Caroline’s Top Reads 2014

Hi readers, it’s that time of year again when Tina and myself have lots of fun going through our reviews of the past year and choose our favourites to share with you! And, wow, there are so many it is difficult to narrow them down!Australian xmas card (2)

This is the end of our second full year and we cannot thank you all enough for following us and sharing our posts. We have made so many friends, be they authors, bloggers, agents, publishers and more, it has been overwhelming. We have received our first Christmas card from Australia (pictured), which was an absolute pleasure to receive. It’s amazing to see the sun and summer holiday reminders when the usual card for us is full of snow, log fires and dark evenings.

We hope that you have had a great year and are looking forward to the festive season. We are looking forward to sharing it with you. And I hope that you enjoy us sharing our favourite reads. Tina’s Top Reads will also be coming your way very soon. And here are mine!

Please click on the titles for my full review and much more info!

Contemporary Romance

Books of this genre and some contemporary rom-coms have been a big hit for me this year, and Helena Fairfax’s The Silk Romance was an absolute pleasure to read. It was written so beautifully, powerfully and thoughtfully, and certainly a read you will not forget! It is a Cinderella-type story that is highly intense and completely grips the reader. I have also likened it to some high-profile romance movies in my review as some aspects are similar and captivating!

TheLoveofMarisol_WP2014The Love of Marisol by Christos Toulouras is a short story of love and loss, but with the possibility of finding new love after. It is, again, very powerful and emotive, beginning as quite a dark and realistic read (although fiction). Taking only around an hour to read, it was one of my favourite reading hours of the year!

Contemporary Rom-Coms

Boots Beneath My Bed (Miranda's Story)As well as the serious side of romance, it is always uplifting and refreshing to read some fun reads, even though they still hold a serious undertone. The book that enlightened me in this manner is C.J. Pinard’s Boots Beneath My Bed (Miranda’s Story) (Duty & Desire #3). It is my favourite book of the Duty & Desire series. It is a light-hearted, fun and cheeky read. And I love how C.J. Pinard follows both Miranda’s career, as well as her romances, and at the same time the reader sees a different side to the friendship that Miranda has with Cara.

An Autumn CrushWanting to read a seasonal book at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed An Autumn Crush by Milly Johnson. It was a Bridget Jones style read, with plenty of humour and a real feel-good and refreshing feel that really captured the time of year. And with some sombre storylines for some characters it has an awful lot going on, but is still relaxing and fun to read.

Historical Romance

Summer in RyeLucy Oliver’s novella Summer in Rye is an incredibly intense short story, with power and the ability to grip the reader. Following a new governess to children that have been badly affected by smallpox, and a master that is tyrannical, Eva only has one choice: to turn to the master’s brother, who was once engaged to her. Passion reignites between these two, but after he lied before, can Eva really accept him back?

Paranormal

Vampire Flappers (Samantha Carter #1.5)To top off my favourite paranormal reads is Tim O’Rourke’s Vampire Flappers (Samantha Carter #1.5). Last year the first of the series, Vampire Seeker, was one of my favourites, and again this series has really thrilled me. It has everything from vamps, shifters, action/adventure and time travel! The romance and passion is also very intense, making for a very HOT read! This is a series not to be missed, and I cannot wait to review Vampire Watchmen (Samantha Carter #2) in the new year!

And, not always a huge fan of short stories, this year has certainly changed my point of view. I used to think that to create great characters that full novels would be more fulfilling. However, there are a number of short stories in my top reads this year and a certain series of short stories really blew my mind – Alisa Woods’ True Alpha series. There are six shifter stories, which follow Mia and shifter Lucas, their attraction and heat for each other! Yet, the dilemma is that Lucas lost his last mate, and being to close to another is just not an option. But, when rival shifters kidnap Mia, Lucas has to face his true feelings. Each story is complete with action, heat and intensity. Shifter fans will LOVE this series. Here are the links to each review:-

Desired (True Alpha #1)

Guarded (True Alpha #2)

Hunted (True Alpha #3)

Captured (True Alpha #4)

Sacrificed (True Alpha #5)

Claimed (True Alpha #6)

I am also hoping to review another short A True Alpha Christmas over the coming days before the big day. And, in the new year Alisa Woods will be releasing her Dark Alpha short story series!

Soul RebelNow, for my second entry of author C.J. Pinard we have Soul Rebel. This is my favourite novel of C.J.’s. With plenty of action, suspense and romance it really does have it all. The characters and storyline are brilliant. Nolan loses his soul during a kiss with a female succubus in a nightclub and he only has 7 days to claim his soul back! Time constraints cause the tension and really make the pace quick. Plus there are many surprises which make it an exciting read.

Blue Moon (The Blue Crystal Trilogy #1)Recommended for the younger adult (15yrs+) Blue Moon (The Blue Crystal trilogy #1) by Pat Spence is an enchanting and fairytale-like read with supernatural mystery and horror. It is highly recommended to fans of the Twilight saga, but without the vamps. It follows the idea of eternal youth, ancient links and an attraction between Emily (17) and the handsome Theo. It is highly emotive, with a great eerie atmosphere as the reader gets sucked in to the mystery. Blue Moon is a fantastic beginning to this trilogy.

Horror

Moonshine (The Moon Trilogy, #3)This year saw the final instalment of Tim O’Rourke’s Moon trilogy, Moonshine (The Moon trilogy, #3). A paranormal horror series that has it all; action and adventure, vamps, weres, heart-warming moments and plenty of surprises. The running theme through the trilogy is whether or not vamps and weres can exist in peace together. Or, will they both have to try and annihilate each other? Will the love of Winnie be enough to hold it all together? (Clicking on the links for books 2 and 3 may spoil the storyline for those who haven’t read book one.)

Moonlight (The Moon Trilogy #1)

Moonbeam (The Moon Trilogy #2)

Crime Thriller

COLD CALL BOOK COVER - with blood SAFE COPYCold Call by Colin Llewelyn Chapman, was an instant like for me. After being likened to author Martina Cole, Luther (BBC tv series) and with a pinch of Fifty Shades, Cold Call proved to be a gritty, well-planned read that follows both the suspect and the police with their investigation into the deaths of several women from seedy backgrounds. This is another read with surprises along the way that will keep you gripped until the end.

21 Hours - Dustin Stevens_1Dustin Stevens’ 21 Hours is full of action and suspense as an uncle and ex-con is attempting to save his two year old niece after she has been kidnapped. Being an ex-con he is not entirely trusted by the authorities, but he is so desperate that he will do anything! I have likened it to some action movies, such as Lethal Weapon, Commando, Ransom and Con Air as there are some elements of these in the book and especially in they way it left me feeling after I had read it. It is also another read that is quick-paced, partly due to the time that it is believed that the young girl has left!

Ooh, and now for some Festive Contemporary reads

As an added treat, and because they were brilliant reads, I thought I would share the following two festive reads:

CANDY CAIN by C.L. Scholey - Click Image to CloseC.L. Scholey’s Candy Cain is a short 55 page read that is festive, hot and full of suspense. After being snowed in during a blizzard and left on a desolate road, with only the stranger that she dislikes after briefly bumping into him earlier, the only way they can keep warm is by body heat! Hmm, I wonder where this will lead and what the outcome will be for them? There are also heart-warming moments and an underlying storyline about helping those in need.

All I Want for ChristmasAnd finally, a full-length story with a Christmas build-up, new friendships and a new romance in Amy Silver’s All I Want for Christmas. Beginning from the fourteenth of December, the story is written with each chapter being a new day in the lead up to the big day, when there are plans at The Honey Pot café for people of the neighbourhood to meet for a party of food and friendship for the lonely.

I have read many more great reads that I cannot possibly add due to the amount I have here. Crossing many genres, I always hope that there are reads in here to suit many, and I feel that there is a great mix of both published and indie authors.

I hope that you enjoy our posts and would like to thank each and everyone of you for following and supporting us. I sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas and an absolutely brilliant New Year!

Caroline Barker 🙂

If you would like to check our Top Reads of 2013 to recap on our previous year, you can do so here:-

Caroline’s Top Reads 2013

Tina’s To Reads 2013

 

 

21 Hours by Dustin Stevens – REVIEW

21 Hours - Dustin Stevens_1

Blood-pumping, exhilarating excitement that cannot be missed!


Blurb: Felix “O” O’Connor is an ex-con from central Ohio that has spent the seven years since being released from prison working on a ranch in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. Rarely does he venture out into the world and never does it come looking for him. Both of those things change when his twin sister Alexa “Lex” Borden calls from Columbus, Ohio to ask for his help.

Earlier that afternoon, she and her husband were both beaten unconscious and their two year old daughter abducted from their front yard. Nobody saw a thing, the police are stumped, and it is a well known statistic that if a child isn’t found in the first 48 hours, they rarely are.

O immediately drives back to Ohio and finds himself with just 21 hours to find his beloved niece before potentially losing her forever. Plunging himself into a world he’d long ago left behind, he crosses paths with criminal masterminds, human traffickers, gun runners, drug smugglers, blood-thirsty spectators and suspicious detectives all in the name of bringing her home.

Review:

I absolutely LOVED 21 Hours, a perfect action thriller suspense following the love and determination of an ex-con and uncle willing to do anything to save his niece after she is kidnapped by a gang of criminals during a violent attack of her parents. This story is packed full of tension, action, emotion and pace, leaving the reader no opportunity to disengage.

Not only do we have such an intense situation to begin with, but to add to the tension further we have the time aspect. After realising the police have no leads and seem to be lost, ‘O’ is told that it happens to thousands of children a year – many of whom are never found, and those that are found safely are usually found within 21 hours.

Written in first person, the reader can follow every thought, every move of ‘O’. This sets the reader up knowing that ‘O’ will not stop until the very end or until he no longer can. The pace of 21 hours is therefore fast, exciting, powerful, intense and strongly emotive.

Whilst 21 Hours has it’s fair share of violence, blood and gore it is all necessary for the story. It adds to the tension, action and excitement. There are shootings and fight scenes that become inevitable as there are times when ‘O’ simply has no choice, when it’s his only chance of defence and when he is quickly running out of time. The gangsters and criminal masterminds he is dealing with have no compassion, or remorse, and would shoot him dead in a second. Therefore, the reader is left in no doubt as to the measures ‘O’ is willing to take.

A fascinating aspect of 21 Hours for me was the relationship between ‘O’ and the lead female detective in the case, Watts. Watts is a strong and determined character, who believes she has summed up ‘O’ from her first meeting with him. She and her colleagues have suspicions that ‘O’ could be involved and with his track record of being an ex-con it is a possibility that his past has something to do with this.

Watts provides ‘O’ with another challenge as her methods of investigating and his are completely different. Unfortunately, Watts has seen and heard of too many of these kind of cases, and with no leads she is left to play the waiting game in the hope that the abductors call for a ransom. ‘O’ on the other hand doesn’t want to waste precious time, considering he may only have 21 hours. This is a situation that is certainly unique to ‘O’ and extremely personal, whereas one could argue that Watts has no emotional tie and is not a stranger with working and hearing of these types of situations.

There is a clash between these characters from the offset but the beauty of this is when Watts’ eyes are opened to the different sides of ‘O’. It almost becomes a love/hate relationship. One of which I hoped to blossom into something more. I would love to hear from these two characters again as I believe they are too good to leave alone.

I cannot express how much 21 Hours is right up my street. Being brought up watching many action films of the 1980’s and 1990’s this novel fits easily into this category with many similarities (most notably with Lethal Weapon, Commando, Ransom, and Con-Air for me), and yet still remaining original and exciting to read.

What the reader can’t escape is the sheer desperation ‘O’ has to saving his niece and bringing her home. The reader finds themselves cheering him on and when he becomes injured you feel the need to jump into the novel, pick him up, brush him down and tell him to ‘go get ’em’!!


A copy of 21 Hours was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest and fair review.

21 Hours by Dustin Stevens is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker