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

 

 

Review Round Up December ’14

Hi readers, we hope that you’re Christmas preparations are going well and that you are not too stressed with all of the arrangements, shopping and wrapping to do! Here is the last Review Round Up of 2014! As usual, there are quite a few genres with the fourteen books that we have reviewed, and we do hope that they pique your interest. (For the full review please click on the titles.)

You may be pleased to hear that we will both be doing our Top Reads of 2014 over the holidays. We have had the pleasure of reading many great reads and look forward to sharing them!

Enjoy!

Caroline & Tina ❤

Invasion Earth (Delroi Connection #1) by Loribelle Hunt, erotic/sci-fi romance (reviewed by Tina)

In the distant future, Earth has been ravaged by war and famine, and after generations of bloodshed settles into peace only to be invaded by the alien Delroi. General Alrik Torfa needs a mate and his seers promise mates for many of his people on the distant planet Earth. He doesn’t expect her to come easily, but is more than a little surprised to find her leading an enemy army. Outmanned and outgunned, there is no way the Earth forces can win.Sergeant Major Laney Bradford has always played her part and served her people well, but the demands of the Delroi’s surrender are a bit extreme. Marriage? To one of them? Not likely. But she’s fought for peace her entire life and when surrender talks are threatened by a conspiracy led by her people, Laney must choose. Will she submit to the alien invader or lead the fight against him?

Entropy by Robert Raker, dark crime drama, thriller suspense (reviewed by Caroline)

When a series of child abductions and murders disrupt the life of an economically blighted community, the consequences have far-reaching implications. The brutal crimes take a different toll on a disparate group of individuals; the scuba diver who retrieves the children’s bodies; the disfigured cellist who thinks he knows who’s responsible; the undercover federal agent; and the mother of one of the victim’s.
United in a situation not of their choosing, they are forced to take a deep, introspective look into their intersected, yet isolated lives.

To Avenge Her Highland Warrior (Highland Fae Chronicles #3) by Samantha Holt, historical romance, fantasy (reviewed by Tina)

Lorna lost everything to war. Her home, her wealth… her lover. And now she wants revenge. When her hasty plan throws her at the mercy of her enemy’s men, she holds little hope of returning to her kin and fears death is around the corner. But could her salvation lie in the arms of her dark captor? Logan has little time to be dealing with a stubborn noble woman. His orders are to prepare for war. His laird—the man he owes his life to—intends to join forces with the Norse and bring a battle to Scotland that will see the fate of the country forever changed. Scarred, and with no memory of his past, Logan is determined to forge a new future for himself as well as prove his loyalty to the laird. But the beautiful lass has him questioning his previous life and his goals. When she starts claiming he once loved her, he knows he’s being manipulated and she’s taking advantage of his memory loss. So why is it so hard to resist the idea of having once been her lover? With the threat of impending war—a battle that promises to bring slaughter to her family—can Lorna persuade Logan to believe her, and is the bitter man he’s become even worth saving? Whatever the outcome of the battle, a certain interfering faery is resolved to see fate back on its correct path. And that means forcing Lorna and Logan together—no matter their differences.

COLD CALL BOOK COVER - with blood SAFE COPYCold Call by Colin Llewelyn Chapman, dark crime drama, thriller (reviewed by Caroline)

Wealthy entrepreneur Robin Bradford had it all – the house, the cars, the fine dining – and he lost it all. All except Lizzie, his perfect, loving girlfriend. Down on his luck and with no immediate prospects in business, Robin’s energies found another outlet, Just a little something spicy to bide his time until his financial world recovered, leading him down a very seedy path, onto a very rocky road. Time however was all he had, and all he was going to get.

Due to violence, drug references and sexual content, readers are recommended to be of 18yrs+.

Benddontbreak_front_coverBend, Don’t Break (Irrevocable #2) by Skye Callahan, dark erotic romance (reviewed by Tina)

I thought I was done.
my End
I couldn’t take my eyes off her as the bullet tore through me, leaving me with nothing but the hope that I had done enough to save her. The darkness tried to engulf me—to brand me as its own and drag me to my fate.
my Darkness
Waking to see her tear-stained face above me was enough to make my heart stutter. I was alive and free from that place—but not from the toll it had taken on my mind and body.
my Strength
My story should have ended, but one woman kept standing in the way of that. The only way I could have her was to find a way to put the darkness to rest.

Boots Beneath My Bed (Miranda's Story)Boots Beneath My Bed (Miranda’s Story) (Duty & Desire #4) by C.J. Pinard, contemporary military romance, romantic comedy, chick-lit (reviewed by Caroline)

Miranda Cates finally graduates from college and is excited to begin her dream career in law enforcement. After the final betrayal and heartbreak of her college boyfriend, Chris, she moves back home with a firm plan in place for her life.

However, the life she has carefully mapped out for herself takes a serious left turn. Miranda finds she not only has to be strong for herself, but for the daughter who hadn’t been part of her plan.

Determined to still believe in true love, life throws Miranda one more wicked curveball. She meets Jace Lawless, a hot minor league baseball player, whose warm aqua eyes and big dimple have her unraveling her carefully laid plans. A man who may be just be too good to be true.

Boots Beneath My Bed (Miranda’s Story) is book 3 in the Duty & Desire series, and while it is recommended to read the books in order, it’s not necessary.

An Autumn CrushAn Autumn Crush by Milly Johnson, contemporary romantic comedy (reviewed by Caroline)

In the heart of the windy season, four friends are about to get swept off their feet…

Newly single after a bruising divorce, Juliet Miller moves into a place of her own and advertises for a flatmate, little believing that, in her mid-thirties, she’ll find anyone suitable. Then, just as she’s about to give up hope, along comes self-employed copywriter Floz, and the two women hit it off straight away.

When Juliet’s gentle giant of a twin brother, Guy, meets Floz, he falls head over heels. But, as hard as he tries to charm her, his foot seems to be permanently in his mouth. Meanwhile, Guy’s best friend Steve has always had a secret crush on Juliet – one which could not be more unrequited if it tried…

As Floz and Juliet’s friendship deepens, and Floz becomes a part of the Miller family, can Guy turn her affection for them into something more – into love for him? And what will happen to Steve’s heart when Juliet eventually catches the eye of Piers – the man of her dreams?

21473101Apartment 2B by K. Webster, Adult contemporary paranormal romance (reviewed by Tina)

Sidney has a rough life. Her mom is incredibly abusive both mentally and physically. One day, she’s awarded the escape she’s always wanted and thrust into a world she barely understands. Each day is a struggle to feel human and not terrified of everything around her.

Sidney has rules. Routines. Structure. It’s the only way she can cope

When a handsome, yet mysterious stranger inserts himself into her life, Sidney begins to come apart at the seams. She’s having trouble sticking to her habits and it’s threatening to shred any hope of a normal life to pieces. Will this stranger help her in ways no other person can, or will things get worse for her?

He comes with his own set of problems and secrets he’s unwilling to share. Will they work together through the mess of their pasts or will they get caught up enabling each other? Will their toxic relationship ultimately be destined for demise?

MistUnveiled_HiResMist Unveiled (Elemental Desire #1) by Nancy Corrigan, erotic paranormal romance (reviewed by Tina)

Cat has one love in her life—science. Facts rule her, not passion. At least it doesn’t until an unknown deadly virus claims her sister’s life. Cat’s quest for answers takes her to Greenland and drops her into the arms of the one man who sways her devotion from logic to passion. Rune stirs her lusts, ignites her desires and fuels her carnal cravings, but he isn’t simply a lover, nor is he human. He’s a weapon, one that has the potential to save or destroy her.

Rune, a child of the mist, awakens into a world hovering on the verge of destruction. Rising temperatures have released his enemies from their frozen prison without his knowledge. He searches for them but finds Cat, a human with the power to save him and the world. He hungers for her—blood, body and soul. Every moment of shared passion convinces him of the truth—she’s his greatest treasure, one he’ll die to keep.

Secret Confessions: Sydney Housewives (Virginia #1, Lana #2 & Nella #3) by Rhian Cahill, Cate Ellink & Cathleen Ross, erotica (reviewed by Tina)

Cool, collected, confident – those who know Virginia in her personal and professional life would never expect to find her in Boyd’s, a bar across town from her circle of friends and socialite world. But Boyd’s offers her something she can’t get among her rarefied acquaintances: sex. Rough, hard, mind-blowing, anonymous sex. In her casual clothes, she’s no one important. Incognito, unnoticed by everyone except one: the bartender who knows her drink order – and would like to know a whole lot more.

22584Lana by Cate Ellink: Lana lives her life by her own rules – and she has very few. What she wants, she goes for, and she very rarely fails. So when a young, handsome waiter at her favourite restaurant catches her eye, she has no hesitation in asking him to escort her home. But one night of passion opens up exciting new possibilities, and a chance for Lana to enact one of her deepest, most illicit fantasies.

23510826Nella by Cathleen Ross: Nella is one hundred percent in control of her life – all aspects of her life. She excels at knowing what everyone needs, and in meeting those needs. So when it comes to her husband, Michael, and his deepest desires and most fundamental requirements, she is committed, creative, and unswerving in her responsibilities. A strong man needs a strong woman, and Nella’s love is as strong as steel.

Cursed (Cursed trilogy #1) & Obsession (Cursed trilogy #2) by Georgina Hannan, young adult paranormal horror (reviewed by Caroline)

CursedCursed: Reality and Myths collide.
A young adult story about a group of four friends who embark on a holiday together to the gorgeous countryside of Dartmoor, Devon. Each of them hoping for an adventure, something they will always remember. However it isn’t long before they get what they want.

The group are plagued by noises after hearing the myths and legends of the area. Is it just their overactive imaginations or is there a visitor in the spare room who is trying to get their attention?

Join the group on a spectacular journey as they discover what Dartmoor has to offer.

Obsession by Georgina Hannan_1Obsession: There’s a fine line between Obsession and Madness.

After a strange and exciting holiday, Daisy is looking forward to the new start University life will bring.

A life changing assignment makes her question the fine line between Obsession and Madness.

Can she tell the difference?
Can you?

CANDY CAIN by C.L. Scholey - Click Image to CloseCandy Cain (festive short story) by C.L. Scholey, hot, contemporary romance, festive (reviewed by Caroline)

Candy is on top of the world. She’s a high priced corporate lawyer with expensive cars, time on her hands, and money to burn. Although, she has no one to burn it on, except for a yearly ritual of buying toys and treats for the needy at Christmas time.

Cain is an egotistical enigma. A very deprived and hurting enigma, who feels wishes are for fools. A car accident leaves them stranded together, and the two have no choice but to warm each other’s cold bodies, lest they freeze to death.

As the temperature dips outside, the heat begins to sizzle inside. Candy and Cain, though worlds apart in society, begin to feel perhaps they have more in common than either could ever wish for.

Will they both discover the miracle of Christmas wishes isn’t just for the very young?

A Way from Heart to HeartA Way From Heart to Heart by Helena Fairfax, contemporary romance (reviewed by Caroline)

After the death of her husband in Afghanistan, Kate Hemingway’s world collapses around her. Kate’s free time is spent with a charity for teenage girls, helping them mend their broken lives – which is ironic, since her own life is fractured beyond repair.

Reserved, ex-public school journalist Paul Farrell is everything Kate and her teenage charges aren’t. But when Paul agrees to help Kate with her charity, he makes a stunning revelation that changes everything.

But can Kate take a risk with her son’s happiness as well as her own?

6624391The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen, historical romance, religious (reviewed by Tina)

Believing herself guilty of a crime, Olivia Keene flees her home, eventually stumbling upon a grand estate where an elaborate celebration is in progress. But all is not as joyous as it seems. Lord Bradley has just learned a terrible secret, which, if exposed, will change his life forever. When he glimpses a figure on the grounds, he fears a spy or thief has overheard his devastating news. He is stunned to discover the intruder is a scrap of a woman with her throat badly injured. Fearing she will spread his secret, he gives the girl a post and confines her to his estate. As Olivia and Lord Bradley’s secrets catch up with them, will their hidden pasts ruin their hope of finding love?

**REVIEW** An Autumn Crush by Milly Johnson

After reading many horrors and crime thrillers, I fancied a change and have been reading chick-lits/romantic comedies for a more uplifting feel. Yesterday I reviewed C.J. Pinard’sBoots Beneath My Bed (Miranda’s Story)‘, book 3 of her Duty & Desire series, which was an absolute pleasure to read and a great deal of fun.

And carrying on that chick-lit feel for this weekend I have Milly Johnson’sAn Autumn Crush‘, which I thought was just perfect to fit in before the end of November due to it’s seasonal title.

An Autumn CrushTitle: An Autumn Crush

Author: Milly Johnson

Genre: Chick-lit, contemporary romantic comedy

Release: 2011

Publishers: Simon & Schuster Ltd

Length: 417 pages

Blurb: In the heart of the windy season, four friends are about to get swept off their feet…

Newly single after a bruising divorce, Juliet Miller moves into a place of her own and advertises for a flatmate, little believing that, in her mid-thirties, she’ll find anyone suitable. Then, just as she’s about to give up hope, along comes self-employed copywriter Floz, and the two women hit it off straight away.

When Juliet’s gentle giant of a twin brother, Guy, meets Floz, he falls head over heels. But, as hard as he tries to charm her, his foot seems to be permanently in his mouth. Meanwhile, Guy’s best friend Steve has always had a secret crush on Juliet – one which could not be more unrequited if it tried…

As Floz and Juliet’s friendship deepens, and Floz becomes a part of the Miller family, can Guy turn her affection for them into something more – into love for him? And what will happen to Steve’s heart when Juliet eventually catches the eye of Piers – the man of her dreams?

REVIEW

An Autumn Crush is a real fun, girly read with humour that put me in the mindset of Helen Fielding’s ‘Bridget Jones’. There are some real laugh-out-loud moments that make this a refreshing, feel-good read, although there are also some scenes that are a little more sombre which make for a complete storyline.

Beginning in late Summer, working it’s way through to November, it captures the season perfectly. And whilst there is a clear change in season, there are also some major changes happening in the lives of these characters. Juliet has recently moved into her new place and is seeking the perfect flatmate (who she finds in Floz), Floz has an ‘old flame’ contact her after eighteen months of nothing – not even a reason for ending his contact, Guy is about to buy his own restaurant and Guy’s best friend, Steve, is hoping for some attention from across the Atlantic with his professional wrestling.

From the offset, An Autumn Crush very much follows Juliet and how she seeks the perfect flatmate, which her friend Coco helps with. Although suffering from a divorce and adjusting to her new place, Juliet seems to be coping well and it is clear that she is fondly thought of by her family and her friend. The reader also has an insight into Steve’s feelings for her, but to Juliet he was always no good, despite him helping her brother, Guy, in his time of need. Instead, Juliet’s mind has focused on her employer, Piers, who is very attractive, sophisticated and wealthy, and most probably in demand from every woman who crosses his path!

Guy has had his fair share of dark moments, which he is trying to leave behind him. But when he first sets eyes on his sisters new flatmate, as well as falling head over heels for her she does resemble a person from his past that he is trying to move on from. He cannot get Floz out of his mind and works himself up so much that every time he sees her he makes a fool out of himself. His nervousness, awkwardness and mix up of words creates a great deal of the fun, that only Steve is really aware of (and, of course, the reader).

Floz is my favourite character as she has a much more upsetting current situation than the others, and at times it felt like she was the main focus of the novel, even though Juliet appears to be initially. Floz has no idea of Guy’s affections towards her, and feels that he dislikes her as he is always short and sharp with her and then disappears. But her mind is also very focused on a secret she doesn’t share with the others: she has been in touch with an old online friend/love interest from Canada, and although it was their dream once to meet – they never did. Now back in touch, they exchange e-mails from a different perspective, but not all is as it seems, and Floz is most likely going to be very hurt.

The dialogue between the characters is strong and keeps momentum with the humour and pace. And with references to modern day celebrities, such as Simon Cowell and Louie Spence, it adds realism so that the reader can easily identify with the characters and their conversations. In addition to this, there are also many awkward moments, especially with Guy, which displays his flaws, making him more human and believable. These moments create even more humour.

One of my favourite aspects of the story is that each character has their own challenges, as opposed to just one main character. They have all had bad experiences, and sometimes use these to judge each other. They then end up at times not seeing eye to eye, and yet not knowing the full picture of the others’ actions or behaviour. There are many instances of ‘will they/won’t they’ and this adds to the suspense and excitement.

Any chick-lit or romantic comedy fan above 15yrs will love this novel. It is an enjoyable read that will leave you feeling good. It has certainly made me want to read more of Milly Johnson’s books!

Although a stand alone novel, An Autumn Crush, is one of four ‘seasonal’ novels from Milly Johnson. The other three being A Spring Affair, A Summer Fling, and A Winter Flame.

An Autumn Crush is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker