.  But can one man undo a lifetime of running from the one you love?

I’ve been enjoying Jaci Burton’s Hope series—she’s such an engaging writer.  Her characters feel like someone you know or would want to hang out with.  In HOPE FLAMES AND HOPE IGNITES, books 1 and 2 there was a build up to Molly’s story.  When it finally arrived in HOPE BURNS, it was something of a let down.  I just never warmed up to her as a character.  She spent a decade running from herself and given how close and solid her family was, it just didn’t fit.  I get why she did; that’s not an issue.  I just didn’t get why, for as smart and competent as she is she never came to terms with what happened.  A lot of the time she and Carter spent together felt more like filler than necessary to move the story along.  HOPE BURNS was not the Jaci Burton I’ve been reading since the early 2000s.  Something was missing in this one.



This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

Friday, May 20, 2016

THE LONE RANCHER by Andrew Grey

 

Dreamspinner Press
February 15th, 2016
978-1-63476-912-9
Contemporary MM Romance/Western/Dreamspun Desires
Paperback
Reviewed by Dawn (love2read28@gmail.com)
Obtained by Self-Purchase
3.5 Hearts




Aubrey Klein is in a pickle. To save the family ranch, he needs money fast. So he finds a weekend job as a stripper at a Dallas club. For two shows on Saturday he is the Lone Rancher and it is the salvation he needs to keep the ranch he has grown up on and loved. But Aubrey finds that he is torn apart as time goes on with him going to Dallas on weekends and dancing and trying to keep it a secret from his parents. But it all comes to head when an old friend, Garrett Lamston, shows up at the club and Aubrey finds out that Garrett is gay like him. Now as the two men try to stop their meddling mothers, their friendship deepens, love beckons. But Aubrey knows that the secret life he is having in Dallas is tearing him apart. Can Aubrey cowboy up and lay his cards on the table for Garrett and his family or will it all come crashing down on him?

I absolutely adore author Andrew Grey’s books and his latest, THE LONE RANCHER, is no exception. His books are full of amazing characters that are quite lifelike and have the same fears, vulnerabilities we all have in real life.  The story moves at a nice even pace with characters that are enjoyable and quite entertaining. The author does a marvelous job in capturing the way Aubrey feels so pulled apart by the secret in his life as well as his new relationship with Garrett as it turns from a deep friendship to something so much more. The reader gets a sense of what life is like in the ‘bible belt’ of Texas and you can not help but find compassion for both Aubrey and Garrett as they try to deal with stolen moments, secrets, fears and shame as they try to find their own path to love and life. The scenes where Aubrey and Garrett talked about hiding who they were, the shame they felt and more just broke my heart. Those scenes, though painful to read, were happening all over the world today not just in books, movies and TV Shows. The author does a great job in capturing that aspect perfectly in the pages of THE LONE RANCHER. There were some lighter moments that helped keep a balance through the story and that helped a lot. It made it seem much more real to me and that helped me understand more of Aubrey and Garrett’s feelings better.

THE LONE RANCHER is a twist on the traditional Harlequin romances like your mom or grandmother used to read and the authors at Dreamspinner Press do an amazing job in creating stories that just take that kind of a theme and turn it on its head. I loved the whole masked stripper aspect of the story fun and those scenes left me smiling and laughing at my imagination going into overdrive as the scenes came to life in my head. The author creates a cast of characters that make you fall in love with some of them and for a few other characters, makes you want to smack them upside the head and shake them silly. Andrew Grey delivers a sweet tale of two people who find that falling in love is the least of their problems. The question is can they make it work even after all the secrets are out and that right there makes this book a keeper for me. Andrew Grey is my go to author for those heart warming tales that leave a smile on your face even as you flip the pages for more. If you enjoy a ‘traditional’ sort of romance abet with a twist, and then you will love this new line from Dreamspinner Press. For the few books I have read through them, I haven’t been disappointed once. I am eager to see what other authors come up with in the future in this new imprint line and can’t wait for more stories with heart from this author in particular. Definitely a book to keep on my keeper shelf.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

CRIME AND POETRY by Amanda Flower



Publisher:     NAL   
Published:     April 5, 2016
ISBN:        978-0451477446
Genre:      Cozy Mystery
Format:     Print  
Obtained via:  Publisher
Reviewed by name and email address:  Gina  Ginalrmreviews@gmail.com

FOUR HEARTS

 

When Violet Waverly is told her beloved Grandma Daisy is about to head or the great bookstore in the sky, she rushes home to do what she can.  When she arrives in Cascade Falls though, she quickly learns her grandmother is just fine.  Not only fine, but apparently in love with a charming gentleman named Benjamin Raisin. Determined to return to Chicago and her Ph.D. program, Violet just does not want to hear it when her grandmother tells her she is the new caretaker for the birch tree that grows in the center of the family bookstore, Charming Books.

Before Violet can get on her way back to her home Benjamin is killed.  Not only is he killed, it looks like Grandma Daisy is the most likely suspect. Determined to prove her grandmother did not kill the kindly old gent Violet agrees to stay in Cascade Falls a little longer. As the days go by Violet begins to learn a little more about that birch tree and that the water in the Cascade River may not be just regular water.  And then there are the books that seem to keep falling or appearing in the least likely places at the least likely times.  Grandma Daisy insists the books have a message for Violet while Violet is sure that there is nothing so odd about the books opening to pages that have just the words she needs to see.  Even as she makes some new friends, friends and secrets from the past keep her from wanting to stay a day longer than she absolutely has to.

There is so much to like in Amanda Flower’s CRIME AND POETRY, book 1 of her new Magical Bookshop series.  From the setting in Cascade Falls – situated near Niagara Falls, to the characters including Emerson the cat, to the setting in the Charming Bookshop CRIME AND POETRY is a fun read. Flower weaves a solid mystery with some great twists centered around the history of the area as well as the weaving of not one but two old crimes into the current story. 

While the lure to get Violet back to Cascade Falls (the ill grandparent) has been done before, Flower has a unique twist with Grandma Daisy’s book store.  When Flower describes the interior you can easily visualize the curving staircase, the children’s reading area and the ancient birch tree.  The author paints a wonderful picture with her words. 

And she has some great hidden twists…such as the Police Chief’s name and his relationship to the town.  The connection to a historical event from the late 1800s fleshes out the story.

Amanda Flower’s CRIME AND POETRY is definitely one to check out.


This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.