Sunday, August 23, 2015

Turtle Moon

Back cover copy: Welcome to Verity – home of more divorced women from New York than any other town in the state of Florida. Where Lucy Rosen has moved to get away from her ex. Where Officer Julian Cash watches over the town with a fierce German shepherd and even fiercer expression. Where Lucy's son Keith hates everything: the heat, the school, and sometimes his mother. He can't wait to get away. And then he does, when a woman is murdered and her baby is left behind. Keith takes off with the baby. Lucy and Julian take off after him. And TURTLE MOON takes off on a funny, touching, and exhilarating journey.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, A Berkley Book, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1993.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: The last major crime in the town of Verity was in 1958, when one of the Platts shot his brother in an argument over a Chevy Nomad they had bought together on time.

My thoughts: Turtle Moon started out a little slow, as the characters were introduced and their lives begin to intersect, but quickly picked up steam. There's Bethany, hiding from her husband with her baby daughter. There's Lucy, trying to put her life back together after a divorce, fighting with and continually at odds with her twelve year old juvenile delinquent son, Keith. There's Julian, quiet, morose, driving around in his patrol car with his K9 tracker, Loretta, who lives in his house and loves his company, or scouting across the countryside with his cadaver dog, Arrow, who has no use for human kindness and no qualms about biting the hand that feeds him. There's Mrs. Giles, who raised Julian and hundreds of foster children after him. There's Bobby, who can't leave the tree where he died.

One hot Florida night, Bethany is murdered in her apartment, and Lucy's son disappears with Bethany's baby daughter, sending Lucy and Julian on a quest for the truth, coming together and falling apart.

The ending was anticipated and expected, and then suddenly wasn't, leaving me a little unsettled, but with hope for everyone's futures.

Alice Hoffman's writing has such a wandering, meandering, dreamy, mesmerizing quality. There are often long stretches where nothing actually happens, and yet you're glued to the page. While I've enjoyed almost everything I've read by her, I think this is one of her better books. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Shelter Mountain

Back cover copy: John “Preacher” Middleton is about to close the bar when a young woman and her three-year-old son come in out of the wet October night. A marine who has seen his share of pain, Preacher knows a crisis when he sees one – the woman is covered in bruises. He wants to protect them, and to punish whoever did this, but he knows immediately that this is more than just instinct. Paige Lassiter has stirred up emotions in this gentle giant of a man – emotions that he has never allowed himself to feel.

Then Paige's ex-husband turns up in Virgin River. And if there's one thing the marines' motto of Semper Fi – always faithful – has taught Preacher, it's that some things are worth fighting for.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin MIRA, 2007.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: A fierce and unseasonably cold September wind blew chilly rain against the windows.

My thoughts: On a stormy night Paige Lassiter and her young son are running from an abusive husband, their destination still miles down the road, where they will take on new names and pray he doesn't find them. But Chris is running a fever, and Paige has left the highway in search of a motel where they can both get some rest. After miles of driving, she finally stumbles across a small establishment in the tiny town of Virgin River, and seeks shelter from the rain.

The bar is owned by Jack, the hero of the first book in the series, VIRGIN RIVER. Preacher, who served with Rick in the marines, does the cooking, among other things. He used to live in a room upstairs, but after Jack and Mel married, Preacher moved into Jack's apartment out back. He spends his days puttering around the bar, and fishing, and lives a quiet, rather solitary life, which he's quite content with. And then Paige comes barreling through the door with her small sleeping child and her bruised face, and Preacher's life will never be the same.

The romance between Paige and John – his real name, and the one Page calls him by, so the one I'm going to use from this point on - builds up very slowly. Paige is anxious to get back on the road towards the new life she has planned for herself and Chris, even though it will be a life of living in hiding. She's sure that the longer she stays in Virgin River, the more likely her husband, Wes, will track her down and show up one day. John feels fiercely protective of both Paige and Chris, and offers her the use of his old room upstairs for as long as she wants it, continually coaxing her to stay a bit longer but never putting pressure on her.

Chris is asleep when they arrive and doesn't actually meet John until the next morning, and John worries that Chris will be afraid of him because he's such a big, scary, mean looking man. He treats both Paige and Chris with patience and respect, and his interactions with Chris, who attaches to him quickly, are sweet and some of the best scenes in the book.

Of course John and Paige will end up together, but their romance was very well paced. John has never been in a serious relationship and never even really considered the possibility of falling of love. It's a nice change to read about a hero who doesn't have a lot of experience with women.
John pinched his eyes closed and prayed for control. He hoped he would be able to tell when she was satisfied -- he wasn't completely sure how that worked. He'd never paid attention before. A lot of panting and squirming, he assumed. Maybe he'd get lucky and she'd just tell him.

While this is Paige and John's story, characters from the first book are still prevalent. Jack and Mel get plenty of page time, even traveling to visit Jack's family, where Jack and his dad and brothers-in-law have a hilarious conversation about pregnant women that had me laughing out loud. Rick, the teenager who works at the bar, is also featured in a heartbreaking story line that affects all of the characters. And if you read my review of the first book, you know about my fixation on the mysterious marijuana grower who required Mel's help with a young girl in labor. I kept hoping he would make an appearance and he did, a couple of times, and we even learn his name, though not much else about him. I'm really hoping that he continues to show up as the series progresses.

And one of Jack and John's military brothers, Mike, comes to Virgin River to recuperate after being shot. Jack's sister Brie is also around in the latter part of the book, and I'm looking forward to the next book, whispering rock, which is about her and Mike.

Robyn Carr is wonderful at creating characters who are so realistic, so...human. Whether they are main characters, secondary characters, or bit players, they are never one-dimensional or cookie cutter.

Why can't I live in Virgin River?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rereadable Lines

John pinched his eyes closed and prayed for control. He hoped he would be able to tell when she was satisfied -- he wasn't completely sure how that worked. He'd never paid attention before. A lot of panting and squirming, he assumed. Maybe he'd get lucky and she'd just tell him.

Oh John, he's such a sweet hero!

Shelter Mountain, by Robyn Carr

Friday, August 14, 2015

Trail of Kisses (Hot on the Trail, Book 1)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Someone is trying to kill Lynne Tremaine. After her father sentences two members of The Briscoe Boys gang to death, Judge Tremaine feels he has no choice but to send Lynne to Denver City along the Oregon Trail to live with her Uncle George…against her will. For Lynne, the only thing worse than being sent away to the wild west is making the journey with the handsome, arrogant, wicked man her uncle has hired to escort her. Especially when the anger she feels toward him begins to turn to something hotter. 

Cade Lawson is determined to prove himself to his employer, George Tremaine, after letting him down months earlier. But what he thought would be his second chance may, in fact, be a harsh punishment for his past mistakes. Lynne is headstrong, fiery, and determined to show him she is fearless. She is also beautiful and tempting, and when Cade sees just how afraid she really is underneath her brave act, he may be in danger of losing his heart to her forever. When her would-be killer attacks, it’s all he can do to keep Lynne safe. 

He swore to protect her, but who will protect him from her?

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Smashwords, 2014.

How acquired: Received from Badass Marketing for review.

First line: The first glimpse Lynne Tremaine had of the mass of wagons that would take her west was enough to sink her heart.

My thoughts: Our story opens with Lynne Tremaine saying goodbye to her father and joining a wagon train to Denver City, much to her dismay. Judge Tremaine has been receiving threats from the Briscoe Boys in retaliation for hanging two of their members, and he is sending Lynne to stay with her aunt and uncle in an effort to keep her safe. He's hired a young man to drive her wagon, and Uncle George has sent one of his employees, Cade Lawson, to escort her.

Lynne is very independent, very stubborn, very headstrong. Her father calls her his brave girl, and she's determined to live up to that assessment, no matter what. I'll admit that in the beginning, while she's a very likable heroine with an appealing character, I still got a little exasperated with her, thinking her a spoiled idiot who doesn't have the sense to understand the danger she is in, making Cade's job of keeping her safe harder than it should have been. I didn't expect her to be a weak complacent female of her time, taking men's orders and doing as she's told without complaint, but she still seemed to swing too far the other way. However, as the story progressed and I got a little more into her head, I began to look at her in a different light, realizing what motivated her, what shaped her character.

Cade Lawson is also very likable, and very appealing. On a recent assignment he slipped up, and now he feels like a failure and a disappointment to his boss. He's hoping that safely escorting Lynne to her uncle will put him back in the latter's good graces.
He muttered a curse under his breath and swung his horse around to mount. “This is definitely a punishment.”

Cade and Lynne are constantly at odds, and their sparring often made me smile.

Not too long into the trip, it becomes apparent that the Briscoe Boys, or someone working for them, is among the many pioneers on the wagon train:
On top of her things, turned so that it faced her, Lynne found a photograph of her father, splattered with blood.

As the threats become more frequent and more frightening, vulnerability makes it's way into Lynne's personality. By now Cade is smitten with her, and I loved that whenever she gathered her resolve and acted like her old tough nothing-scares-me self it made him grin and his heart would swell a little more for her. As frustrating and recalcitrant as he often found her, it was clear that he preferred her that way over meek and mild.

There's quite a bit of sexual tension between Lynne and Cade, and then suddenly there was actual sex, which was a little jarring at first as up until then the tone of the book felt more...innocent, for lack of a better word. Especially considering the time the characters live in, when proper young ladies did not bed down outside the marriage bed, and where it would be so easy for their traveling companions to suspect, or realize, what's going on. But that's not a complaint – just an observation.

Except...there was one instance that nagged at me. When Cade and Lynn are making love, and Cade tells Lynne “Come for me, sweetheart,” and she moans “Say that again.” That just kind of took me out of the book for a moment, wondering if people actually used the word “come” in this context in 1863, and if a well-bred young woman like Lynne would have ever heard that expression, or understood it's meaning.

I had an inkling of who was behind the threats fairly early on, though several times I thought I might be wrong. But that did nothing to mar my enjoyment of the story. This was a fun, sometimes tense read, and I look forward to continuing the series. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Branded (The Cavanaugh Brothers, Book 1)

Back cover copy: When the Cavanaugh brothers return home for their father’s funeral, they discover unexpected evidence of the old man’s surprising double life—a son named Blue, who wants the Triple C Ranch as much as they do. The eldest son, Deacon, a wealthy businessman who couldn’t wait to leave the ranch and move on with his life, is looking to use his powerful connections to stop Blue at any cost. He never expected the ranch’s forewoman, Mackenzie Byrd, to get in his way.

Mac knows Deacon means to destroy the ranch and therefore destroy her livelihood. But as the two battle for control, their attraction builds. Now Deacon is faced with the choice of a lifetime: Take down the Triple C to feed his need for revenge, or embrace the love of the one person who has broken down every barrier to his heart.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Signet Eclipse published by the Penguin Group, 2014.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts: I’d never heard of this author, but when I stopped in a CVS to pick up a couple of things on the way home from work one day the dude on the cover caught my eye and insisted on leaving with me.

After the kidnapping and death of their sister, the Cavanaugh brothers all hightailed it out of River Black, Texas, as soon as they were old enough to leave. Deacon, the oldest brother, is a successful businessman in Dallas, buying and selling properties left and right. James has become a media sensation as a horse whisperer, and Cole is an underground fighter.

BRANDED focuses on Deacon, who has attempted many times over the years to get their father, Everett, to sell the Triple C Ranch to him. Now that their father has died, Deacon is determined to completely destroy the ranch and everything it stands for.

Mac was best friends with Cass ten years ago, and had a crush on Deacon, who was four years older and showed absolutely no interest in her. She gave the sheriff a tip about a mystery man called Sweet who Cass had been meeting, but the sheriff decided that Sweet didn’t really exist, and Cass Cavanaugh’s murderer was never found. The Triple C is home to Mac, and Everett was like a father to her. She loves her job as foreman of the ranch, and loves her life on the ranch. The thought of Deacon destroying the ranch, which provides a living for much of the town, makes her sick to her stomach.

The back cover copy is a little misleading. Blue is the son of the ranch housekeeper, and the synopsis makes it sound like he and Deacon are going to be head to head adversaries, which is not quite accurate. Blue is actually a pretty minor character.

Throughout much of the book I could not understand what was driving Deacon. In addition to trying to get control of the Triple C, he’s been buying up land nearby and has construction going on there, with the intention of starting his own spread, Redemption Ranch. He is extremely bitter about his father, and James and Cole appear to feel the same way, though not as aggressively about the ranch being destroyed. Mac of course is also puzzled, and is determined to fight Deacon every step of the way, doing whatever it takes to convince him to leave the ranch alone.

The book was enjoyable enough, and Deacon and Mac were both likable characters. Well, Mac was likable. Deacon acted pretty unlikable at times but he was still a strong charismatic character who I was drawn to. However, I got a little irritated at his constant growling. It’s sexy when a man occasionally growls, but only occasionally. After awhile I wished I’d been keeping count of how many times he growled, it would be interesting to see the final number. 

The sex scenes between Deacon and Mac were explicit, which I don’t have a problem with, but they weren’t really sexy. The dialogue during those scenes was not sexy. It was a little awkward and unrealistic.

During the last quarter of the book, we finally learn just why Deacon is so filled with hatred for his father, and it was a pretty shocking moment, and suddenly the book got so much more engaging and gripping, and that lasted right up to the last page. Which sort of ended on a cliffhanger about Cass Cavanaugh's death, which I gather will be a running theme throughout the series.

I didn't love it enough to want to seek out the author's entire backlist, but I did enjoy it enough to want to get the next book, BROKEN, about James. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ghost Moon (Bone Island Trilogy, Book 3)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Reclusive collector Cutter Merlin is seldom seen in Key West – lately, not at all. Officer Liam Beckett visits Merlin's curious house and discovers the gentleman in his study. In his death grip: a volume of occult lore and a reliquary. His eyes are wide with fright, his mouth a horrified rictus where spiders now dwell.

Kelsey Donovan returns to the old house to catalog her estranged grandfather's collection of artifacts and antiquities, vowing to see his treasures divested properly. But she cannot ignore the sense that she's being watched, the reports of malevolent black figures, the pervasive smell of death.

Is the Merlin house haunted, even cursed? Liam knows well that some ghost stories are true and he swears to protect Kelsey. But there are forces at work for whom one more life is a pittance to pay for their deepest desire...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Mira Books, 2010.

How acquired: Who knows. I probably picked it up at a library sale, but I don't remember.

First line: The sun was setting, casting a bloodred hue upon the land and the Merlin house.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, GHOST SHADOW, but was disappointed with the second book, GHOST NIGHT, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this one. And while it wasn't as good as I remember the first book being, it was much better than the second book. So I guess that's a happy medium.

Like the second book, the writing sometimes felt a bit amateurish, but I liked both Liam and Kelsey, despite there not being a lot of depth to their characters. Kelsey wasn't much different than Vanessa and Katie before her, other than not (initially) having Katie's gift of seeing ghosts. I was glad that Bartholomew had now become attached to Liam, but was disappointed that he still wasn't on the page as much as the living breathing characters.

The mystery kept me in the dark. Liam began to suspect one of his own friends as being the culprit, and I was suspecting right along with him, and did not figure it out on my own.

The very ending with Bartholomew was abrupt and rushed, and I wish it had been drawn out more. He's still my favorite character in the trilogy, and I'd like to read the prequel book about him, Ghost Memories, but it's only available as an ebook and I just don't want it badly enough right now to spend the money. Maybe the next time I have an Amazon gift certificate.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Hell Bent Kid


Synopsis from Goodreads: Hailed by the Western Writers of America as one of the top twenty-five Westerns ever written: The harrowing story of an innocent young man pursued across west Texas by a relentless posse.

A crack shot more skilled with a rifle than are men twice his age, eighteen-year-old Tot Lohman has no intention of using his genius for evil. But when a fight erupts at a schoolhouse dance, Lohman is forced to defend himself, and a young rancher named Shorty Boyd winds up dead. The Boyds are numerous, powerful, and vicious, and they want revenge. With no one else to turn to, Lohman sets out across canyon country to reunite with his ailing father in New Mexico Territory. The journey will be long, hot, and perilous, and to survive it, this mild-mannered boy must become the cold-blooded killer he never wanted to be.

Based on real events, The Hell Bent Kid is a tale of pursuit as stark and mesmerizing as the Southwestern landscape in which it is set. Unrelenting from first page to last, it ranks alongside The Ox-Bow Incident, True Grit, and The Searchers as one of the most unique and artful stories of the West ever told. In 1958 it was adapted into the film From Hell to Texas, directed by the famed Henry Hathaway and starring Don Murray, Diane Varsi, Chill Wills, and Dennis Hopper.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Open Road Media, 2015.

How acquired: NetGalley.

First line: After the first Indian fighting quieted down, and the hard-pan camps and towns moved west, killings were less common in northwest Texas than people were led to think.

My thoughts: Tot Lohman killed a Boyd in self-defense, and now the Boyd family is out for revenge, chasing Tot across Texas. This is Tot's painstaking accounting of his long ride, the people he meets along the way, the constant stream of Boyds or men hired by the Boyds to hunt him down. At times it was quite mesmerizing, but those times were outnumbered by the times it wasn't. Since the majority of the story is from Tot's POV, we don't get to know any of the characters. And since Tot is relating the events more like a log of this happened and then this happened, and not like an actual journal of his thoughts and feelings, we don't really get to know him either. It made for a slow read that slogged along at times, but did lead up to an exciting and climatic ending.