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. 

22 April 2017

Jeopardy in July (Jamie Quinn Mystery, Book 5)

BARBARA VENKATARAMAN

Synopsis from Goodreads: Old people were dying at an alarming rate at La Vida Boca, a posh assisted living facility in Boca Raton, Florida. With its sterling reputation, dedicated staff, and top-notch medical care, none of the deaths are considered suspicious, but when members of the poker club start to die under strange circumstances, attorney Jamie Quinn finds herself once again embroiled in a mystery. With help from her new friend, Jessie Sandler, and her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie uncovers a crime that took place forty years earlier. Can she stop the killer in time? Or is she in danger of becoming the next victim?

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, 2017.

How acquired: Link to free download provided by the author Goodreads.

First Line: With lights flashing, an ambulance pulled up to the front door of La Vida Boca before screeching to a stop.

My thoughts:  When Ms. Venkataraman posted on Goodreads that her newest Jamie Quinn mystery was live on Amazon, with a link to download a free copy, I jumped on it. I've enjoyed all the Jamie Quinn stories, and I think this fifth book in the series is my favorite.

Jamie's boyfriend, Kip, is still off in Australia playing with wombats, but there was plenty going on in Jamie's world to keep her occupied while missing him. Jamie is such a fun character, witty and self-deprecating, and drawn to helping others. We don't see as much of bestie Grace as in the previous book, but P.I. Duke gets lots of page time, and I love the banter between Jamie and Duke. Frenemie state attorney Nick finds himself having to grudgingly bring Jamie into an investigation he's assisting her FBI pal Jayashree with, and while Nick and Jamie aren't the best of friends they definitely have chemistry and their banter is even better than that between Jamie and Duke.

There's a lot going on plot wise – art forgery, poker buddies at a senior citizen living center dying one after another, Kip possibly keeping a secret from Jamie, her dad acting strange when she tells him she's coming to visit him – and Ms. Venkataraman weaves everything together seamlessly. I think I laughed out loud more at this book than the previous ones, and I got quite teary eyed at one point.


This series is fun to read, and while each entry involves a different mystery and could probably stand alone, I recommend reading them in order. I sure hope there will be more Jamie in the future!  

15 April 2017

American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why

MARK STEIN

Synopsis from Goodreads: In American Panic New York Times bestselling author Mark Stein traces the history and consequences of American political panics through the years. Virtually every American, on one level or another, falls victim to the hype, intensity, and propaganda that accompanies political panic, regardless of their own personal affiliations. By highlighting the similarities between American political panics from the Salem witch hunt to present-day vehemence over issues such as Latino immigration, gay marriage, and the construction of mosques, Stein closely examines just what it is that causes us as a nation to overreact in the face of widespread and potentially profound change. This book also devotes chapters to African Americans, Native Americans, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Chinese and Japanese peoples, Communists, Capitalists, women, and a highly turbulent but largely forgotten panic over Freemasons. Striking similarities in these diverse episodes are revealed in primary documents Stein has unearthed, in which statements from the past could easily be mistaken for statements today. As these similarities come to light, Stein reveals why some people become panicked over particular issues when others do not.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, St. Martin's Press, 2014.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

First Line: Political panic, the irrational fear that one's government is in danger, is by no means unique to any country.

My thoughts:  Five chapters in (84 pages), I finally admitted to myself that this book was boring me to pieces. I was still interested to read about the women, so flipped ahead to the chapter, " Woman Suffrage", but one page in that interest faded.

There are parts of the book where the author talks about specific people, and the events that happened to and around them, and those parts kept my interest. But the rest of the book, dry and repetitive. (I'm actually sick of seeing the word "panic".)


An ambitious project, that in the hands of someone like Mary Roach or Barbara Ehrenreich, could have been fascinating. 

12 April 2017

Comanche Moon (Lonesome Dove, Book 4)

LARRY MCMURTRY

Synopsis from Goodreads: Texas Rangers August McCrae and Woodrow Call, now in their middle years, continue to deal with the ever-increasing tensions of adult life -- Gus with his great love, Clara Forsythe, and Call with Maggie Tilton, the young whore who loves him. Two proud but very different men, they enlist with the Ranger troop in pursuit of Buffalo Hump, the great Comanche war chief; Kicking Wolf, the celebrated Comanche horse thief; and a deadly Mexican bandit king with a penchant for torture. Assisting the Rangers in their wild chase is the renowned Kickapoo tracker, Famous Shoes.

Comanche Moon closes the twenty-year gap between Dead Man's Walk and Lonesome Dove, following beloved heroes Gus and Call and their comrades in arms -- Deets, Jake Spoon, and Pea Eye Parker -- in their bitter struggle to protect the advancing West frontier against the defiant Comanches, courageously determined to defend their territory and their way of life.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Simon & Schuster, 1997.

How acquired: Bought.

First Line: Captain Inish Scull liked to boast that he had never been thwarted in pursuit – as he liked to put it – of a felonious foe, whether Spanish, savage, or white.

Note: I read these books in publication order and that's how I've numbered the series.

My thoughts:  This was a wonderful ending to the Lonesome Dove saga. None of the books can beat LONESOME DOVE, but I think this one ranks just a hair behind the first book. I don't recall a time frame being given in the book, but I think it's set about ten years after DEAD MAN'S WALK. Call and Gus are still with the Rangers, helping protect the great state of Texas from the Comanches. Gus is still in love with Clara, who we already learned in the first book marries someone else. Call is particularly fond of Maggie, a local whore, who is desperately in love with him. Again, we already know her fate, and the fate of her son, from the first book.

I became particularly fond of poor Maggie myself, and much as I love Call I was often irritated at him for not accepting her love, which I am positive he secretly returned, and rescuing her from her life of drudgery. Yes, I read a lot of romance novels, and I tend to look for it in every other genre as well.

As always, Mr. McMurtry's writing is wonderfully flowing and meandering at the same time. The characters are vivid and fully developed, and everyone, even minor characters, seem essential to the story. You can easily see the town, or the prairie, or any other location, in your head.


I'm sad that there are no more stories about Gus and Call, but I am pleased that Mr. McMurtry has lots of other novels just waiting for me to enjoy them.

Click on the title to see my reviews of the other Lonesome Dove books. 

LONESOME DOVE, Book One


DEAD MAN'S WALK, Book Three




                                   










26 March 2017

His Hometown Girl (The McKaslin Clan, Series 1, Book 1); Love Inspired No. 180

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS INFORMATION THAT MAY BE CONSIDERED SPOILERS.


Synopsis from Goodreads: Small-town mechanic Zachary Drake had no illusions about his longtime friendship with winsome, wholesome Karen McKaslin -- even after she called off her wedding to the local pastor. Zach simply intended to lend a grease-stained hand and a sympathetic ear to a pal in need, and keep his secret longing to himself...

Having narrowly escaped a loveless marriage, Karen was counting her blessings. Now she could transform herself into a woman worthy of being loved for all eternity. She never dreamed Mr. Right was waiting for her on the wrong side of the tracks, praying she'd see in his eyes what he didn't dare say...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Steeple Hill Books, 2002.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  Despite the fact that I list Jillian Hart as one of my favorite category romance authors, her books are usually hit or miss for me. Of the McKaslin Clan series, I've read two previously, BLIND-DATE BRIDE, which I could barely finish, and SWEET BLESSINGS, which is one of my all time top ten favorite books – and the reason I keep reading her. (Seriously, for a wonderful character study of a broken man, you need to read it.) So when I realized this book was the first McKaslin Clan book, I dove in, and am happy to report that it was a hit.

I loved the characters, especially Zach, and I loved the continual banter between Zach and Karen, which Ms. Hart does very well. When the book opens Karen has broken off an engagement to Jay when she realizes he isn't marrying her out of love. Her parents are upset and disappointed, her mother, who is pushing her to get back together with Jay. I almost wished there had been more about Karen and Jay and what led up to her realizing she couldn't marry him, and more conflict between Karen and her parents over that broken engagement, just to add more depth. Zach's mother was a drunk who spent all her time in bars while Zach took care of his younger siblings and often went hungry, and when she showed up on his doorstep, I expected a predictable subplot about Zach, who is filled with hate for his mother, coming to terms with her alcohol addiction and learning to forgive her. So I was quite surprised when he gave her some money and put her on a bus out of town, telling her not to come back. And I was glad that story arc carried out the way it did, which to me was very realistic.

My only issue with the story, and it's a minor one but it's also a pet peeve of mine, is that Zach winked way too often. At one point he winked at Karen three times in two pages. And then on the next page Gramma winked. But after that either the winking dropped off, or I was too caught up in the story to note it.


A sweet story about two people from the same small town but with very different backgrounds, coming to terms with what they want in a partner and more importantly, realizing that they deserve to be with the one they love regardless of backgrounds or what anyone else in town thinks. I laughed out loud several times, and I cried a couple of times.