11 June 2017

A Virgin River Christmas (Virgin River, Book 4)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Last Christmas Marcie Sullivan said a final goodbye to her husband, Bobby. This Christmas she's come to Virgin River to find the man who saved his life and gave her three more years to love him.

Fellow marine Ian Buchanan dragged Bobby's shattered body onto a medical transport in Fallujah four years ago, then disappeared as soon as their unit arrived stateside. Since then, Marcie's letters to Ian have gone unanswered.

Marcie tracks Ian to the tiny mountain town of Virgin River and finds a man as wounded emotionally as Bobby was physically. But she is not easily scared off. As Marcie pushes her way into his rugged and reclusive life, she discovers a sweet but damaged soul beneath a rough exterior.

Ian doesn't know what to make of the determined young widow who forces him to look into the painful past and, what's worse, the uncertain future. But it is, after all, a season of miracles and maybe, just maybe, it's time to banish the ghosts and open his heart.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Mira Books, 2009.

How acquired: Via Book Mooch.

First line: Marcie stood beside her lime-green Volkswagen, shivering in the November chill, the morning sun barely over the horizon.

My thoughts: So many feels. I loved Marcie. I loved Ian. I loved Marcie's devotion to her late husband, and to the man who brought him home and then fell off the map. I loved her determination to find Ian. To tell Ian his father was dying so he could try to see him one more time, and then to promptly switch her allegiance and stand behind Ian's reasons for not wanting to see his father. For not trying to change Ian, for accepting him exactly as he was. 

I cried a lot during this short book. Not because it was sad, but because it was just so emotional. So good. So very very good. 

10 June 2017

This Charming Man

MARIAN KEYES

Synopsis from Goodreads: Ireland's debonair politician Paddy de Courcy -- the "John F. Kennedy Jr. of Dublin" -- has captured tabloid headlines and the imagination of his country with his charm and charisma. But the crushed hearts he's left behind him reveal more about his character than his winning, vote-getting smile. Lola, Grace, Marnie, and Alicia have all suffered from his selfishness and cruelty. But with Paddy's political star ascending, the time is finally ripe for redemption...and perhaps a bit of revenge.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Avon, 2010.

How acquired: Received from another Bookcrossing member.

My thoughts:  Between chapters were little snippets of narration describing a domestic abuse scene, but without providing any names, and each one filled me with a sense of dread and foreboding, wondering which of the women whose stories are contained in the book was the woman being abused.

Four women, all with some connection to golden boy politician Paddy de Courcy. The narration switches around between the women's viewpoints. We start with Lola, whose connection is obvious – she was romantically involved with him until she learned, via the news, that he was engaged to Alicia. While I liked Lola's story, I did not like her narration. Told in first person POV, diary format, it put me in mind of Bridget Jones, but not in a good way. Short, choppy sentences, not only in her narrative, but even when she is quoting conversations. I know the characters did not actually speak the way she depicted it, but at times it was agonizing to read.
What you like to do?” he asked. “You hungry?”
No, not really. Is a bit early.”

There was a scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when a certain beer was turning frat boys into Neanderthals, and Buffy got drunk with them, and they all grunted and talked like cave men. And after awhile in my head I was picturing Lola and her friends as grunting Neanderthal cavemen people.

Lola mentions a journalist, Grace, who keeps calling her, wanting to interview her about Paddy's surprise engagement. And Grace is who we meet next. Her chapters are also told in first person POV, but not diary style, and I very much enjoyed her story. There are hints of a connection to Paddy but we don't know what that connection is. Grace has a live in boyfriend, Damien, who I very much liked.

Then we meet Marnie, Grace's twin sister. Her chapters are told in third person point of view. Marnie is a mystery. Depressed, withdrawn, she seems to be just existing without really living. Marnie's story is the most unpredictable. You think you know where she's coming from, what's going on with her, and then you learn something that changes that thinking. I felt sorry for her, while slightly despising her for being weak and malleable.

We also get a bit of time with Alicia, but compared to the other girls her sections make up maybe ten percent of the book.

Ms. Keyes definitely does a great job of creating characters who stand out from each other, with their own distinct personalities. I've heard her described as a chick lit author, and while she does fit that category somewhat, she also touches on serious subjects. In addition to the domestic abuse I mentioned earlier, we get alcoholism and a very touching storyline about cross-dressers. Throw in some revenge, heartbreaking confessions, a new love for one of the girls, and another's relationship almost being lost, and (once you make yourself barrel through Lola's frustrating narration style) this was an enjoyable and satisfying read. 

31 May 2017

Positively Pippa (Ghost Falls, Book 1)


Synopsis from Goodreads: From author Sarah Hegger comes an exciting new series set in small-town Utah, where secrets don’t keep for long—and love turns up in the most unexpected places.

For Pippa Turner there’s only one place to go when her life self-destructs on national TV—home to Ghost Falls, and her heavily perfumed, overly dramatic, but supremely loving grandmother, Philomene. If anyone will understand how Pippa’s hit makeover show was sabotaged by her vengeful ex, it’s Phi. But she’s not the only one who’s happy to see her—and Pippa can’t help but wonder if Matt Evans, her gorgeous high-school crush turned Phi’s contractor, is game for a steamy close-up…

Matt owes his whole career to Phi and her constant demands to embellish the gothically ridiculous house he built for her. Getting to see red-headed, red-hot Pippa is a bonus, especially now that she’s no longer the troublesome teenager he remembers. He’s willing to stay behind the scenes while she gives her own life a much-needed makeover, but not forever. As far as he’s concerned, their connection is too electric to ignore. And the chance to build something lasting between them—before she can high-tail it back to Hollywood—is going to the top of his to-do list…

Stats for my copy: ARC paperback, Zebra Books, 2017.

How acquired: Won in a Goodreads giveaway.

My thoughts:  Pippa and Matt are both hitting crossroads in their lives. Pippa's man done her wrong, big time, plunging her career into the toilet. She's run home to Ghost Falls and her over the top diva grandmother to lick her wounds. Matt has spent the last seventeen years taking care of everyone else, giving up his dreams for his own future. Now he has an opportunity to break away from the mountain of responsibility that shouldn't have been his to bear in the first place. They're quickly thrown together, thanks to her conniving grandmother, but then it's such a small town they would've crossed paths eventually anyway. Matt's been crushing on Pippa since they were teenagers, and sparks fly between them.

Phi, the diva grandmother, was a hoot. I loved both Pippa and Matt, but maybe Matt a little more. What's not to like? He's good-looking, charming, rugged, can fix anything, and will do just about anything for his family. He's a bit tied to his mother's apron strings, and he could have come across as a mama's boy, but since we get his story told from his point of view we can sympathize with him despite wanting to slap his mother upside the head. And when Pippa finally made a decision about her future, I loved Matt's (unexpected by her) reaction, which just drove home what a wonderful and decent man he is.

The romance between Pippa and Matt seemed to build up slowly, but the story takes place over a short period of time, so they actually fall into bed together pretty quickly. But since they've known half their lives it didn't feel rushed or unnatural like instalove sometimes does.

This was a fun, sweet romance, with a couple of hot scenes, and a side of quirk. And such a cute cover! I'm already looking forward to the next Ghost Falls book, and definitely want to check out the author's other work, especially her Willow Park series.

28 May 2017

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live

TOM SHALES & JAMES ANDREW MILLER

Synopsis from back cover: In their own words, a galaxy of stars – Mike Myers, Bill Murray, Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Dan Akroyd, Steve Martin, Dana Carvey, Tina Fey, Molly Shannon, Al Franken, Billy Crystal, Chevy Chase, and many others – as well as members of Saturday Night Live's extended family of cast, crew and guests, recall more than a quarter-century's worth of great backstage stories, off-camera gossip, feuds, foibles, drugs, sex, struggles, and calamities. This irresistibly readable book takes us behind the scenes of SNL like no other book ever has.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Back Bay Books, 2003.

How acquired: Bought.

First Line: Saturday Night Live is more than a television show.

My thoughts:  I stopped watching Saturday Night Live sometime in the 90's. At first I just gradually lost interest, when I was working a lot, sometimes until 1:00 or 1:30 in the morning. Then I made a conscious decision to stop watching because I had young kids and I felt like the show was no longer funny, it was just raunch. But after reading this book I now feel very nostalgic and want to go back and watch from the very beginning.


The book follows the show chronologically, with chapter headings broken into chunks of time, such as “Exordium: 1975-1976” and “Heyday: 1976-1980”. It's an oral history, in that the majority of the book is in the words of the people interviewed, from cast members and writers to agents, producers and executives. And it's all incredibly fascinating. In the chapters from the later years, there were some cast members I'd never heard of, and a lot of cast members who I am familiar with but had not known were in the cast (Julia Louis-Dreyfus!). The book is long, 600 pages not counting the index in the back, and only goes up to the 2002-2003 season. Looking at the different editions on Goodreads, another updated edition was published in 2014, with “over more than 100 pages of new material”, and I would love to find a copy of that edition just to read those additional pages. 

20 May 2017

Nanny Returns (Nanny, Book 2)

EMMA MCLAUGHLIN and NICOLA KRAUS

Synopsis from jacket flap: More than four million readers fell in love with Nan, the smart, spirited, and sympathetic heroine of the #1 New York Times bestseller THE NANNY DIARIES.

Now she's back. After living abroad for twelve years, she and her husband, Ryan, aka H.H., have returned to New York to make a life for themselves. In the midst of getting her new business off the ground and fixing up their fixer-upper, Ryan announces his sudden desire to start a family. His timing simply couldn't be worse.

To compound the mounting construction and marital chaos, her former charge, Grayer X, now sixteen years old, makes a drunken, late-night visit, wanting to know why she abandoned him all those years ago. But how can she explain to Grayer what she still hasn't come to terms with herself? In an attempt to assuage her guilt, yet against every instinct, Nan tries to help Grayer and his younger brother, Stilton, through their parents' brutal divorce, drawing her back into the ever-bizarre life of Mrs. X and her Upper East Side enclave of power and privilege.

After putting miles and years between herself and this world, Nan finds she's once again on the front line of the battle with the couture-clad elite for their children's well-being.

With its whip-smart dialogue and keen observations of modern life, NANNY RETURNS gives a firsthand tour of what happens when a community that chose money over love finds itself with neither. 

Stats for my copy: Hard back, Atria Books, 2009.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  My daughter recently got a job as a nanny, and I get texts from her on an almost daily basis complaining or ranting about the mother of the kids. I asked her one day if she'd read or seen the movie of THE NANNY DIARIES, because Mrs. X would make her appreciate her employer. Then I remembered I had this sequel on my shelf, so I pulled it out and started reading. It's been awhile since I read the first book (2004 I think), but I fell right into this one without feeling any need to be refreshed on the first book.

It's twelve years later, and Nan and her husband have just moved back to New York after having lived overseas. There are numerous plot points that take off from there. They buy a house that is literally falling down around them (at one point a stairway collapses and they have to use a ladder to get up and down between floors), Nan starts a consulting business and gets a job with a private school that caters to privileged kids and their pretentious parents, they contemplate having children (Ryan wants to, Nan isn't so sure), Nan reconnects with old friends and not quite friends, and then the biggest plot - Grayer X suddenly pops up, embroiling her back into his life for the sake of saving his younger brother from their warring, divorcing parents.


Despite how busy the story is, the plots all weave together seamlessly. The book is written in first person present tense POV, my least favorite tense, but it's done so very well that I didn't mind at all. In fact I actually liked it. The writing is very engaging and the story is mesmerizing. NANNY RETURNS is a fantastic follow up, with a satisfying resolution and providing closure to the first book.

13 May 2017

Can't Buy Me Love


Synopsis from Goodreads: Is it all too good to be true?

When Willow runs into her old university crush, Luke, she’s a new woman with a new look – not to mention a little bit more cash after a rather substantial inheritance. Could she be lucky enough to score a fortune and her dream man at the same time?

Then Willow meets Cal; a computer geek with a slightly odd sense of humour. They get on like a house on fire — although she soon realises that there is far more to her unassuming new friend than meets the eye …

But money doesn’t always bring happiness, and Willow finds herself struggling to know who to trust. Are the new people in her life there because they care – or is there another reason?

Previously released in the US as Reversing Over Liberace. Revised and edited by Choc Lit June 2016.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Choc Lit, 2016.

How acquired: NetGalley.

First Lines: 'My grandfather's left me his nose. It's in a matchbox.'

My thoughts:  Willow and her mates, Jazz and Katie, are hanging out in their local pub one night, when they run into Luke, an old college classmate. In college Willow had a huge crush on Luke, but he never seemed to notice her existence at all. So she's pretty thrown when he's now happy to see her and promptly asks her out. Willow is a fun, self-deprecating narrator. She has lots of siblings who wander in and out of her story, all of whom (including her) seem to be at a stage in life where they are floundering slightly. At first I thought Jazz was going to be the cliche gay best friend that was all the rage for awhile, so I was relieved when that wasn't the case. Instead she has a gay brother, but he was fairly normal and not at all cliche. And then he introduces her to Cal, who she gets to know, before discovering she didn't really know him at all. He was one of my favorite characters. She often refers to him as being weird, but he was weird in a good way.

Willow, despite being in her early thirties, was a little naive in the beginning, letting Luke's attention sweep her off her feet. The plot was a little transparent, although if I hadn't read the synopsis it might've taken me longer to become suspicious. And Willow of course did not read the synopsis, so maybe I should expect it to take her longer to realize something wasn't quite right. There was a nice little, not exactly a plot twist but more a veering of the storyline that I did not see coming, which, while I'm not sure it was completely realistic it was quite satisfying.


Ms. Lovering definitely writes quirky stories. Sometimes too much quirk can come off as campy or over the top, but Ms. Lovering infuses her stories with warmth and humor and characters you'd like to be friends with. A fun read with some amusing banter and wonderful characters. 

23 April 2017

The Humbug Man


Synopsis from Goodreads: Montana rancher Tate Hollister had to be the grouchiest, grumpiest humbug man widow Maggie Jeffries had ever met. But, as the holiday season progressed, Maggie discovered that Tate wasn't completely immune to the Christmas spirit-his loving embrace on a cold winter's night could prove to be the gift of a lifetime...

Stats for my copy: Paperback, Silhouette Books, 1986.

How acquired: Given to me.

First Line: Tate Hollister lived alone, which wasn't surprising to his nearest neighbor.

My thoughts:  I don't know why it took me so long to finally read a Diana Palmer book. Especially considering she has a huge back list and I have around eighty of her books in my TBR. But one night I wanted a short book to read since my current read was a Kindle book and my phone needed to be charged. So I picked up this slim – ninety-five pages – paperback. And I would've read the entire book in one sitting if I hadn't been so dang tired that I had to quit around page seventy-eight and go to sleep.

I love a grouchy, rude, arrogant hero, a hero who is a loner, a hero who has avoided relationships, a hero who can inspire worship in a child who's innocent little brain doesn't see all those traits that piss off mama whenever she's around him. Tate ticked box after box for me. And despite having been married once, he's relatively inexperienced, and his awkward admissions of that were endearing.
Muscles rippled under darkly tanned skin as he rose from peeking into the oven, and when he turned toward her, she wondered if it was permissible for a modern woman to swoon. 
Maggie is also, despite having been married once, inexperienced, and naive. In fact, she's practically a virgin, her husband having died shortly after their marriage. When she answers the door to Tyler one night and then remembers she's in her pajamas, she's horribly embarrassed. And we're not talking a negligee or peignoir.

Then there's Maggie's son, Blake, who never knew his father and who quickly plots to get his mother and Tate together.


Such a sweet story, and with lots of humor and entertaining banter between Maggie and Tate, and Maggie and Blake. It's short, so Tate's thawing out and losing his grouchiness happens almost a little too quickly, but just almost. I definitely need to read more from this author.