Monthly Archives: January 2012

Renegade: review

Renegade (Devoncroix Dynasty)Renegade by Donna Boyd

Emory Hilliford, an unassuming anthropology professor, is drugged, held captive and interrogated by a mysterious stranger who wants only one thing: the truth about an ancient race of beings known as the lupinotuum, half man/half wolf, who have walked among humans for centuries. Once they ruled the tundra, now they rule Wall Street. Once they fought with teeth and claws, now they fight with wealth and power. And Emory Hilliford, an orphan who was raised by a family of sophisticated, influential lupinotuum in twentieth century Venice, is uniquely positioned to chronicle their culture, their history, and their secrets.

Unknown to all but a select few, Emory has also been carefully groomed to play a crucial role in history, one that could have deadly consequences for his own race, and theirs. Now forced to tell his story, Emory must decide how much of the truth he can afford to reveal, and what secrets he will take to his grave… because his own time is running out.

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have not read any of the other Devoncroix books, but didn’t feel that was a disadvantage in reading this book. In some ways, I suspect it might be a summary of the rest of the series, filling in some of the blanks between the books.

I found the story compelling, the switches between time-slots, genres and pace made for a rollercoaster ride. Moving from an action-packed flashback story to the current day in the kidnap location, where everything was gentile and calm was an effective technique.

The writing was eloquent and visual. This is obviously a well-developed universe and I didn’t spot any internal inconsistencies.

The werewolves in this book/ series are different from those in many other stories. I liked the premise behind these better; it owes a lot to the sange real hypothesis, which then gives an explanation of how humans and werewolves might co-exist.

An excellent book I would recommend to readers of suspense and mystery books as well as lupus-lovers!

I’m claiming this book as No. 3/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and No. 9 in the Why Buy the Cow? Reading challenge.
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The Year She Fell: review

The Year She FellThe Year She Fell by Alicia Rasley

The tragic mystery at the heart of their family has finally surfaced . . . When Ellen Wakefield O’Connor is confronted by a young man armed with a birth certificate that mistakenly names her as his mother, she quickly sorts out the truth: his birth mother listed Ellen on the certificate to cover up her own identity, but also because Ellen is, in a way, related to the child. The birth father is Ellen’s troubled husband, Tom. The secrets of the past soon engulf Ellen, Tom, and everyone they love.

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this book. The main thread, the search of a birth mother, a cause of death and the truth, was revealed in surprising twists and turns, and with some amusing diversions. I worked out the cause of death quite early on, and was surprised when no-one picked up on the massive death scene clue (not even the author, apparently). I took longer in working out the birth mother, but that was due to information availablility.

To contrast with the main story threads, there were lighter moments. I have to say I found the relationship between Laura and Jackson to be more Mills and Boon than anything else, but that was ok. It was all surface and little substance. They were pleasant characters. Mother was something of a cipher, who never had the chance to speak to us herself in this book.

Alicia Rasley’s use of changing narrator and technique of overlapping their telling of parts of the story whilst moving the plot on was enjoyable. Alicia’s use of classical family dynamics theory underpins many of the interactions and character traits in the story.

There were a few inconsistencies and, as I read it on a kindle, flicking back to check details like dates I found inconvenient (hhmmmm…guess I should look at the search facility!) and there were a couple of baggy bits in the plot. I forgave the baggy bits as Alicia’s exploration of the effects of uncovering old lies on the various members of the family was interesting.

A little more on how those effects manifested themselves in how the characters saw themselves after the revelations would have been interesting.

All in all a very enjoyable read and a book I would recommend.

I’m claiming this book as No. 1/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and No. 8 in the Why Buy the Cow? Reading challenge.
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The Art of Zen Meditation: review

The Art of Zen MeditationThe Art of Zen Meditation by Howard Fast

Bestselling author Howard Fast’s straightforward introduction to Zen meditation
Howard Fast began to formally practice Zen meditation after turning away from communism in 1956. The Art of Zen Meditation, originally published by the antiwar political collective Peace Press in 1977, is the fruit of Fast’s study: a brief and instructive history of Zen Buddhism and its tenets, written with a simplicity that is emblematic of the philosophy itself. Fast’s study of Zen also inspired his popular Masao Masuto mystery series about a Zen Buddhist detective in Beverly Hills, which he published under the pseudonym E. V. Cunningham. The Art of Zen Meditation is illustrated with twenty-three beautiful photographs. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Howard Fast including rare photos from the author’s estate.

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A nice introduction to Zen, the art of sitting. It gives a different view and method of meditating to the one I’m used to. I shall be trying out this method.

I got this free eBook from Amazon

I’m claiming this book as No. 15/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and No. 7 in the Why Buy the Cow? Reading challenge.
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Sophie and the Rising Sun: review

Sophie and the Rising SunSophie and the Rising Sun by Augusta Trobaugh

An unforgettable story of an extraordinary love and a town’s prejudice during World War II.

Sophie and the Rising Sun “suggests the small but heartwarming triumphs made possible by human dignity and courage.” –Publisher’s Weekly.

In sleepy Salty Creek, Georgia, strangers are rare. When a quiet, unassuming stranger arrives—a Japanese man with a secret history of his own—he becomes the talk of the town and a new beginning for lonely Sophie, who lost her first love during World War I.  Middle-aged Sophie had resigned herself to a passionless existence.  That all begins to change as she finds herself drawn to the mysterious Mr. Oto. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Mr. Oto’s newfound life comes under siege; his safety, even in Salty Creek, is no longer certain.  Sophie must decide how much she is willing to risk for a future with the man who has brought such joy into her life.

Visit the author at:

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You never quite knew where this was going to head next, but each destination and waypoint where just right.

The whole book is a delight.

I liked the changing story-teller; it gave a fresh view on the action and deeper understanding of the characters. This device made the ending work far better than a simple third-person telling would have managed.

The main characters were delicately and exquisitely drawn – just like the Crane-Wife. The conflict between personal and public opinions and actions that characterises this book left me wondering what I would do in a similar situation.

I got this free kindle download from Amazon.

I’m claiming this book as No. 14/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and No. 6 in the Why Buy the Cow? Reading challenge.
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Lonely Millionaire: review

Lonely MillionaireLonely Millionaire by Carol Grace

Dear Mr. Lonely….Mandy Clayton never answered personal ads, but this was one she couldn’t resist and now she was falling for a guy she’d never met.
Adam Gray was not interested in a mail-order romance, but he was willing to write some love letters for his friend. Then he had to go “check out” the bride to be. Off he went on an undercover job at Mandy’s Bed and Breakfast in a small California beach town. Adam was a good guy who always played by the rules, but one look at Mandy and he couldn’t help it – he wanted her for himself! He wasn’t there to romance his best friend’s fiancee. He knew that. It would be wrong… He knew that too.

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My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Why do I read Mills and Boon books???
This was a particularly nausiating example, from the 80s.
The research into the “hero’s” job was hopeless…there were so many factual errors. The main characters were so irritating that I just wanted to slap them. The best two characters were Jack (who didn’t get a girl) and the toucan!

I got heartily fed up of all the repeated angst, shear stupidity and Mandy’s comment that “being dumped twice in one lifetime was just too much”.  In which universe is the writer living???

To be fair, I have read quite a number of reasonable M&B books – yes, they’re predictable, but if the research is done properly and the plot moves along…then they’re quite readable and pass a few hours in fantasy land.

I finished the book as it counts towards my WBTC Challenge, since I got this free eBook from Amazon.

I’m claiming this book as No. 13/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and No. 5 in the Why Buy the Cow? Reading challenge.
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Sanctuary: Review

SanctuarySanctuary by Donna Ball

In the terrifying tradition of Dean Koontz…

Fleeing the violence and crime of life in the city, architect Laura Kane and her five year old daughter Christy move to an exclusive planned community deep in the untouched mountain wilderness of the Smoky Mountains. Legend has it that their home is built on holy ground. Other legends tell of hideous beasts that roam the mountainside, Yeti-like creatures so terrifying that no one has ever dared disturb their sanctuary… until now.

First there are random acts of vandalism, then small pets begin to disappear, and then men go into the woods and don’t come back. When Christy’s nightmares begin to suggest that she can actually communicate with the creatures who are wreaking such havoc on their small and vulnerable community, Laura is terrified. Because Christy’s dreams tell her that the monsters are coming for her next.

And she is right.

Sanctuary is a suspense-filled tale of love, courage and redemption that will take you in its grip from the first page and leave you breathless by the last. Because sometimes the real monsters are the ones you can’t escape, no matter how far you run.

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fantastic tale – I love the subtle change of view of the “monsters” from evil aliens to…well, you’ll have to read the book – I’m not going to spoil!

This was pretty much unputdownable…I read myself to sleep rather than put it down! I like Donna Ball’s writing and Sanctuary did not disappoint. Some of the lead-up plots were a little unbelievable, but the action and main plot were well crafted.  The suspense builds nicely throughout the book, interspersed with more ordinary goings-on.

I downloaded this free eBook from Amazon.

I’m claiming this book as No. 9/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and No. 4 in the Why Buy the Cow? Reading Challenge.
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Tinseltown: Review

TinseltownTinseltown by Victoria Fox

Fox is ‘giving Jackie Collins a run for her money’ – That’s Life ‘Victoria Fox…puts the bonk back into bonkbuster!’ – Lovereading “a heady mix of corruption, glamour, lust and power…get your scandal fix here!” – Closer on

Hollywood Sinners Dom Judd is the hottest man in Hollywood. He’ll do anything to get out of being a sexy Santa in Hollywood’s famous Tinseltown parade…but can he persuade his brother to take the reins? Waitress Clare has just been dumped. Playing Rudolph is hardly going to help her single status – until she sees how drop-dead gorgeous Father Christmas is! Laney Allen has shot to fame, but hates the limelight – and it seems only Santa can help her overcome her stage-fright… As the snow falls and sleigh bells ring, whose Tinseltown dreams will come true? I hope this seasonal short story will make your Christmas merry and bright, Love, Victoria Fox x

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A great short book…more of a taster than a full tale. Well written and the characters were well sketched in the short time available. I’d like to “meet” them in future.

This is a nice seasonal story, some parts fairly predictable (like who’s in the Santa suit) that leaves you with a warm glow just right for Christmas.  Still, I read it before Twelfth Night so it was still the Christmas Season! LOL.

I downloaded this free eBook from Amazon

I’m claiming this book as No. 12/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and No. 3 in the Why Buy the Cow? Reading Challenge.
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The Wedding Gift: Review

The Wedding GiftThe Wedding Gift by Kathleen McKenna

It is a spine-electrifying supernatural tale where a huge Southern States mansion contains one of the most terrifying, violent and indeed psychopathic ghosts to haunt any town. It is also a murder mystery – why did Robina Willets apparently kill all five of her young children, and her husband, before stabbing herself to death? And, if you are in the camp of believing that ‘justice …. just is not’, then this will have you frothing at the mouth with righteous social fury. Add to that the vision of two exceptionally beautiful girls lying on a landing stage in the middle of a secluded lake, sleeping naked in the sun …. …. and then see if you can find any consecutive ten minutes in this book when you don’t at least snicker at the heroine Leeann’s sly, caustic, sometimes-knowing sometimes ‘too stupid to live’ commentary.

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The main character is Leeann, whose self-absorption, selfishness and lack of morals were tempered by her genuine good heart and unexpected flashes of insight – and her courage and compassion. Her friend Jessie is the practical, more worldly-wise of the two 17 year-olds and it is Jessie who for most of the book, keeps or digs Leeann out of most of her troubles. The rest of the supporting cast, including George, Leeann’s husband, are less well drawn. This fits entirely with the premise that the book is Leeann’s journal and therefore knowledge, and insight, of the characters is that of Leeann.

This is ghost story with a difference. It is unpredictable and suitable twisty.

Well written, well plotted. A gem of a find.

I downloaded this eBook from Amazon for free.

I’m claiming this book as No. 11/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge and No. 2 in the Why Buy the Cow? Reading Challenge.
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Desperate Housedogs: Review

Desperate HousedogsDesperate Housedogs by Sparkle Abbey

When Caro Lamont, former psychologist turned pet therapist makes a house call to help Kevin Blackstone with his two misbehaving German Shepherd dogs, she expects frantic dogs, she expects a frantic dog owner, she even expects frantic neighbors. What she doesn’t expect is that two hours later the police will find Kevin dead, his dogs impounded; and that as the last person to see Kevin alive (well, except for the killer) she is suddenly a person of interest, at least according to Homicide Detective Judd Malone.

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of two mystery authors (Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter). They are friends and neighbors as well as co-writers of the Pampered Pets Mystery Series. The pen name was created by combining the names of their rescue pets – Sparkle (Mary Lee’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). They reside in central Iowa, but if they could write anywhere, you would find them on the beach with their laptops and depending on the time of day either an iced tea or a margarita.) Visit the authors at

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book surprised me – in a really good way. I downloaded it during my first “free kindle book” sweep on Amazon…I wasn’t convinced – it looked like chick lit – but I thought “Hey, it’s free.”

The book is well written, well paced and populated with a range of well drawn characters, including the eponymous dogs and several stereotypes. The plot is as unrealistic as any other “member of public gets drawn into solving mystery” story, but is written well enough to allow the necessary suspension of belief. There are madcap diversions, lots of doggie welfare notes and an exciting denouement.

The epilogue is a neat twist…and, in my eyes, redeems the book from the charge of chick lit 😉

I recommend this book – it’s a great light, amusing read and guaranteed to cheer you up.

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Darkest Fear (Harlan Coben): Review

Darkest Fear (Myron Bolitar, #7)Darkest Fear by Harlan Coben

Darkest Fear represents an interesting transition between Coben’s comparatively lightweight and formulaic early novels and his more recent, nervier and darker novels such as Tell No One and Gone for Good. It is part of the series dealing with the misadventures of Myron Bolitar, sports agent and occasional investigator, but this time Myron has more than the convenience of his clients on his mind. An old girlfriend turns up with the revelation that her son is dying for a bone-marrow transplant–and that the son is his. Myron has always had an overdeveloped sense of personal responsibility and this time it goes into overdrive. He, and his efficiently violent friend Win, find themselves involved with one of the richest and most secretive families in America, with a particularly brutal serial kidnapper and murderer and with the FBI on one of its off days.

Coben takes his wise-cracking series hero and puts him in real physical and emotional jeopardy–the book is impressive, and a decisive break with the formula he had established earlier. After this, gloomier and more dangerous books were inevitable, and protagonists less fundamentally cheerful than the ebullient Myron. —Roz Kaveney


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I like Myron and Win. I read the books out of sequence, as I find them, which I find makes things more interesting, putting the threads together.

This filled in the Myron-Jeremy link that I’d come across in later books. There was less Win in this book, a shame as I like Win (he wouldn’t like me!).

The plotting was classic Coben, with a couple of extra twists and unanswered questions that hung about like bad smells until inspiration struck Myron. Coben captured the savoir faire of today’s teenagers perfectly in the last chapter.

I think the reason I disagree with RK’s assessment above regarding the dark/light transition in Coben formula is because I read the books out of sequence.  I’ve already read several of the later Bolitar books as well as a number of the non-series novels, so I think of Coben as a somewhat dark writer and thus Darkest Fear fits right in with that assessment.

Either way, if you like mysteries, you’ll like this.

I’m claiming this book as No. 5/150 in the Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge.
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