Book Review: RAINSHADOW ROAD by Lisa Kleypas

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Series: Friday Harbor, #2
Publisher: Piatkus Books
Released: February 28, 2012
Source: Borrowed from the library

Lucy Marinn is a glass artist living in mystical, beautiful, Friday Harbor, Washington. She is stunned and blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal: her fiancé Kevin has left her. His new lover is Lucy’s own sister. Lucy’s bitterness over being dumped is multiplied by the fact that she has constantly made the wrong choices in her romantic life.

Facing the severe disapproval of Lucy’s parents, Kevin asks his friend Sam Nolan, a local vineyard owner on San Juan Island, to “romance” Lucy and hopefully loosen her up and get her over her anger. Complications ensue when Sam and Lucy begin to fall in love, Kevin has second thoughts, and Lucy discovers that the new relationship in her life began under false pretenses. Questions about love, loyalty, old patterns, mistakes, and new beginnings are explored as Lucy learns that some things in life—even after being broken—can be made into something new and beautiful.

———

When Lucy Marinn was seven years old, three things happened: Her little sister Alice got sick, she was assigned her first science fair project, and she found out that magic existed.

Likes:

  • Even though they made my blood boil at times, I liked reading about Lucy’s family, especially their history and why things are strained between them today. I love it when characters can get me riled up, and this bunch certainly did!
  • The setting was amazing. San Juan Island was described beautifully, and I could easily picture myself walking along its beach. *sigh* I also appreciated the historical tidbits of the island and people.
  • It was great to catch up with Mark, Maggie, Holly and Renfield from the first book in the series, CHRISTMAS EVE AT FRIDAY HARBOR.

Dislikes:

  • The main characters fell a bit flat, especially Sam. I love a tortured hero in need of the right woman to save him, but this one got on my last nerve. I understand his crippling fear of commitment stemmed from being the child of alcoholics, but come on! His steadfast refusal to grow and get close to anyone got old. Then, his abrupt change of heart felt forced.
  • I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I could have done without the magical elements (though I usually love them!). I wish they would have been developed more or just left out. As it was, the characters’ magical powers did little to enhance the story.

Conclusion: I enjoyed the first book in the Friday Harbor series, so I was surprised when this one fell short of my expectations. Regardless, I will definitely give this series another try, especially since the next book has a ghostly presence. 🙂

Rating: 3 Stars

Book Review: PIES AND PREJUDICE by Ellery Adams

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Series: A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Released: July 3, 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher

When the going gets tough, Ella Mae LaFaye bakes pies. So when she catches her husband cheating in New York, she heads back home to Havenwood, Georgia, where she can drown her sorrows in fresh fruit filling and flakey crust. But her pies aren’t just delicious. They’re having magical effects on the people who eat them–and the public is hungry for more.

Discovering her hidden talent for enchantment, Ella Mae makes her own wish come true by opening the Charmed Pie Shoppe. But with her old nemesis Loralyn Gaynor making trouble, and her old crush Hugh Dylan making nice, she has more than pie on her plate. and when Loralyn’s fiancé is found dead–killed with Ella Mae’s rolling pin–it’ll take all her sweet magic to clear her name.

———

PIES AND PREJUDICE was the kind of story that I wanted to jump inside of. The charming setting, engaging characters and well-crafted mystery made this one of my favorite cozies to date. The book begins with Ella Mae LaFaye returning to her hometown of Havenwood, Georgia, right after leaving her cheating husband back in New York. Instead of letting anger and sadness take over, Ella Mae decides to live her dream by opening a pie shop in downtown Havenwood, with a little financial and a lot of emotional support from her mother and three aunts.

There’s something very unique about Ella Mae and her delectable desserts. She not 100% sure, but it appears that somehow she’s able to influence the behavior of others by baking emotions into her pies. This strange ability comes in handy when police find her fingerprints on the murder weapon that killed a local racehorse veterinarian, who happened to be engaged to Ella Mae’s lifelong nemesis, Loralyn Gaynor. Afraid that the bad press of being a person of interest in a murder investigation will ruin her business before it can get off the ground, Ella Mae sets out to find other suspects so investigators will point their fingers elsewhere.

This is the first book by Ellery Adams that I’ve read, and I have to say that I’m an instant fan! I adored the setting – a small mountain town in northwestern Georgia, but the well-drawn characters were what pulled me into the story. Even the secondary characters popped off the page. The aunts were a hoot, Loralyn was so wicked, and even Ella Mae’s dog “Chewy” was a huge presence. I also enjoyed the paranormal elements in this book. I’m intrigued by Ella Mae’s transference ability, and it looks like she comes from a long line of women blessed with magic. This is a fabulous start to Ms. Adams’ new cozy mystery series, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Rating: 5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: MALEVOLENT SPIRIT by Pauline Holyoak

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Series: Merryweather Lodge, #2
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Released: November 1, 2011
Source: Review copy from author

It’s Christmastime at Merryweather Lodge. Emily has returned to the cottage from her home in Canada; after the untimely death of someone she loved. Will she be able to celebrate a traditional English Christmas in her aunts enchanting little cottage or will she be tormented by the hideous creature, again? Was Emily’s attempt to banish her unearthly adversary successful? Will her aunt disclose the secrets she has been concealing for so many years? What will happen when Emily’s best friend comes to visit her? What secrets will she reveal? Will Emily ever get to make love to the man of her dreams? A chilling tale of love, passion, sorcery and sacrifice; laced with mystery and tied with humor. Inspired by the authors own experiences in a remote little cottage near Stonehenge.

———

MALEVOLENT SPIRIT is the second amazing book in Pauline Holyoak’s eerie trilogy about the strange goings on surrounding a quaint English cottage near Stonehenge. In this book Emily returns to Merryweather Lodge for an extended visit with her Auntie Em, who owns the property. Emily quickly learns that the evil spirit of an ancient Druid priestess called Merthia is still plaguing Merryweather Lodge seeking revenge, and Merthia’s prime target is Emily.

This is a very chilling tale that kept me on the edge of my seat! The story is told from Emily’s first person point of view. Emily learns more about Merthia, and she finds out Merthia isn’t the only “malevolent spirit” haunting Merryweather Lodge. Emily’s relationship with her soul mate Jonathan deepens, and much is revealed about her best friend Skye. I think my favorite character is the colorful and quirky Auntie Em.

If you have not read the first book in the series, ANCIENT REVENGE, I highly recommend doing so before reading MALEVOLENT SPIRIT. The first book gives readers a lot of important backstory for the characters and places in book two. Plus, ANCIENT REVENGE was a sensational read as well.

My only complaint about this one? I thought that it ended abruptly. There is still much to be resolved, and I’m ready for the third book now!

Thank you to the author for providing me with a review copy.

Rating: 4½ Stars

Book Review: BROWNIES AND BROOMSTICKS by Bailey Cates

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Series: A Magical Bakery Mystery, #1
Publisher: Signet
Released: May 1, 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher

Katie Lightfoot’s tired of loafing around as the assistant manager of an Ohio bakery. So when her aunt Lucy and uncle Ben open a bakery in Savannah’s quaint downtown district and ask Katie to join them, she enthusiastically agrees.

While working at the Honeybee Bakery—named after Lucy’s cat—Katie notices that her aunt is adding mysterious herbs to her recipes. Turns out these herbal enhancements aren’t just tasty—Aunt Lucy is a witch and her recipes are actually spells!

When a curmudgeonly customer is murdered outside the Honeybee Bakery, Uncle Ben becomes the prime suspect. With the help of handsome journalist Steve Dawes, charming firefighter Declan McCarthy, and a few spells, Katie and Aunt Lucy stir up some toil and trouble to clear Ben’s name and find the real killer..

———

Tired of her unfulfilling job in Ohio, Katie Lightfoot packs up her possessions and heads south to Savannah. The opportunity to work with her aunt and uncle in their new bakery is too good to pass up. Just days before their grand opening, a woman is murdered just outside the bakery – a woman that Katie’s dear Uncle Ben had just argued with. When a witness says a man fitting Ben’s description was at the scene of the crime, the police make him the prime suspect.

Knowing that her kindhearted uncle could never harm anyone, Katie starts her own investigation of the murder. With the help of Aunt Lucy and the members of her unusual book club, as well as a sexy newspaper reporter named Steve and a hunky fireman named Declan, Katie uncovers several possible suspects that all wanted the deceased out of the way. But the most shocking thing Katie learns is that Aunt Lucy is a witch, and magical abilities run in the family.

BROWNIES AND BROOMSTICKS is an enchanting start to a new cozy mystery series. There was much I liked about this story: unique characters, a bakery full of tempting treats, an intriguing mystery, and the perfect location for all of this – Savannah, Georgia. There’s even the start of a complicated love triangle! Steve and Declan have bad blood between them, but they both take a strong liking to new-girl-in-town Katie. I enjoyed the magical aspects of the story, including information on the craft and spell casting. This is a light and fun paranormal cozy, and I will definitely go forward with the series.

Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: THE TAKER by Alma Katsu

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Series: The Taker, #1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Released: September 6, 2011
Source: Review copy from publisher

On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her . . . despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.

Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a Puritan settlement. Consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, Lanny will do anything to be with him forever. But the price she pays is steep—an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for all eternity. And now, two centuries later, the key to her healing and her salvation lies with Dr. Luke Findley.

Part historical novel, part supernatural page-turner, The Taker is an unforgettable tale about the power of unrequited love not only to elevate and sustain, but also to blind and ultimately destroy, and how each of us is responsible for finding our own path to redemption.

———

Is it possible to become completely absorbed in a book and find all of the characters reprehensible in some way? The answer is yes. The Taker is a beautifully written, mesmerizing tale, but the characters! They are so terribly flawed, but I could not look away. It’s the kind of book that leaves you wondering who the real villain was. The Taker is actually stories within a story, from the past and the present, effortlessly woven together.

The story begins as a suspected murderer is brought into the emergency room of a rural Maine hospital to be examined. The present day part of the book is told in third person, but in the present tense, which I though gave the story an eerie feel. At first I thought the present tense felt awkward, but it really worked well with the tone of the story. Luke Findley, the doctor on call, suspects something is amiss with his mysterious patient, other than the fact she claims to have just stabbed a man to death. The woman, Lanny, tries to convince Luke to help her escape. She begins to tell Luke her sorrowful story that began 200 years ago.

Lanny’s tale of her past is told in first person. Lanny grew up in a Puritan family in the Maine Territory at the beginning of the 19th century. As a young teen, she became infatuated with Jonathan, the most beautiful and unattainable boy in their village. He was from a wealthy family and the son of the town’s founder. He used his beauty and charm to seduce any willing woman in the village, married or not. Lanny’s love for Jonathan became an obsession. She was selfish and jealous, willing to do anything to possess him.

Completely fascinated by this strange woman’s tale, Luke decides to help Lanny escape from the hospital. While on the run, she continues with her story. She tells him how her indiscretions with Jonathan result in her being sent to Boston; how she falls prey to a wicked Romanian count called Adair; and how Adair uses magic to make her immortal. And through it all, her obsessive love for Jonathan never wanes. Lanny tells Luke just how far she was willing to go have Jonathan as her own – forever.

The historical detail was so rich. My favorite part of the story was when Lanny and Jonathan were in their rural town of St. Andrews in the early 1800s. I actually became a bit detached from the story after Lanny arrived in Boston because I loved the other part so much.

The Taker is a dark, gothic tale of obsession, betrayal, sex, and debauchery. It was most definitely gripping, the type of story that will stay with you after you’ve read it. I’ve read that The Taker is the first book of a planned trilogy, and I so hope that’s true. There are still important questions that need answers. Lanny’s tale is far from over.

Rating: 4 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.