"The Haunting of Brynn Wilder" by Wendy Webb

After a devastating loss, Brynn Wilder escapes to Wharton, a tourist town on Lake Superior, to reset. Checking into a quaint boardinghouse for the summer, she hopes to put her life into perspective. In her fellow lodgers, she finds a friendly company of strangers: the frail Alice, cared for by a married couple with a heartbreaking story of their own; LuAnn, the eccentric and lovable owner of the inn; and Dominic, an unsettlingly handsome man inked from head to toe in mesmerizing tattoos.

But in this inviting refuge, where a century of souls has passed, a mystery begins to swirl. Alice knows things about Brynn, about all of them, that she shouldn’t. Bad dreams and night whispers lure Brynn to a shuttered room at the end of the hall, a room still heavy with a recent death. And now she’s become irresistibly drawn to Dominic—even in the shadow of rumors that wherever he goes, suspicious death follows.

In this chilling season of love, transformation, and fear, something is calling for Brynn. To settle her past, she may have no choice but to answer.

After reading it, I don't know what I initially expected from this book. I downloaded it as a free read many months ago and finally got to it recently. It turned out Brynn was haunted, or rather, her vacation place was haunted. The setting is lovely; the author did a good job making me believe I was there. There were some quirky characters. It left a lot of questions. The local authority's suspicion of Dominic never came to fruition. Many questions about Dominic were left hazy. Why did he save Alice if she was doomed to die anyway? Why Did he dive into the water that final fateful time? The ending filled in some details about Brynn and Jane Doe found dead in the beginning. That was the fascinating element of the book. When I finished and thought about it, I got a nice feeling. I want to believe in life after death, love that transcends time and space, and a commitment that lasts for eternity. 


"All The Right Things" by Stephanie Renee


The sexual content consumes this story. If you prefer that, you may like this book. After probably their fifth round, I started skimming these sections. Andi's life growing up in foster care, marrying the wrong guy, and then finding her knight in shining armor played out from within Andi's thoughts and dialogue. Most of this novel happened inside the characters' heads, switching between Andi and Jonas. Repetition of her self-deprecating thoughts and talk and his continually "saying the right things" had me waiting for a moment of conflict, something that would test their relationship. Although they had a fight at one point, and Andi left to handle some past business, it didn't seem that explosive. Even with Andi's past sad circumstances, I didn't grow invested in the story or the couple. Jonas and his family were the best part of the book, although most of their relationship was also explained through talk.

"Follow You Home" by Mark Edwards



It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, a final adventure before settling down. But after a perfect start, an encounter with a young couple on a night train forces Daniel and Laura to cut their dream trip short and flee home.

Back in London, Daniel and Laura vow never to talk about what happened that night. But as they try to fit into their old lives again, they realise they are in terrible danger—and that their nightmare is just beginning…

Mark Edwards has a knack for psychological thrillers. "Follow You Home" lived up to its name. When Danny and Laura returned from a vacation that turned nightmare, the sense of evil waiting in the wings to reach out and snatch them made me believe it had followed them home from Romania. This book caused a rollercoaster of emotions, and when I couldn't believe how bad one person was, another came into frame that made the previous one look mild. I intended to read for thirty minutes or so when I got into bed, but I couldn't stop. Two hours later, I had to force myself to put the book down and try to sleep, although it wasn't easy after the chilling subject matter. Twists shocked me, and the final one left me questioning if the author took it too far; could he pull that off? Did he get away with it? I think he did!

"Cupcakes and Kisses" (Hot in Magnolia Book 1) by Minette Lauren



What does it take to make it Hot in Magnolia?

* One cup of sexy

* Two tablespoons of sizzle

* And a whole lot of heart

Magnolia, Texas, might be booming with single men, but as far as Melvina Banks is concerned, it’s a bust. Between her volunteer work with the Magnolia Blossoms, tutoring at the local library, whipping up cupcakes for the local firefighters, and working at her dad’s diner, she has no time for blind dates let alone finding “the one”. Melvina would much rather spend her precious downtime fine-tuning her plan to open a bakery. When celebrity chef, Riley Nash comes to town for a Blossoms fundraiser, Melvina hopes for a chance to pick Riley’s business-savvy brain. With Riley’s nationally acclaimed talents and his successful new restaurant, Braised, he just might be the one who can help Melvina whip her blossoming idea into a recipe for success. Trouble is, she can’t seem to keep her mind on business when it comes to Riley’s devilish good looks and sizzling charm. The heat is turned up when Magnolia’s handsome fire chief, Manny Owens, sparks an interest in Melvina. Torn between two of Magnolia’s hottest bachelors, she can’t help but feel the burn. Can Melvina separate her rising affections for both men, or will she end up with egg on her face?

Cupcakes and Kisses is the first book in the delicious new romantic comedy series, Hot in Magnolia, by award-winning author Minette Lauren. Set in the burgeoning town of Magnolia, Texas, this hot new series is brimming with laugh-out-loud moments and chock-full of endearing characters who will have you rooting for love and cheering for happy endings.

CUPCAKES AND KISSES charmed me. It was both comical and sometimes serious. Melvina's search for love had me rooting for her happiness. She had the attention of two good men; she had to choose one of them and remain true to her dreams. I liked that Melvina was a mature character that knew what she wanted and had real-life issues she'd dealt with such as maintaining a huge weight loss. Her best friend and her Pez dispenser were a little iffy. The Magnolia Blossom president was someone you could love to hate. Riley and Manny were each dreamy in their own way - a bonus. The happily-ever-after was sigh-worthy. I will definitely read more books by Minette Lauren.


"Kill the Messenger" by Tami Hoag


Jace's life is tough, but he keeps on trucking. He refuses to let the world keep him down because he's got a little brother that needs him. He shovels ice for a fish market first thing in the morning and then works as a bike messenger the rest of the day. One night, he's sent to deliver a package that lands him in the middle of blackmail and murder, and now he's holding the information that could cost him his life. This is an action-packed thrill ride. The characters are diverse. The mystery is twisted. Get ready for some surprises. Tami Hoag keeps you on your toes with this one!

This book was a Library loan.

"Night Sins" by Tami Hoag


A peaceful Minnesota town, where crime is something that just doesn’t happen, is about to face its worst nightmare. A young boy disappears. There are no witnesses, no clues—only a note, cleverly taunting, casually cruel. Has a cold-blooded kidnapper struck? Or is this the reawakening of a long-quiet serial killer?

Nothing bad happens in Deer Lake... until it does. A child abduction. A marriage in trouble. The guilt. The fear. The secrets and deceptions. Smart, sharp detectives: one still struggling with his losses, and one with a chip on her shoulder fall in love amid the madness. The ending wasn't an ending because there is a sequel, and I can't wait to read it!

"Murder On Kane Lane" Book 1 by KC Hadley




When a humiliating design reveal on HGTV becomes a viral sensation, Audra Sullivan moves back home to Las Sirenas Bay to start over. Everything is going as well as can be expected (she’s been reduced to cleaning grout) when the woman renting space in her design studio is found murdered.

That won't be good for business.

The first chapter started slow. It took a minute to get into the story. The citizens of Las Sirenas were unique and interesting, and the cast included an adorable surfing canine. There were a lot of cute plays on words.

The mystery aspect was muddled. The amateur sleuths did a lot of questioning and a lot of changing their minds about who the killer was. Theories based on unlimited rumors and hearsay without much evidence and not much actually happening after the murder. It felt like the sisters chased their tales interrogating and returning to question the same people every time someone pointed a finger elsewhere. The good news is that I did not figure out who the killer was until the end. But, there were no real clues throughout the book that would lead the reader to the conclusion. I was glad the sheriff redeemed himself at the end and proved the perception of his bumbling character incorrect. The book read quickly, an easy read, light entertainment. I would like to find out if Audra's gut feeling about her husband's death was accurate.


"Secrets To The Grave" by Tami Hoag

 Secrets To The Grave included some characters from the first book of the Oak Knoll series. I liked those characters. However, in this installment, some of their actions made them a little less likable. I have enjoyed several of Ms. Hoag's books. This one was not my favorite. As far as a sequel to the first book- I would have rather read (and the reason I wanted to read the sequel was to find out) what happened to Tommy Crane and his mother. Did she know what Dr. Crane had done? Was she an accomplice? Would murder follow her to another town? Hoag answered none of those questions. Dennis Farman, the evil young character's story, continued; his path was foreshadowed and expected. Dr. Crane still sits in jail awaiting trial. We don't know if he'll ever face trial for the serial murders. These things would have been a better follow up book. Maybe the author intends to address this in the next addition? I hope. 
 The new elements of the novel, the murder of Marissa Fordham, and the Bordain family's involvement in her life were a bit lack-luster. I figured out who the villain was and their motives very early on - but that had to be an extremely disturbed party to commit such an act, and Oak Knoll has nuts abound. Poor Anne is not a cop, not a superhero, and yet, the woman wards off attacks by two different maniacs. That was tough to accept. The author usually does a great job with multiple plot lines and bad guys. I give the book three stars because I enjoy the author's style. Straight forward and concise. And because I felt compelled to finish it even though I suspected the ending. I plan to read the next book in the series.


"Our Stolen Pieces" by James Hunt


Great cover and the excellent blurb pulled me in. I liked the building relationship and the development of trust between the two main detective characters. Their backstories were interesting, but Jim seemed too young for his part. Even though his troubled childhood had seasoned him as a person, I'm not sure that correlates with working experience and moving up the ranks. Their case promised to be edgy with the development of the love triangle amongst the victims' parents, but that turned out not to be pertinent to the story. I don't think therapists would volunteer as much information as they did in this book either. The children's' recovery seemed to happen extremely fast. A couple of days. Although, that did make the story move quickly. This book was okay; a quick and easy read with your firm suspension of disbelief. 


"Deeper than the Dead" by Tami Hoag


Tami Hoag has an incredible talent for painting evil characters of all ages. This book had more than one. She can weave a story with multiple plots and make them all important. A thrilling read. I subtracted a star because some of the points towards the end were left hanging. Then I realized this was a series. I will definitely search out the next books to see how those points play out later.

"Daddy's Little Girl" by Mary Higgins Clark


Many stories start with a crime or murder, and you spend your time reading and trying to piece together information to name the perpetrator. In this one, the bad guy, Rob, goes to jail, but he protests his innocence for twenty-two years. His victim's younger sister, Ellie, found the body. She grows up to be an investigative journalist. Ellie realizes Rob's parole is inevitable. He wants a new trial based on a witness's testimony; he's built a website to spin his public profile in a positive light and plans to have his conviction erased. Ellie decides to construct a responding webpage to show the real darkness of his character. I enjoyed the battle between the adult Ellie and Rob. The fight to prove his guilt once and for all hinged on a detail she remembered when she was five that everyone thought was not an accurate memory. Getting to the truth built a suspenseful and dangerous plot. Mary Higgins Clark has satisfied with an enjoyable read.


"Connected To Me" by Marc Kage



Aoi Kanemoto is Japanese, cute, shy, and a certified genius. Despite graduating top of her class at Caltech, she struggles to find a job in the fast-paced tech industry. Her family, although very loving, doesn’t understand her at all, and her little sister seems poised for success. But Aoi suffers from deep seated trust issues, that keep her from pursuing her dreams.

Then she meets Christian Sterling at a local ramen shop. An Afro-Hispanic foster child and fellow tech-head, Christian’s gentle demeanor and kind gestures cut through Aoi’s emotional barrier. But as they chat and grow closer, the shy girl’s anxiety causes her to flee the restaurant, before he can even ask for her number. Getting ditched is bad enough, but Christian has no idea that this chance encounter is about to turn both their lives upside down.

The next morning, Christian and Aoi are shocked to wake up in each other’s bodies. They have no idea how to get back! As Aoi discovers how lonely Christian’s life really is, Christian must confront Aoi’s strict parents, and help her find the courage to stand up for herself once and for all. And the more they learn about each other’s lives, the deeper they fall in love. But are they trapped in each other’s bodies forever? And if they do switch back, will their new-found romance survive?

This story's idea may be a good one, but it's in dire need of editing to ensure consistency of tense, timeline, and characters. An editor will also help remove unnecessary and repetitive words and rewrite clunky paragraphs to craft a more captivating read.  Example: "It was such a gigantic place, you would think its sign would be much larger than that. The building is large, towering large above the buildings beside it." I couldn't enjoy the book in its current form.

"Stone Dead in Rio Vista" by Peter C Bradbury


Something unique about this book (to me as a reader) was the killer's identity revealed early in the book. I believe it was in the second chapter. I thought, how can you keep the book interesting when I already know "who done it?" The best part of the book, in my opinion, was the killer: clever enough not to get caught and crazy enough to want to continue killing. But eventually, they pushed their luck too far and got their just rewards. There were some minor editing issues and some unnecessary paragraphs that slowed the narrative. Overall, I found it entertaining for the unlikely bad guy and how they eluded capture.

"Vanished" by Mark Bierman



Tragedy . . . heartache . . . how much more can Tyler Montgomery and John Webster take? This missions trip, the “healing” one, has only added fresh layers of pain. Construction of an orphanage in Haiti’s northwest . . . yes. But a doomed rescue operation, human traffickers, human anomalies, extreme personal danger . . . risk of death? They hadn't signed up for those.
Turning their backs on the crisis, however, is unthinkable, it’s just not who they are.

I started reading this book, and my feelings wavered. I understand explaining Tyler's guilt and grief over losing his wife and the mission's point, but Chantale's kidnapping is where I feel the story truly began. I continued, and at about 25-30% in, I finally gained traction. The plot exploded and hooked my interest. By 50%, it reeled me in. The struggles of captives Martine and Guilles, plotting their escapes enthralled. Eliana's defiance of Diego to help find and rescue enslaved children touched a nerve. Her brave acts held many consequences. The author's descriptions illustrated the action. I suffer from claustrophobia, and JanJack's journey through the mining tunnels nearly had me in a panic. Tyler's description of the river as an enemy while trying to escape angry villagers felt artistic. But sometimes, in the middle of a "fast-moving" scene, the lengthy description could put the story in slow-motion. The author did a good job portraying a genuine problem in child trafficking. I am rating this three stars because I would rate the first half two stars and the second half four stars. 

"Sahara Heat" by Maura Beth Brennan

 I have read other books by this author, and I am a fan. This one wasn't my favorite, not because of the story, but maybe because of how the author shared it. The main character tells a journalist who tells the reader. Still a good story, don't misunderstand my description. Sahara is quite the firecracker who knows how to get what she wants. I won't give away too many details because it's a short story, and I don't want to spoil it. Read it yourself and decide if Sahara invokes your sympathy, your amazement, perhaps, your anger? It will make you feel some of those and make you laugh. 


"Critical Points A Novelette" by Joshua Scribner



Garrett is adopted at a young age by caring parents. His life becomes great, aside from a repeating nightmare and occasional attacks from an invisible presence. Can he come to understand these things? Can he survive them?

There's a lot of punch packed into this short story. At each point that Garrett faced a life-altering decision, he'd chosen correctly. Eventually, the author revealed the opposite choices and their consequences. I found it interesting, and I wanted to keep reading to figure out the "presence" that kept attacking Garrett throughout the years. I wavered between three and four stars; I felt it was a solid four most of the way through. When nearing its conclusion, things moved a little too quickly, and the explanation of the glowing being confused me. The end felt abrupt. Wait? What? I need to know more. It kept me reading; the idea was outstanding and unique, and it left me wanting more. So, if there had been a sequel, I would have read it. 

"At The Edge Of The Stairs" by Phil Stephens



At The Edge of the Stairs is a gripping tale of a young woman's love that is so strong it transcends the barrier between this dimension and the next. It is the incredible story of Crystal Maiden Arabella and Abraham Gallagher. It follows Maiden's paranormal reincarnated journey to reunite with her lover almost twenty-three years after her death.

Crystal Maiden, or Maiden as she is called, is caught in a deadly house fire with no way out. The first fire department responder on the scene is a rookie named Abraham Gallagher. With no hesitation he and fellow fighter fighters plow through the dangerous fiery maze of the first floor. There, at the edge of the stairs, he finds Maiden injured and unconscious, but alive. As he carries her out of the house to safety and lays her on the ground, a strong emotion immediately takes hold of him. Over the next several days he visits her in the hospital and falls deeply in love, as does Maiden with him. Once Maiden has recovered, they plan to get married, but their plans take a tragic turn as Maiden is killed in a car crash two weeks prior to the wedding. As she lay dying in Abraham’s arms she vows she will reincarnate herself and come back to him…and she does.

This book's description drew me in; the cover photo did as well. The idea of a paranormal romance that overcomes death with reincarnation fascinated me. That said, the author would be well-served to have an editor go through the story with a fine-toothed comb. Point of view and narration style could use a little pick-me-up. It could be pared down, weeding out long and unnecessary parts. Or, perhaps it could be turned into more than one book where each section could receive greater focus. It has too many critical errors in its current form. For example, Chief Callahan becomes Chief Gallagher while Chief Callahan and Abraham Gallagher are having a conversation. 

"Ride Hard : Caballeros Book 2" by Sylvia C. Castillo


First of all, this book could benefit from the experience of an editor. The characters were over-the-top. Too much, overwhelming. The married couple's feelings are exceedingly perfect. It didn't flow smoothly; it felt abrupt, rushed. Dialogue mixed with internal thoughts felt disjointed. I didn't like professional people throwing "F" bombs - not that I think a professional person would never use the word. Still, I think they'd reserve it for private or personal situations and not in their work setting, especially when one of those is an elementary school. Some plotlines are touching and cute, especially Trinity's character- anyone who's dealt with a toddler can relate to her antics. Close-knit family and friends are lovely things, but I didn't find whatever the special ingredient is to capture my interest and make me want more. 


"Peace in the Storm" by S. Jackson Rivera


A cute romance with serious underlying problems that aren't portrayed so darkly as to overshadow the positive message in the book. A balance that entertains and keeps you reading. Jay and Gill are a couple with scars who overcome them to find a chance for love and happiness with a few comical misunderstandings thrown in the mix. I enjoyed this quick read and especially enjoyed how Incubus played in the ironic ending. 


"The Perfect Witness" by Iris Johansen


I forced myself to finish this book, hoping something would happen to redeem it and justify my time spent. I didn't like the main characters. The girl was nasty, and the guy had no depth. The implied sexual tension between a grown man and a teenager caused some problems. The interactions between people were flat and mechanical; the story repetitive and uninteresting. The whole book focused on preparing for an event that was anticlimactic and disappointing when it finally happened. 


"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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