"Cold Cold Heart" by Tami Hoag


I hadn't previously read anything by Tami Hoag, but I am always searching for great new authors. Ms. Hoag certainly fulfilled my expectations. I loved COLD COLD HEART. Dana narrowly escapes a serial killer at the start and tries to focus on rebuilding her life while adjusting to 'after Dana.' 'After Dana' is disfigured, no longer beautiful, unfiltered, no longer politically correct, dark and suspicious, no longer sunny and optimistic. While sent to her childhood home to recover, her childhood best friend's disappearance resurfaces in the news. Afraid to face her demons, she becomes obsessed with remembering the details surrounding her friend Casey's tragedy and figuring out what happened to her. It leads her into the path of a different monster, and she must once again prove that where there is life, there is hope. Dana's actions and reactions while dealing with traumatic brain injury and PTSD were real and believable. Her friend's childhood boyfriend, John, also had these issues after fighting in two wars. Always a suspect for the disappearance of Casey, his highschool girlfriend, being forced to return to the town brought him back into the spotlight as Dana's return stirred up memories of the unsolved case. John was one of my favorite characters. I had figured out who was in the barrel before the author even revealed the barrel, and I thought I knew who was responsible for Casey's disappearance. Still, the author kept just enough doubt and suspicion to make me second-guess myself until the moment everything became clear. Good job; great book! 


"Champagne Kisses" Hot In Magnolia by Minette Lauren



A recipe for hot dates in Magnolia...
*** A beautiful widow with a farm, three wild little boys, and too much work to handle.
*** A bar owner armed with chivalry and a dream.
*** An accident that seems destined to happen.
*** And a summer too hot to cool things down.
After crashing her minivan into Hank’s Honkey-Tonk on the way to get groceries, single mom, Lexi Nash finds herself alone with a double shot of whiskey and an intoxicating man. Down on her luck, with a ranch that’s bleeding her dry, Lexi can’t imagine what the sexy bar owner, Noah Harding, sees in her. But, after one night out, they’re tumbling into her king size bed, rumpling her satin sheets, and already having their first test of wills. Widowed and wracked with guilt about moving on, Lexi pushes Noah away, thinking there’s no way he’s the staying kind of man she needs in her complicated life. Then she reels him back in when she realizes he’s just the guy she wants. But when Noah’s cousin rolls in with a surprise guest and the truth about Noah’s past, everything goes off the rails. Can Lexi and Noah get back on track or will they end up roadkill on the highway of love?

Noah and Lexi made a good pair in this prequel. Their chemistry blazed. The tensions and obstacles of their pasts made every moment action or emotion-filled. I read it in one day. It was entertaining, and the ending left the story open for more. I would read the books in the Hot in Magnolia Series to find out what happens to these two skittish lovers. I'd also like to find out if my suspicions of the road-side hero are correct. I would have given it five "cardinals" except for the fact that Hank was so slimy that I couldn't accept his turn of character without much cause.

***This book was an Amazon purchase

"Ghostly Interference" by Jan Sikes



Jag Peters has one goal in his quiet comfortable life—to keep his karma slate wiped clean. A near-miss crash with a candy apple red Harley threatens to upend his safe world. He tracks down the rider to apologize properly. Slipping into a seedy biker bar, he discovers the rider isn't a "he", it's a "she", a dark-haired beauty.

Rena Jett is a troubled soul, who lives in a rough world. She wants no part of Jag's apology, but even while she pushes him away, she is attracted to him. When he claims to see a ghost—her brother—can she trust him? And could her brother's final gift, a magical rune stone with the symbol for "happily ever after" have the power to heal her wounds and allow opposites to find common ground—perhaps even love?

I learned a couple of phrases that are apparently "Texas" based. For example - the use of the word "chunked" as a verb. I thought it was a mistake at first. I've never "chunked" anything. But, after seeing it a few times, I looked it up. Yes, chunked is a verb in Texas. :) 

I liked the twists on the traditional play: the female lead, Rena, is the bad-a** biker, and the male lead, Jag, is the nerd. Jag suffers through the sexual harassment of a female boss. He also lets Rena teach him to ride a motorcycle. 

I can believe in spirits and ghosts and loved ones sticking around to help or returning to check on you. I liked that element of the story with Rena's brother. Their bond was touching. 

Rena and Jag's love story was sweet, but it took me so long to read it, like over six hours. I felt it could have been shorter. It seemed like there were periods where not much was happening that could have been stripped away and not changed the story. 

 Rena's back story made me cringe sometimes. It seemed every foster home and every adult or child she ever knew in those homes did something unspeakable to her: not just bad things, evil things. It felt too heavy on the negative for her to fall into bed with Jag as quickly as she did. 

This book blesses us with a happily-ever-after for many characters. I do love a happy ending.

***I won this book in a blog contest.


"The Acorn Stories" by Duane Simolke


Visit Acorn, Texas, for the German festival, a high school football game, homemade apple pie from the Turner Street Café, and the cool shade of a hundred-year-old oak tree. Meet dedicated teachers, shrewd business owners, closet cases, and concerned neighbors. See how lives become intertwined in moments of humor or tragedy. Just be careful, because in Acorn, the sky is always falling.

From romantic comedy to razor-sharp satire to moments of quiet reflection, these tales explore the humor, drama, secrets, and scandals of a small town.

I enjoyed this book. It's well-written and edited. The author created so many unique characters, and sometimes their lives crossed over another. I cared for some short stories and people more than others (just like you would in a small town- there's always that one neighbor... or three,) but it all entertained me. The deepest secrets and individual idiosyncrasies drew me in. The narration method meshed with the tale and the small-town setting. Everyone knew everybody's business. Each chapter focused on different emotions, traits, and reactions; merely being human. These highly believable settings and naturally developed characters could be anywhere in the nation. The author is talented; I found the style engaging, and I would read more of their work. 

***This book was gifted to me by the author.


"Unbound" by R. C. Butler: A Book Review by TMDG Reviews


More sex than mystery. Too much sex. The main character wanted to have sex with everyone. Men. Women. It didn't matter. It felt like filler that lengthened the work. Should be categorized as erotica instead of thriller/suspense. It didn't feel appropriate that her "IT slave" as she called him was allowed so much access to her investigation. The book could have used closer editing/proofing. The unraveling of the crime left me disappointed. I haven't decided if I want to read the next book. I don't prefer erotica based books. :(  The description did warn of graphic sexual scenes; I didn't realize the bulk of the book would be dedicated to those scenes. 


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"Lodestone : Book 1 Witch-Hunt" by Wendy Scott: A Book Review by TMDG Reviews


I loved some of the descriptive sections of this book. When Lauren exacted her revenge, and she blasted open the gate with one word, "OPEN!" When Sabrina and Deakon had to squeeze through the caves, it rang true because I am also afraid of confined spaces. The otherworldly creatures were fascinating. The tension between Micah and Sabrina throbbed, and I had to follow along to see if Sabrina would keep him from his chosen destiny. I kept reading as fast as I could. I wanted to see if Sabrina would destroy the Lodestone and how she'd do it. The ending satisfied me. I would read the next book in the series. 

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"The Perfect Couple" by Jackie Kabler : A Book Review by TMDG Reviews


The synopsis pulled me in. Check. The story started intriguing. Check. Gemma waits several days to report her husband missing; all the while paralyzed with worry? Hard to fathom. Spends many chapters repeating the same thoughts, wondering where Danny could have gone while nothing really happens. Annoying. I kept reading because I thought there was no way they'd pull it together and make this a good ending. And it didn't happen. I waited FOREVER to find Danny or learn what happened to him, expecting some WOW moment, and really... the first "truth" is stumbled upon so easily after a supposed genius master plan had been painstakingly crafted and implemented? He just opens the front door when someone rings the bell? And if the real villain had his new life all set up and ready to go - why would he go back after escaping once, sit and explain the whole thing? So we, the reader, would understand the motives and get all the information we needed to tie it up. It made no sense at all that the bad guy wouldn't have laid low and hightailed it out of there. If she promises not to tell anyone, he'll lay it all out and then be on his merry way? Trust her not to call the police and give him away? Blah. I was disappointed with this one.

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"The Jewel" by Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey : Book review by TMDG Reviews


Haddy and Otto's sweet love affair and devotion to their child is touching. Haddy's deep sadness over not bearing future children breaks a heart. Otto's commitment to his family and making Haddy's wish come true is heroism at its finest. This short fairytale-like story contains a little action and romance. Hope and a second chance will lead you home. I enjoyed it.

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"Blindsided" by Erica Hilary: Book review by TMDG Reviews


Blindsided me! I LOVED this book. I am partial to this genre and read it most often, and I'd vote this as one of the best books in its category I've read all year. Color me impressed by this author. She balanced each character's emotions perfectly, slowly revealing the deep, dark side of a narcissist. Several times, I caught myself saying, "NO way." Yes, he did, and so close to getting away with all of it. You must read this book and experience the setup, spinout, and satisfying conclusion of this novel! 
Erica Hilary made the list of new favorite authors. I look forward to more of her work.

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"A Splendid Ruin" by Megan Chance


 I weighed all points and decided I enjoyed it more than I disliked it. So, three stars instead of two.  May's "family" was truly diabolical. However, I waited for something to happen for the first fifty percent and almost gave up reading. Hints and suspicions gave way to wondering why May couldn't figure anything out for herself. Nothing. Until she landed in the asylum. Okay, so something happened, and I was interested again. May started to evolve from her naivety and toughened up. Then, the earthquake's survival, day after day descriptions of the disaster distracted from May's path to vengeance. That's okay. I waited for her revenge to happen and satisfy me for my persistence in finishing the read. Alas, payback didn't happen the way I'd thought it would, and the anticlimatic justice left me a bit disappointed.