04 December 2016

STORM FRONT (The Dresden Files, Book One)


Synopsis from Goodreads: HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he's the ONLY at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a—well, whatever. There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks.

So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get interesting.

Magic - it can get a guy killed.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, New American Library, 2000

How acquired: From a BookCrossing member.

My thoughts:  A wizard named Harry, but living in a very different world than that other Harry! Harry Dresden lives in present day Chicago, where he barely makes a living as a sort of paranormal private detective. I love the world building here, with Harry openly proclaiming himself to be a wizard rather than hiding his powers from the general public. A client comes in and wants Harry to locate her missing husband. He tries to refer her to the local police, but she says her husband has been fooling around with magic, and since that's Harry's specialty...meanwhile, Lieutenant Murphy, director of the Special Investigations unit of said local police, has called on Harry to help investigate a grisly double murder.

The story is told in first person POV by Harry, who, during the course of his investigations, drops little facts here and there about wizards and the magical community, without info dumping. We also meet a faerie, a vampiress, and a talking skull that lives in Harry's basement.

The plot was fairly intricate, with lots of twists. Harry isn't out to be a hero, he's just trying to make a buck, but he has morals and he won't walk away when someone is in danger. I liked his character, and I enjoyed the story and the writing. His narration is often amusing and self-deprecating.
Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face.
Entertaining and quick paced, building up to a climactic confrontation that had me sitting up a bit past my bedtime. 

24 November 2016

LOVERBOY (Harlequin Temptation No. 484)


Synopsis from Goodreads: He was every woman's fantasy!

Luke Bannister swore he'd never return to his hometown of Chandler, Arizona. He was sick of being labelled a delinquent and sick of his father's constant abuse. But most of all, he was sick of hearing that he wasn't good enough for Meg Hennessy. So he lit out for Hollywood, looking for his big break.

Meg couldn't believe it! After ten years, Luke was finally coming home. Her childhood sweetheart, now daytime TV's sexiest star, had built the reputation of being a "loverboy." Well, he'd better not expect her to join his harem. He'd dumped her once
she wasn't about to let it happen again!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Enterprises, 1994.

How acquired: Through Book Mooch.

My thoughts:  One of Ms. Thompson's better older Harlequins. Luke, the bad boy juvenile delinquent of Chandler, Arizona, took off right out of high school, to look for a better life. Ten years later and he is a soap opera star, on the verge of breaking into the movies. Meg was left behind with a broken heart. She has political aspirations and is now a board member of the local Chamber of Commerce, on the verge of being voted in as president. She's not thrilled that Luke has been asked to come back to Chandler to be the parade grand marshall during the town's annual Ostrich Festival.

Meg dreads having to pick Luke up the airport, while Luke is eager to see Meg again. As they become reacquainted, all sorts of old feelings resurface, but they are set on very different career paths, and neither wants to give up their dreams.


Throw in a young paparazzi photographer looking for her own big break, a brother with a lot of resentment issues, and a couple of parental secrets being revealed, and you have an enjoyable romance that makes you root for the characters to get together while wondering how on earth they will ever be able to have an HEA, and very happy when the resolution finally arrives.

16 November 2016

LOVING MERCY

TERESA BODWELL

Synopsis from Goodreads: Mercy Clarke had no trouble getting a hundred head of cattle to Abilene. Getting back home through five hundred miles of untamed frontier is something else again, especially with a handsome gambler like Thad Buchanan tagging along. He swears to pay her in gold if she guides him to Fort Victory, but she doesn't quite trust his fine manners and gentlemanly ways. And then there's that look in his eyes --- he could make her forget that she's sworn off men for good ...

As Thad sees it, the same rules apply to playing poker and loving women: it's all about knowing when to hold 'em. And come to think of it, a pretty lady like Mercy Clarke would fit very nicely in his arms. Now, if she could be persuaded to put down that rawhide whip and tell him exactly what she has in mind, he has no doubt they could come to an agreement that will satisfy them both. No doubt at all ...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Zebra Books, 2005.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  I’d not heard of this author before, but I picked this book up because of the cover. The picture is a little misleading, in that I did not realize looking at the cowboy on the cover that he was a Civil War era cowboy, not a contemporary cowboy. But I got over that pretty quickly and settled into the story.

We first meet Mercy and her younger sister, Miranda, as they are driving a herd of cattle from Colorado to Kansas, along with two hired hands. Mercy is a strong, serious, determined young widow, who I judged to be in her mid-twenties. She’s been running her ranch alone since her husband died and her father was severely injured. She’s borrowed money from a neighboring rancher, and she needs to get a good price for her cattle in order to repay the loan by its due date, which is fast coming up. If she doesn't pay, she’ll lose her ranch, and that is what drives her. She is all about that ranch, and being the boss of that ranch. Miranda is 19, a typical young, flighty girl. The two hired hands are surly, and resent taking orders from a woman.

Then we meet Thad, a name I almost dislike just because I never know whether it should be pronounced with the th sound, or pronounced as Tad. Which shouldn’t matter when you’re reading silently but I like to know the proper pronunciation of names. I finally settled on Thad with the th sound, since his full name is Thaddeus, and you wouldn’t pronounce that as Taddeus. I don’t think. Thad has an unspecified injury that affects his arm/shoulder at times, and his father and brother both died in the war. After the war he worked on the family ranch with his mother, and after she died he ended up losing the ranch. Now he’s trying to get to Colorado, where his sister and her family live, and he’s looking for someone to guide him through the unfamiliar territory.

Mercy flat out refuses to let him travel back to Colorado with her, but as luck would have it her two hired hands demand their money and inform her they are not returning with her, leaving her to face the long trip back with just her sister. The fact that they would be two women traveling alone doesn’t seem to bother her, but she does prefer to travel with more than two people as there is safety in numbers, especially when you’re carrying a lot of cash with you. And as luck would also have it, Thad’s sister happens to be Mercy’s best friend. She’s often heard Clarisse talk about her “baby brother”, and even though she wants nothing to do with Thad, who she thinks is a no-account drunken gambler, she also knows how much it would mean to Clarisse to see her brother, so she grudgingly agrees to take him with her, along with another young man who is friends of her family. With the understanding, of course, that she is the boss.

I liked Thad right off the bat. What little money he has comes from his poker winnings, so he does spend time in saloons, but he doesn’t drink, and does not consider himself a gambler, as he only plays poker, which he explains is a game of skill. Where Mercy’s mission in life at the moment is her single-mindedness drive to sell her cattle and return home with enough money to save her ranch, Thad is single-mindedly determined to find someone to guide him to Colorado. His sister has told him she knows a widow who would be a perfect wife for him, and the thought of marrying and starting a family and working a ranch again appeal to him. When Thad mentions that to Mercy, she speculates that Clarisse probably intends to introduce Thad to a widow they both know who has two young sons, and she spends some time telling Thad about her. Despite the fact that Mercy is also a widow, it never seems to occur to either her or Thad that maybe Clarisse meant Mercy, though I assumed so immediately.

I was caught up in the story from the beginning, and enjoyed Mercy’s and Thad’s interactions. They’re attracted to each other of course, and Mercy is determined to not acknowledge that. She’s been hurt before, and she doesn’t plan to ever marry again. From the brief mentions of her husband, you get the impression that he was not kind to her and that their relationship was not on good footing (though later in the story we get a better look at their relationship), and she is bent on protecting her heart now. And even when she admits to herself that she likes Thad, she’s still set on not getting involved with him, because he wants a family, which she can’t give him. I’m particularly drawn to stories where the hero and heroine bicker with each other and find each other frustrating and trying, and this book had that in spades.

And then I was suddenly jolted out of the story when, on page 88, the author tells us “Thad was only twenty-three, but sometimes he felt like an old man.” Twenty-three! I was picturing him as being in his late twenties, maybe even thirty. At this point Mercy’s age has not been mentioned, but if Thad is only twenty-three, then Mercy is probably also younger than I thought she was!

After I got over that shock, I settled back into the story. And finally, about fifty pages later, Mercy, too, is surprised when Thad tells her he is twenty-three, saying “Really? I thought you were closer to my age.” She then reveals she is twenty-seven. So I was right about her, at least. But I had to take a few second to wrap my mind around this, as I am not a fan of older woman/younger man. However, I realized at this point I’m way to invested to care about that, and thinking back now I like that the author revealed their ages the way she did. It added some realism to the buildup of their relationship.


On the trail home there are plenty of adventures, as they are attacked, more than once, and grow closer, and push each other away, and get closer again. And by the end of the book I was getting a little weary of the constant push and pull and wanted to knock their heads together and tell them to just admit they want to be with each other. Everything resolved nicely in the end, if a bit pat, and I really enjoyed this sweet western romance.

14 November 2016

TAKEN BY THE T-REX

CHRISTIE SIMS, ALARA BRANWEN

Synopsis from Amazon: Drin is her tribe’s chief huntress; she lives for the thrill of the hunt. Men and sex hold no allure for her, as Drin has never found a partner to satisfy her. When a T-Rex descends upon her village, destroying it, Drin demands that the tribe’s hunters go in search of the beast and slaughter it. Opting for safety instead of revenge, the tribe moves to a new location, hoping that the big beast won’t follow them. 

It does. 

Drin taunts the beast, giving her tribes mates time to flee. As she runs, leading it through a gauntlet of traps, the thrill of the hunt soars through her blood, leaving her wet with desire. When the angry T-Rex corners the huntress in a box canyon, it seems more interested in her wet womanhood than in her flesh.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, 2013

How acquired: Bought

My thoughts:  I was listening to a podcast (My Dad Wrote a Porno, which is absolutely hilarious) and in one episode they talked briefly about this book, so I promptly went to Amazon and bought it. I paid $2.99 for this book, and I'm not sure it was worth that much. The writing is decent and the story kept my interest. But it's billed as “Dinosaur Erotica”, yet nothing even remotely erotic happens until the 75% mark. And then the book is so short (19 pages) it was over as soon as it began. 

13 November 2016

PAT'S PANTRY


Synopsis from Goodreads: Jack left Sue when she was eighteen and no one else has even come close to taking his place in her heart. Twenty five years later, Sue is busy running the local bakery ‘Pat’s Pantry’, fighting off competition from the fancy new bistro in the village and has no time for romance.

After more than two decades away, Jack is finally returning to the village he grew up in. Seeing Sue rekindles all the feelings he thought were long buried. But will Sue forgive him for leaving? And what will happen when she finds out that his daughter runs the enemy bistro?

A short story from the author of the romantic comedies Girl On The Run and Girl Having A Ball. The perfect length for a lunchtime read.

Stats for my copy: .pdf sent to me by the author

My thoughts:  I don't read a lot of short stories, but this quick read was an enjoyable addition to my lazy Sunday morning. We're introduced first to Sue, who owns and runs the same bakery she worked at as a teenager, and then to Jack, the boy who left her behind to go to university and never came back. Until today. I love the descriptions of the small village and the Yorkshire roads and countryside. And given the length of the story, the author does well with the characterization. If you're looking for something short and sweet, this should do it for you. 

11 November 2016

FABULOUS BEAST

JAYNE ANN KRENTZ, writing as STEPHANIE JAMES

Synopsis from Goodreads: Tabitha Graham thought she had found a soul mate when she rescued Dev Colter from a dangerous situation. She thought he was a kindred spirit: gentle, shy and in need of love.

But Dev had a secret life that made him as dangerous as any of the fabulous, legendary beasts the bookstore owner had studied. When she fled from his sensual claim, his pursuit was relentless. Once he had tasted Tabitha, Dev had no intention of relinquishing his prey!

Too late Tabitha discovered she had roused a sleeping dragon...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Silhouette Books, 2000.

How acquired: Via Book Mooch.

My thoughts:  If this had been the first Jayne Ann Krentz book I read, I probably would not have bothered to hunt down and collect more of her books (I think I have around 25 now that I've yet to read).

While on a Caribbean cruise, Tabitha is tourist shopping on one of the islands the ship visits, and stumbles across fellow passenger Dev in an alley, beaten and bleeding. She helps him back to the ship and takes care of him while he recovers. Thus the romance begins.

I struggled a little to like Dev. He is very calculating in his pursuit of Tabitha, letting her believe he is shy and unassuming. He decides right away that he wants her in his bed, but he deliberately pretends to be someone he is not, patiently waiting for her to make the first move, fearing that she'll be frightened away otherwise. But also, it seemed, so that when she does finally succumb to his charms, she can't accuse him of seducing her. Not if she thinks she is the one who did the seducing.

Tabitha is divorced, and yet she seems quite naive. I'm not sure if she's really written that way, or if I'm just too jaded...normally I love quaint older books with inexperienced heroines, but maybe since she's been married it just didn't ring true to me.


About halfway through the book Dev's big secret comes out, and along with the action my interest picked up quite a bit after that. And in the end I was pleased with the outcome. 

06 November 2016

The Taste of Air


Synopsis from Goodreads: A simple phone call disrupts Nell Williams’s well-ordered life. Her mother, Mary, is in a hospital in Vermont. But her mother is supposed to be safely tucked away in an assisted-living facility in Massachusetts, so Nell can’t fathom why she would be so far from home.

After notifying her sister, Bridget, Nell hops on a plane and rushes to her mother’s side. There, she discovers that her mother has been living a second life. Mary has another home and a set of complex relationships with people her daughters have never met.

When Nell and Bridget delve deeper into their mother’s lakeside hideaway, they uncover a vault of family secrets and the gateway to change for all three women.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Red Adept Publishing, LLC, 2016

How acquired: Received from the author

My thoughts:  When the author contacted me and offered this book to me, I was a little leery, as two of the last three books sent to me by authors I'd ended up DNFing because I just did not enjoy them and couldn't get into them. But I crossed my fingers and accepted, and I am so glad I did.

The narrative, all in third person POV, bounces around between adult sisters Nell and Bridget in the present, and their mother, Mary, at different times in her life. Nell receives a phone call that her mother is ill and is hospitalized in a small town in Vermont. But her mother lives in Massachusetts, in a senior community where staff are supposed to check on her from time to time. So why was she in Vermont?

When Nell arrives in Vermont, she learns that her mother owned a lakeside cottage, still has her car but with Vermont tags on it now, has a dog, and has neighbors who appear to be very close friends. While Nell is visiting her mother's hospital bedside and meeting her mom's friends, her older sister Bridget is making plans to divorce her husband while trying to get a flight to Vermont.

The story has a very coming-of-age feel to it, despite the fact that Nell and Bridget are in their 40's. As the sisters begin unraveling their mother's secrets, they also begin coming to some realizations about their own lives. Meanwhile, the chapters that focus on Mary give us, the reader, some insight into her character, and we learn things about her past that the sisters don't know or have not yet discovered. It was an interesting balance, as it sometimes put us a step ahead of Nell and Bridget.

The only sour spot for me was in Bridget's quest to find the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was a teenager. 
Many years later,” Bridget said quietly, “I found out I would probably never have any more children. It was the punishment I earned for giving her up.”

I work in the adoption field, and seeing adoption portrayed negatively, well, when I read lines like that I just cringe. I have to remind myself that it was different times than now. I'm still not sure if I like the way that subplot played out in the end or not. It isn't feasible that an adoption could happen that way today, at least not with the agency I'm with, but I guess thirty years ago it could have.

When Nell and Bridget finally figure out the biggest secret, which the reader will have already learned from reading Mary's chapters (and when I was pretty sure I had it figured out I got kind of an icky feeling which I can't explain here without giving away too much plot) it seemed to suddenly come to them a little quickly, but I was sure glad they finally knew the complete truth. You grow up thinking you know your mother, and sometimes you forget that she had a childhood and a life before you came along. It made me wonder not only about my own mother, but also wonder what my daughters would think about my life if, for instance, they came across my old diaries and learned things about me that I've never told them. Things I probably won't ever tell them, not necessarily because they're bad things, but just because they're in my past.


Overall, I very much enjoyed the book and was happy with the way everything wrapped up. A quite engaging story.