Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities


Synopsis from Goodreads: At 8,000 words, this collection of humorous essays explores such quirky topics as: disastrous home repairs, ("A Trip to the Hardware Store"), an unfortunate dinner party (“Dinner is Served"), the truth about lazy people ("Lazy Bones"), the weird life of a debt collector ("Your Account is Past Due") and obsessions with gadgets ("Gadget Girl"). Other essays examine how surreal the aging process is (“Where Did the Time Go?"), why you shouldn't judge a person by their job (“Beyond Belief”), and how to complicate simple transactions (“High Finance”). Like the author's first work, "I'm Not Talking About You, Of Course…," these essays will give your spirit a lift and leave you smiling.

Stats for my copy: Pdf received from the author for review.

First line: He always gave it his best when it came to home repairs, but my dad was in way over his head. 

My thoughts: I've just moved from a three bedroom house to a two bedroom duplex, and life has been very hectic the past week as I settle in and try to figure out where to put all my stuff. This collection of short essays was the perfect remedy for my tired brain at the end of the day. It took me longer than it should have to read, but I sometimes picked it up and reread a few pages before moving on. The author's sense of humor shines through, and I particularly enjoyed "Your Account Is Past Due", about her experiences as a debt collector, and "Beyond Belief", about her experiences as a waitress. If you're a fan of Erma Bombeck (and who isn't?), you'll enjoy these amusing slice of life stories. My only complaint is the book was too short. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Rereadable Lines

"You're walking funny."

Alyssa stiffened under his touch and jerked her arm free from his grasp. "I am not. I'm just trying to be more dignified than your strut."


"Men don't strut, chère, they saunter. Watch your verb usage."

BAYOU CORRUPTION, by Robin Carroll. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Death by Didgeridoo (A Jamie Quinn Mystery, Book 1)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It's up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it's too late. It doesn't help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn't commit.

Stats for my copy: Pdf received from the author for review.

First line: I don't know why I feel guilty, it's not like I killed the guy.

My thoughts: My attention was captured from that first line, which did well at setting the tone for the story. Jamie Quinn, an insomniac family law attorney, receives a frantic call from her aunt. Her cousin, Adam, who has Asperger Syndrome, has been accused of murdering his music teacher, a former rock star. Jamie begins investigating, looking for evidence that will point to the real murderer. Not being a criminal attorney, she's a little out of her depth, but having represented a womanizing PI in his divorce proceeding, she enlists his help, along with that of her friend, Grace, who used to work for the public defender's office.

This was a short, bouncy, fun read. Jamie is our narrator, and she often has a humorous and self-deprecating way of looking at, and describing, things and events. The PI, Duke, was an interesting, somewhat charming character, a little on the sleazy side without being skeevy. There's also the disdainful Nick “Mr. State Attorney” Dimitropoulos, who is determined to find enough evidence of his own to press charges. I thought he might end up being a potential love interest for Jamie, who described him as “a GQ cover model”, but the story never went there. Which is fine since this is a mystery, not a romance – I read way too much romance and expect to encounter it in everything else I read.

There's not a lot of character development, but considering how short the book is (87 pages in pdf format, not counting the excerpt at the back) the author still did a good job of making each character distinct from the others. The plot moved along at a brisk pace without being too rushed or confusing, and mystery was neatly wrapped up in the end. I look forward to continuing with this series. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Painted Horses


Synopsis from Goodreads: In the mid-1950s, America was flush with prosperity and saw an unbroken line of progress clear to the horizon, while the West was still very much wild. In this ambitious, incandescent debut, Malcolm Brooks animates that time and untamed landscape, in a tale of the modern and the ancient, of love and fate, and of heritage threatened by progress.

Catherine Lemay is a young archaeologist on her way to Montana, with a huge task before her—a canyon “as deep as the devil’s own appetites.” Working ahead of a major dam project, she has one summer to prove nothing of historical value will be lost in the flood. From the moment she arrives, nothing is familiar—the vastness of the canyon itself mocks the contained, artifact-rich digs in post-Blitz London where she cut her teeth. And then there’s John H, a former mustanger and veteran of the U.S. Army’s last mounted cavalry campaign, living a fugitive life in the canyon. John H inspires Catherine to see beauty in the stark landscape, and her heart opens to more than just the vanished past. Painted Horses sends a dauntless young woman on a heroic quest, sings a love song to the horseman’s vanishing way of life, and reminds us that love and ambition, tradition and the future, often make strange bedfellows. It establishes Malcolm Brooks as an extraordinary new talent.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by Grove Press, 214.

How acquired: Won in a Goodreads giveaway.

First line: London, even the smell of it.

My thoughts: So right off the bat I was confused and disoriented. London? Oh, so Catherine is English, but will be traveling to Montana. Wait, what's going on here?

After the first few pages, I began to get my bearings and settle into the story. Sort of. We meet Catherine, age 23, who went to London to study the piano because it was expected of her, but got caught up in the excitement of a local excavation that fueled her love of architecture, and drove her to change her field of study. She's later offered a job in Montana, where a dam is being planned, surveying the canyon for signs of anything of historical significance. Her path crosses a couple of times with that of John H., who is a like a horse whisperer.

The plot bounces around quite a bit, back and forth from Catherine's time in London to the present day exploring the canyon with her requisite but uncooperative guide, Jack Allen, with here and there the various points in John's life that made him the man he is today. At times it was slow going, but at times it was a bit mesmerizing. I wasn't sure at first if Jack was a bad guy or an OK guy. Catherine also hires a local Native American girl, Miriam, who is even younger than Catherine, to assist her, and Miriam was an interesting character, though I was a little disappointed with her in the end. And it took way too long before Catherine's and John's stories finally merged and they actually began interacting with each other.

And then, around the last fifty pages, the action amped up and I became absolutely riveted and couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

One of the reasons I wanted to read this book was because the blurb I read described it as being “reminiscent of Larry McMurtry”. I wouldn't quite go that far, but the passages about John and horses do come a bit close. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Synopsis from Goodreads: TV reporter Tiel McCoy is driving to New Mexico for a well-earned vacation when she hears the news on the radio: The teenage daughter of Fort Worth tycoon Russell Dendy has been kidnapped. Immediately, she abandons her holiday plans to chase down what could be the scoop of a lifetime. But in a town called Rojo Flats an innocuous stop at a convenience store thrusts her directly into the dramatic story--and a dangerous drama. For inside the shop two desperate young lovers are holding a half dozen frightened hostages ... and a powder keg of a standoff is about to test Tiel's courage, journalistic objectivity, and everything she has ever believed.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Warner Books, Inc., , 2001.

How acquired: Given to me by my mom in 2008.

My thoughts: Sandra Brown is one of those authors whose books I generally buy new, sometimes even in hardback because I can't wait for the cheaper paperback to come out. My introduction to her was through her romance novels, starting with HIDDEN FIRES, but THE WITNESS, a mystery/suspense, put her on my list of favorite authors (and it's still my favorite of her books).

STANDOFF is more the length of the quick romance books at 261 pages, and not as deep or involved as some of her other suspense books. The story moves along pretty much in real time, though it takes less time to read it than the time that passes for the characters.

Tiel is a successful and popular reporter in a local market, with dreams of hitting the big time. She's on her way to a vacation destination when she hears a radio report of the kidnapping of a millionaire's daughter, and she immediately calls her boss, wanting to be in on the reporting. He's already got it covered for the most part, but suggests she interview the kidnapper's father, a drive that takes her several hours out of her way and into the middle of nowhere. She stops at a convenience store to call him for directions (this was before everybody had cell phones and GPS), and while there, who walks in but the kidnapper and his “victim”, who is actually his very pregnant girlfriend. Tiel suddenly finds herself in the middle of a hold up and taken hostage by the two young lovers, along with the store cashier, an elderly couple on their honeymoon, two Mexican men who speak no English, and Doc.

Doc is a mystery himself. He never provides his name, just says everyone calls him Doc. He's a rancher, but when Sabra, the young girl, goes into labor, he leaps in to help her and it's obvious he has some medical knowledge. I thought maybe he was a veterinarian, or just had lots of experience from birthing baby cows.

I was a little put off at first by Tiel's attitude toward the whole experience in the beginning, seeing it as an opportunity to further her career. She has a small audio recorder hidden in her pocket, and she surreptitiously sets up the elderly couple's video recorder so that it's taping unobtrusively from a shelf. Doc puzzles her at first, but then she finally recognizes him, as he'd been in the middle of a huge media frenzy before disappearing from the limelight. So she thinks she's going to be the reporter that announces to the world where he's been all this time. Fortunately, while helping deliver the baby and mediating between the kids and the feds by phone, her priorities slowly shift.

And Doc. He stayed a mystery to the very end. In fact, he's so much of a mystery that in my head I couldn't picture him, he's just a featureless face. While the story isn't told exclusively from Tiel's point of view, the events inside the store are, with occasional cuts to the parking lot and the point of view of the FBI agent in charge. So we don't get to know Doc, or get any insight into his personality, or really learn much about him at all beyond why he was such a hot story in the past.

A character study this is not. But a fast paced, attention keeping and quite enjoyable read – it is. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

An Accidental Family (Accidental Blessings, Book 3)


Synopsis from Goodreads: To Love Or Not To Love Again

That's the question stirring Texan widower Lamont London's heart. His longtime neighbor Nadine Greene still turns heads—especially his. But after enduring an abusive marriage, Nadine's gun-shy when it comes to relationships. And Lamont has some unresolved feelings to overcome about his late wife. It isn't until Nadine's ranch house burns to the ground and Lamont offers refuge to her and her son's family in his empty mansion that she opens her heart. Can they find a sweet second chance at love, and make two families into one?

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Love Inspired Books, 2011.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: Lamont had never felt more alone in his life.

My thoughts: I don't know why, but this one just didn't appeal to me nearly as much as the first two books in this trilogy. I had a little trouble staying interested in it. The plot just didn't hold my attention and I couldn't seem to connect with the characters, even though I liked them both in the previous books and was looking forward to their story.

I guess they just can't all be winners.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

He's No Prince Charming


Synopsis from Goodreads: At sixteen, Dakota Dunn was America's Pop Princess. Now twenty-five, she's all grown up-and definitely washed up. She decides to head to her parents' lakefront retreat in Tennessee, fixing to write songs and transform her image from squeaky clean to kickin' country.

Turns out her folks have handed things over to sexy, if cranky, cowboy Trace Coleman-a former bull riding champion benched by injuries. He's none too happy about Dakota's arrival-and makes no secret of it. But though Trace is rough around the edges, Dakota feels a pull of attraction she can't quite shake. For all his brooding, Trace has an animal magnetism that may just lead Dakota to dig in her heels and hold on tight...

Stats for my copy: Signet Eclipse mass market paperback, published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2009.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts: Dakota is a former pop star, who at the height of her fame bought a marina in her home town, which her parents ran. After her father’s health declined, he turned over the running to Trace. Now Dakota has come back to the marina to take up temporary residence in her old cabin while she tries to write some new songs and reinvent her image.

I really liked Trace. A former bull-riding champion who had to give up his career – along with fame, adulation and money - after being injured, he’s the wounded, scarred, reserved, tough as nails, push everyone away type of hero that I love. Dakota, on the other hand, got on my nerves. She was constantly tripping, stumbling, falling, and doing other clumsy things that caused her to constantly scream, shriek or squeal.

While this is their story, the sidekicks get plenty of page time also, and as much as I loved Trace, I was more interested in the romance developing between Grady, who runs fishing tours and does other odd jobs around the marina, and Sierra, the camp cook. Grady has been a love and leave ‘em type, and Sierra has always just been one of the guys while nursing a crush on Grady. She and Dakota make a pact between them – Sierra will help Dakota become a redneck country girl, and Dakota will help Sierra bring out her feminine side. Which gets Grady’s attention. Their relationship developed a bit quicker than I would have liked, but was still more fun than Dakota’s mishaps.

Fortunately, the last three chapters put Dakota in a better light and everything was resolved quite satisfactorily.