Monday 28 August 2017

Review: The Wolf of Kisimul Castle by Heather McCollum

The Wolf of Kisimul Castle (Highland Isles #3) by Heather McCollum
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publication date: August 14th 2017
My rating: 4.5 Stars
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Mairi Maclean is kidnapped on her wedding day by the enemy of her dead husband. Taken north to the water-surrounded Kisimul Castle, she is held captive in the name of retribution. But The Wolf of Kisimul Castle soon learns Mairi is not a docile pawn in this game of war between neighboring Scots. Nor will she be frightened into walking down the aisle to wed the fierce Highland chief.

Alec MacNeil is set on revenge. When he finds his enemy dead, he takes his wife to replace the one that was murdered. An eye for an eye. A bride for a bride. But Mairi is more tiger than kitten and refuses to bend to his will. Set stubbornly against one another, the passion that flares between them threatens to tear Alec’s strategy to shreds.

My Thoughts:
Mairi Maclean is kidnapped from her clan the day she’s to wed another by Alec, Chief of the Mac Neil clan of Barra Isle.   He plans on stealing her off and make her his wife as revenge against Clan MacInnes, for the murder of his own wife.  He’s surprised by Mairi demanding a kiss when he barges in to steal her away (there’s a story behind that).  The prospect of marrying Mairi becomes sweeter after the passionate kiss they share, but her attitude towards Alec swiftly changes when she realizes he’s come to haul her off to his island.  Mairi is outraged when he demands that she marry him or become his prisoner. 

Kidnapping would hardly be the way to any woman’s heart, but I was relieved to discover Alec wouldn’t force Mairi to do anything against her will.  And hey, this was the 1500’s, so I guess things were a little different back then.  Marriages were often entered into as a political alliance, with or without the consent of the woman.  But Mairi was no pushover.  She dug her heels at the idea, but getting to know Alec softened her up; especially witnessing the love and care he had for his kids. Mairi can’t help the powerful attraction she feels for Alec regardless of how she ended up at Kisimul Castle.

I had an open mind about Alec, and he didn’t disappoint.  I fell for hard for this soft-hearted warrior and I even liked him a little more than Mairi. Alec had a vulnerable side to him; worried that anyone he loved would leave or be taken from him. He had good reasons to worry. There was a fair bit of tension by the end, Alec’s wife’s murder isn’t all what it seemed, and the mystery behind it ended up bringing danger to the clan!   

Heather McCollum brought Alec and Mairi to life, made me care about them. I felt their emotions: fear, uncertainty, passion, and love. I do love a good historical romance with a sexy highlander. They’re usually a lot of fun, but I was pleased that The Wolf of Kisimul Castle was more. 

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Friday 25 August 2017

Mini-review: Purple Hearts by Tess Wakefield

Purple Hearts by Tess Wakefield
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books/Alloy Entertainment 
Publication Date: 25th April 2017
My rating: 3 stars 

When a soldier with a troubled past and a struggling songwriter agree to a marriage of convenience for the military benefits, neither expects much after saying “I do.” Then tragedy strikes, and the line between what’s real and what’s pretend begins to blur in this smart and surprising romance perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks and Jojo Moyes. Cassie Salazar and Luke Morrow couldn’t be more different. Sharp-witted Cassie works nights at a bar in Austin, Texas to make ends meet while pursuing her dream of becoming a singer/songwriter. Luke is an Army trainee, about to ship out for duty, who finds comfort in the unswerving discipline of service. But a chance encounter at Cassie’s bar changes the course of both their lives. Cassie is drowning in medical bills after being diagnosed with diabetes. When she runs into her old friend Frankie, now enlisted in the Army, she proposes a deal: she’ll marry him in exchange for better medical insurance and they can split the increased paycheck that comes with having a “family.” When Frankie declines, his attractive but frustratingly intense friend Luke volunteers to marry Cassie instead. What she doesn’t know is that he has desperate reasons of his own to get married. In this unforgettable love story, Cassie and Luke must set aside their differences to make it look like a real marriage...unless, somewhere along the way, it becomes one...

I always find myself gravitating towards books featuring fake relationships; I find myself fully immersed with these individuals’ lives, wanting to find out how things will go and love watching the relationship evolve into something way more than either could have expected. With Purple Hearts I liked how believable the relationship became between Cassie and Luke, despite not knowing each other that long or well enough before they decided to marry one another and I liked how their feelings developed slowly over time. The situation that they found themselves in really did contribute I believe to them being able to take their relationship to the next level. Having nearly died and then relying on your fake wife to look after you really does test the depth of one’s relationship. Despite enjoying Purple Hearts overall, it was kind of slow going for me at times, there was a lot of side stories going on to which sort of took my attention away at times, especially as I was more interested in how things would go down between Luke and Cassie. However slow pace aside, Purple Hearts was a book which I couldn’t stop reading, as I mentioned before, I tend to find myself consumed with the lives of characters and that certainly was the case with Cassie and Luke. 

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Review: Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally

Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: July 4th 2017
My rating: 5 stars 

Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat. All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic tryout, so Maggie feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to sacrifice in the water to win at love?

The Hundred Oaks series holds so many great memories for me, the first book Catching Jordan came out when I’d first started blogging and making friends in the blogging community. The fact that I’m still a blogger today and have come to the end of The Hundred Oaks series brings about the end of a fantastic reading journey for me. I’ve become attached to every single character in this series, I’ve loved how I’ve been able to follow them all on their journeys and see them develop into even greater individuals. With so many great characters that Kenneally has given us, I can’t really choose a favourite, but once again Kenneally has won me over with characters such as Maggie and Levi. 

I have to admit I didn’t know a lot about Coming up for Air before I started and I think this was the best decision I could have made as I ended up enjoying it so much. I enjoy how Kenneally gives us her sport romances, being the sports junkie that I am, I love following characters through their passion for sports and watching them grow and develop into successful stars. So I was thoroughly excited when I found out this book would feature on a MC who was a swimmer. I’ve always been a fan of swimming and watching all the heats or competitions when they come on. So I loved that Kenneally gave us an MC in Maggie who was continually trying to be the best, she had a rival in Roxy who was the absolute worst, she would always get into Maggie’s head, when she was trying to get her mind set for any big race. But most of all Maggie was your typical girl who was trying to balance everything in life. Swimming was her number one priority, but she also wanted to enjoy her social life before she went away to college, she had great friends in Levi, Hunter and Georgia, but she just wanted that somebody special, she had no real experience and so thought that now would be the perfect time to. I don’t know what I really was expecting, but I loved the way that things played out, I guess because I wasn’t expecting them to, but Kenneally totally made their relationship believable and not just two people pretending to be with each and help the other to get experience. I also was totally rooting for their relationship to go to the next level. I knew that there could be several barriers in the way, with both Levi and Maggie having a focus on so many important upcoming competitions, but I just wanted and needed them to make it work. I especially enjoyed the time they spent together, the development of their relationship was absolutely swoon worthy! (Also who could resist a guy that reads all the YA books?) But like I mentioned earlier, their relationship wasn’t smooth sailing, and despite the bumps that came along the way, I felt that those were necessary for our characters to develop and grow and to realise what they wanted, despite the hurt it caused along the way (I was a sobbing mess at one point!). 

Coming up for Air was another brilliant read from Kenneally, I’m actually quite sad about having to say goodbye to such great characters, but I’m sure that these are books I will come back to time and time again in the future!

Monday 21 August 2017

Review: Shattered by Allison Brennan

Shattered (Maxine Revere #4) by Allison Brennan
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication date: August 22th 2017
My rating: 5 Stars
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | TBD | Kobo | iBooks
Over a span of twenty years, four boys have been kidnapped from their bedrooms, suffocated, and buried nearby in a shallow grave. Serial killer or coincidence?

That’s the question investigative reporter Maxine Revere sets out to answer when an old friend begs her to help exonerate his wife, who has been charged with their son’s recent murder. But Max can do little to help because the police and D.A. won’t talk to her―they think they have the right woman. Instead, Max turns her attention to three similar cold cases. If she can solve them, she might be able to help her friend.

Justin Stanton was killed twenty years ago, and his father wants closure―so he is willing to help Max with her investigation on one condition: that she work with his former sister-in-law― Justin’s aunt, FBI Agent Lucy Kincaid. Trouble is, Max works alone, and she’s livid that her only access to the case files, lead detective and witnesses depends on her partnering with a federal agent on vacation. She wants the career-making story almost as much as the truth―but if she gets this wrong, she could lose everything.

Haunted by Justin’s death for years, Lucy yearns to give her family―and herself―the closure they need. More important, she wants to catch a killer. Lucy finds Max’s theory on all three cases compelling―with Max's research added to Lucy’s training and experience, Lucy believes they can find the killer so justice can finally be served. But the very private Lucy doesn’t trust the reporter any more than Max trusts her.

Max and Lucy must find a way to work together to untangle lies, misinformation, and evidence to develop a profile of the killer. But the biggest question is: why were these boys targeted? As they team up to find out what really happened the night Justin was killed, they make a shocking discovery: Justin’s killer is still out there … stalking another victim … and they already may be too late.

My Thoughts:
I LOVE the Maxine Revere series! She’s an investigative reporter driven to solve cold murder cases.  Max can be abrasive, but she’s principled, and loyal, and underneath all the prickle she’s got a heart.  These stories start off tackling the evidence, witnesses; a bit crime procedural, but the tension increases bit by bit as we get closer to the truth! Shattered was a nail-biter by the end!

Maxine is approached by a John Caldwell, a former boyfriend from college, when his wife is accused of murdering their eight-year-old son, Peter.  He wants Max to look into similar cases and prove his wife is innocent. Max is intrigued by the three cold cases and quickly spots similarities, but one of the unsolved cases is of seven-year-old Justin Stanton and she’s facing a major road block if she doesn’t agree to work with FBI agent Lucy Kincaid, Justin’s aunt.

Max is infuriated by the forced partnering; both Lucy and Max like to run the show and don’t trust easily.  Max isn’t certain that Lucy won’t take over and run with all the information she’s uncovered, and Lucy’s not certain that Max won’t exploit her family’s tragedy for sensationalism and ratings.  Surprisingly, they end up working very well together; respect, trust, and admiration slowly growing between them. The dynamic between Max and Lucy was fascinating, each trying to figure each other out. They were great together, and I hope we get to see them work together again!

The process of getting to the bottom of the murders, trying to find a connection between them and understand the motivations of the murderer was riveting.  Lucy and Max both bring their talents to the table and tackle these heartbreaking, unsolved crimes.  It becomes imperative to find this person when they realize another child might be in danger! By the end things were very intense, and I was so nervous for all involved!

As far as reading the Lucy Kincaid series first, I don’t think it’s necessary. I have read the first Lucy Kincaid book and others where she’s a secondary character or in the periphery, so I did have some prior knowledge of her past, but her background is detailed enough in Shattered to grasp the emotional toll Justin’s murder had on Lucy and the family.  Justin and Lucy were best friends, both seven when he was abducted and murdered, a tragic event that forever shaped her future.

I think you could read Shattered as a standalone, but without reading the past Maxine Revere books you’d miss fundamental parts of her personality.  She’s driven to find the truth, and get justice for victims.  She can be kind of a bitch sometimes, but she’s totally grown on me!  Also, you wouldn’t understand the relationship struggles she’s having: with Nick, her boyfriend and David her assistant/bodyguard and platonic friend. I was pleased with the final outcomes. I wasn’t thrilled with Nick at all by the end of the last book. I’m happy that Max is finally recognizing that she needs and deserves more, especially after seeing the love and absolute trust between Sean and Lucy.

While this current mystery is solved to satisfaction, the last scene has me chomping at the bit to get the next Maxine Revere book! I haven’t seen any information on a release date, but I can’t wait!


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Saturday 19 August 2017

Review: The Hunting Grounds by Katee Robert

The Hunting Grounds (Hidden Sins #2) by Katee Robert
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication date: July 25th 2017
My rating: 3.5 Stars
Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For two FBI agents with a past, love becomes a matter of life and death in the new Hidden Sins novel from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Katee Robert.

Maggie Gaines used to be an FBI agent—top of her class and one of the bright, up-and-coming stars—until she spectacularly fell apart during her first high-profile case. That was eight years ago. Now she’s a ranger at Glacier National Park, and she’s found some measure of peace. But when the body of a murdered woman is discovered, she must finally put the past behind her and work with the one man she thought she’d never see again.

For months, Vic Sutherland has been hunting a killer who’s been targeting unsuspecting hikers in national parks—and now the predator has come to Glacier. Vic knows the case will bring him face-to-face with his former partner, yet nothing can prepare him for seeing Maggie again after all these years, or for the memories of passion it stirs in both of them.

As the investigation brings them closer together—and closer to the killer—Maggie and Vic fear they have only each other to trust. But even that might not be enough to make it out of Glacier alive.

My Thoughts:
I’ve enjoyed hiking, backpacking, and camping over the years, but I must confess on some of those trips I’ve gotten more than a little spooked at night imaging how easy it would be for a madman/killer to sneak up and take us out.  Eeeek!  The Hunting Grounds seemed to be just the kind of story I’ve envisioned happening at one time or another, so I knew I had to pick it up.  Crazy, right? Well, I’m the kind of girl who loves to tell scary stories by the campfire and freak everyone the heck out. I usually manage to scare myself senseless in the process, so the trip back to my tent to sleep is super fun.  So there you have it, I’m a little deranged!

Maggie used to be an FBI agent until a particularly gruesome case caused her to quit eight years ago.  These days she’s a park ranger at Glacier National Park where the most dangerous situation she faces involves bears or unprepared hikers. That all changes when she discovers a body of a woman, and must call in the FBI.  Work with her old partner, Vic, all the old feelings of attraction between them are brought up to the surface again as the work the case. It’s a race against time to find this killer before someone else is murdered.

It seems I read a lot of second chance romances.  I guess I just love the thought a couple getting another shot together after screwing up the first time. This wasn’t exactly a second chance romance, more unrequited lust/love situation.  Circumstances at the time prevented it from being anything else, but nothing holds Vic and Maggie back now.  It was a pleasure watching these two take a chance while trying to stay alive.  Life and death situations make it easy to sort out what’s important in life, so there’s no angsty back and forth.

There is a secondary story centering on a group of backpackers. Old high school friends who reunite to hike one of their favorite trails in Glacier.  But this isn’t one big happy reunion.  There’s trouble brewing between them; flash backs to the past gradually reveal what led to their current situation.  It quickly becomes apparent that their group is in danger.

I had fun with The Hunting Grounds even though I suspected the killer’s identity early on, I still didn’t know for sure, and had doubts on my theory up until the end.  It was an all-around solid romantic suspense/mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat wondering if our characters were all going to make it!   


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