Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Dark Before Dawn by Laurie Stevens

The Dark Before DawnThe Dark Before Dawn by Laurie Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the blurb:

High in the Santa Monica Mountains grisly murders are taking place. On each of the victim's bodies a note is left for L.A. Sheriff's detective, Gabriel McRay. The killer's identity is locked within the suppressed memory of a horrifying trauma from Gabriel's own childhood. Teamed with his forensic pathologist girlfriend and his psychiatrist, Gabriel runs two parallel investigations. The first: a dark journey into the terrifying recollections of his past and the second, the hunt for a serial killer who seems to know more about Gabriel... than he knows himself.

This was an excellent mystery/thriller, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Gabriel McRay, an L.A. Detective with an anger management issue, is drawn into a murder investigation that hits close to home - close to memories he has so far successfully repressed.

As he delves into his past with the help of a therapist, and discovers horrific trauma he has no conscious recollection of, the murders continue, and it becomes clear that the killer has a fixation with the detective who's trying to catch him - one that doesn't get revealed until nearly the end.

Twists and turns abound in this book, and it's a credit to the author that it never becomes confusing to follow along the rapidly paced events. It was a nail-biting race to the finish, and at about 30% in, I couldn't put this book down, because I simply had to know what would happen next.

Considering that this is a self-published novel, I was impressed with the finely tuned editing the story appears to have gone through - there are no superfluous actions or events, and nothing is left unanswered. Even the romance between Gabriel and Ming was nicely paced, and very realistically portrayed.

A proof reader might need to go over the final version again - I did find some misspellings, punctuation errors and there also seemed to be a word missing on occasion.

The writing is crisp and not overly detailed, and the tone is absolutely appropriate for this type of novel. The characters are well-developed, and their actions make sense.

It is also clear that the author has invested quite some time in her research. Anyone who enjoys a good murder mystery should give this book a try, although the squeamish might want to skip over the somewhat detailed accounts of the murders.

4 well-deserved stars. Apparently, there is going to be a sequel. If so, sign me up!

I received a free electronic version of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Family Plan by Cathy Davis

Aidan: Loyal Cowboy & The Family PlanThe Family Plan by Cathy McDavid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was included in the book "Aidan: Loyal Cowboy".

The Family Plan, tells the story of Jolyn and Chase, friends since childhood, who always sort of secretly pined for each other. After a horrific riding accident, Jolyn returns to her hometown after having been gone for 9 years. Chase has built a veterinary practice in town, and is raising his daughter after her mother split to pursue her rodeo dreams.

I adored these two characters. Their story was sweet, despite setbacks and a rather big fight, but neither held a grudge, and both realized that being with each other was worth fighting for. They didn't let the issues surrounding them stand in their way.

The ending felt a wee bit rushed, with all the issues being resolved in a much too quick manner for my taste, which is why I can only give this 3.5 stars. Much like the first book, the writing flows well, the dialogue is believable and natural, and the characters seemed rather well fleshed out. Again, the plot was a little predictable, but nonetheless interesting to follow.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

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Aidan: Loyal Cowboy by Cathy Davis

Aidan: Loyal Cowboy & The Family PlanAidan: Loyal Cowboy by Cathy McDavid
My rating:  2.5 of 5 stars

Aidan: Loyal Cowboy is the story of Aidan and Flynn, who were once romantically involved, but got derailed by the death of Aidan's father and subsequent family responsibilities. She goes off to marry someone else, gets divorced and comes back to her hometown. Then one night, Aidan and Flynn rekindle their romance. Aidan, thinking that he has nothing to offer her, walks out the next morning with no intention of leading her on, regretting that he has let his love and passion for her get too far.

Shortly after that night, Flynn finds out she's pregnant. When she tells Aidan, he immediately proposes, but Flynn refuses because she's afraid Aidan only proposes out of a sense of responsibility.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I Only Have Eyes For You (Sullivan Family #4) by Bella Andre

I Only Have Eyes for You (The Sullivans, #4)I Only Have Eyes for You by Bella Andre
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the blurb:

Sophie Sullivan, a librarian in San Francisco, was five years old when she fell head over heels in love with Jake McCann. Twenty years later, she's convinced the notorious bad boy still sees her as the "nice" Sullivan twin. That is, when he bothers to look at her at all. But when they both get caught up in the magic of the first Sullivan wedding, she knows it's long past time to do whatever it takes to make him see her for who she truly is...the woman who will love him forever. Jake has always been a magnet for women, especially since his Irish pubs made him extremely wealthy. But the only woman he really wants is the one he can never have. Not only is Sophie his best friend's off-limits younger sister...he can't risk letting her get close enough to discover his deeply hidden secret.

I Only Have Eyes For You is a sweet yet powerfully emotional romance between a "nice" virginal librarian and a rough pub owner struggling with ghosts of his past.

Sophie, the youngest of the 8 Sullivan siblings in this series (together with her twin sister Lori) has always been the nice half of the twins, whereas Lori is known as the naughty one. For 20 years, Sophie has loved and yearned for Jake McCann, a man who's been sort of adopted into the Sullivan family and is best friends with one of her brothers.

She wants him, but has no illusions about the difficulty she's facing in obtaining her heart's desire.

Unbeknownst to her, Jake loves and yearns for her in much the same fashion, but is convinced (due to his unloving upbringing among other things) that he has nothing to offer her. He also knows that her brothers would never approve of their sweet, innocent sister having any sort of romantic relationship with him.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Harder They Fall by Trish Jensen

The Harder They Fall (Love & Laughter #24)The Harder They Fall by Trish Jensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A super-cute fast read, perfect for an afternoon at the beach or curled up with a hot chocolate, The Harder They Fall is that perfect, light-hearted romance to entertain you for a few hours.

Darcy Welham is the world's biggest klutz. She also has a quick mind, a fiery spirit and an exceptional memory. She's vowed to save her parents' restaurant business from being sold, and promised her father to learn the business from the ground up.

Unfortunately, her klutziness, as endearing as it may be, does not a good waitress make. Accidents happen frequently, usually resulting in broken dishes, ruined food and on occasion, a scalding cup of coffee down someone's legs.

Michael Davidson has been sent by his company to the restaurant where Darcy works to convince her father to sell. Hilarity, misunderstandings and sweet romance ensue!

It was a joy to watch them fall for each other, resisting mightily and then giving in. Michael endeared himself to me with his gentleness and caring heart, his trying to help Darcy find the self-esteem she is lacking and his willingness to forego his goal and 'losing' in order to win her.

Certainly, it's a book full of romance tropes but Ms. Jensen delivers them in such a fashion that you can't help but be happily swept away.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

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Bared To You by Sylvia Day

Bared to You (Crossfire, #1)Bared to You by Sylvia Day
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the blurb:

Gideon Cross came into my life like lightning in the darkness—beautiful and brilliant, jagged and white-hot. I was drawn to him as I'd never been to anything or anyone in my life. I craved his touch like a drug, even knowing it would weaken me. I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily... Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. And we would become the mirrors that reflected each other's most private wounds... and desires. The bonds of his love transformed me, even as I prayed that the torment of our pasts didn't tear us apart...

I wasn't able to put this down, except for work and sleep. Bared To You drew me in from the first lines and took me on a rollercoaster ride.

At first glance, Gideon Cross is a stereotypical romance novel male - unbelievably rich, extremely good-looking, powerful - but beneath the steely, controlled exterior lies a vulnerability and depth of emotion that I haven't seen in a romance novel in a very long time. And while the abuse in his past is not (yet) fully explained in this book, it becomes clear that he is fighting those demons in stoic and somewhat suppressed silence.

When Eva Trammell literally falls into his life, he's immediately intrigued, even though she doesn't meet his 'usual fare' of women. His dogged pursuit of her, without becoming creepy, and ultimate success in winning her affections was a joy to watch unfold.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Inherit The Sky by Ariel Tachna

Inherit the SkyInherit the Sky by Ariel Tachna
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From the blurb:

Caine Neiheisel is stuck in a dead-end job at the end of a dead-end relationship when the chance of a lifetime falls in his lap. His mother inherits her uncle’s sheep station in New South Wales, Australia, and Caine sees it as the opportunity to start over, out on the range where his stutter won’t hold him back and his willingness to work will surely make up for his lack of knowledge.

Unfortunately, Macklin Armstrong, the foreman of Lang Downs who should be Caine’s biggest ally, alternates between being cool and downright dismissive, and the other hands are more amused by Caine’s American accent than they are moved by his plight… until they find out he’s gay and their amusement turns to scorn. It will take all of Caine’s determination—and an act of cruel sabotage by a hostile neighbor—to bring the men of Lang Downs together and give Caine and Macklin a chance at love.

The worst thing about this book was the romance.

Yes, you read that right. I loved everything else, from Caine's humble, sweet, caring character to Macklin's rough, no-fuss demeanor to the amazing description of life in the Australian outback on a sheep farm - it was all lovely and good and wonderful.

All but the romance. That felt weird, contrived and in some sections almost unbelievable. The whole top and bottom blah blah got on my nerves, and I hated Macklin's blowing hot and cold, and I hated Caine's waffling and his almost submissive behavior around his foreman. Yes, he grew some balls in the end, but it didn't save the romance for me.

Don't get me wrong - I loved Caine. His choice in mate, not so much.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

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