19 May 2018

Forever a Hero (The Carsons of Mustang Creek, Book 3)


Goodreads synopsis: Mace Carson is no hero. Back in college, he came upon a woman in trouble and intervened—but he was just one irate Wyoming cowboy with his boots planted firmly on the side of right. Now a successful vintner, Mace is shocked to be reunited with the woman he saved. But it turns out she's in Wyoming on business…a corporate executive representing the company that wants to buy his winery. Only, he's not selling.

Kelly Wright has never forgotten that horrible night ten years ago when Mace came to her rescue, has never forgotten him. The surprising success of a winery in the middle of ranch country has brought her to Mustang Creek, and she's secretly thrilled to discover Mace at the helm. Reluctant to mix business with pleasure, Kelly vows to keep things professional, until her attacker is released from prison and comes for vengeance…against both of them.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Books, 2017.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: It all happened in a matter of seconds.

My thoughts:

This is the third book in The Carsons of Mustang Creek series, and while the first book (Once a Rancher) is still my favorite, I very much enjoyed the youngest brother's story. The banter between Mace and Kelly had me smiling constantly, and laughing out loud several times.

Kelly and Mace first met in college ten years ago, when Kelly was attacked while walking across campus one night, and Mace came to her rescue. They were both in relationships at the time, and other than the trial, didn't see each other again. Now the company Kelly works for wants to form a partnership with Mace's winery, and she's in town to present the proposal to him.

While Kelly is in Mustang Creek, trying not to fall for Mace, the man who attacked her is released from prison and begins stalking her. I expected that plot to be resolved in the usual cliched way, and was happily surprised when it took a completely different and unexpected turn.

Mace is the last of the Carson brothers to find the love of his life, but there is still one more book! Raine, Slater's ex-girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, has appeared in the first three books and is still close with the Carson family, and I've already bought her book and am looking forward to it. 

12 May 2018

The Barefoot Summer

Goodreads synopsis: Leaving one widow behind is unfortunate. Leaving three widows behind is just plain despicable. Oil heiress Kate Steele knew her not-so-dearly departed husband was a con man, but she’s shocked that Conrad racked up two more wives without divorcing her first. The only remnant of their miserable marriage she plans to keep is their lakeside cabin in Bootleg, Texas. Unfortunately, she’s not the only woman with that idea.

Fiery, strong-willed Jamie wishes Conrad were still alive—so she could kill the scoundrel herself. But for their daughter’s sake, she needs that property. As does Amanda—twenty-eight, pregnant, and still weeping over the loss of her true love. On a broiling July day, all three arrive in Bootleg…with a dogged detective right behind who’s convinced that at least one of them conspired to commit murder. One momentous summer filled with revelations, quirky neighbors, and barefoot evenings on the porch offers three women the chance to make the journey from enemies to friends, and claim a bright, new beginning.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Montlake Romance, 2017.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: Black showed respect for the dead, so Kate Steele wore red to her husband's funeral that Saturday.

My thoughtsI enjoy Carolyn Brown's cowboy romances (esp. LOVE DRUNK COWBOY!), but had not read any of her non-cowboy stories, so when this came up as an Amazon suggestion I preordered it. Turns out the police detective is also a rancher, so there was still a hint of cowboy in the book.

Kate, Jamie and Amanda meet at their husband's funeral. Kate, the first wife, who refused to give Conrad a divorce. Jamie, the second wife, who has a young daughter and is just angry. And Amanda, the third wife, pregnant, still in the honeymoon phase and devastated to lose Conrad. After the funeral, they each, separately decide to retreat to Conrad's lake house, and once there, they each refuse to leave. So they settle into life as roommates while waiting for Conrad's property division to be worked out. Jamie thinks her daughter should inherit the lake house, as Conrad's daughter, and Amanda wants it for herself.

Ms. Brown is always good at creating realistic and individual characters. At first the women is just civil to each other, for the most part. But as they get to know each other, reluctant friendships start to form. And then there's Waylon, the detective, who keeps popping up to ask questions and remind the three women that they're all suspects in Conrad's death.

The mystery of Conrad's murder and the investigation into it were more of a background plot, as other than asking the women questions we didn't really see Waylon doing much detecting. But I didn't really mind. The three women coming to grips with and developing relationships with each other, including Jamie's little girl, Gracie, was the heart of the story. I loved seeing them reexamine their lives, especially Kate.

As with a previous Brown book, my only complaint is that the characters all talk without using contractions, which feels stiff and unnatural to me. But once my brain adjusted and began automatically inserting the contractions for me, it didn't bother me as much.

Fun, as Ms. Brown's books always are, and heartwarming story that kept me up late a couple of nights. 

06 May 2018

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail

Goodreads synopsis: At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Vintage Books, 2013.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

First line: The trees were tall, but I was taller, standing above them on a steep mountain slope in northern California.

My thoughtsI've been sitting at my computer for five minutes and can't seem to come up with anything more eloquent than wow, what a fantastic book. I can't even begin to imagine doing what Cheryl did. I doubt I would last a full day on the trail before giving up and packing it in. But it's not just her first time hiking adventure that was fascinating. The peeks at her childhood and how she grew up were just as fascinating. Raw, honest, emotional, with no sugarcoating her faults and the bad choices she made. Completely riveting and engrossing.

I thought I had seen the movie, and was a little confused and taken aback at the beginning, with all the stuff about her mother's cancer. Then when I saw the title of chapter 5, “Tracks”, I realized that the movie I watched was called Tracks, which was also from a book, by Robyn Davidson, and which I very much want to read now. 

16 April 2018

No Less Days



Goodreads synopsis: How many lifetimes can God expect one man to live? Over a century old, David Galloway isolates himself from the mortal humans who die or desert him by making a quiet life as a used bookstore owner in Northern Michigan. But then he spots a news article about a man who, like him, should be dead.

Daredevil celebrity Zachary Wilson walked away unscathed from what should have been a deadly fall. David tracks the man down, needing answers. Soon David discovers a close-knit group of individuals as old as he is who offer the sort of kinship and community he hasn’t experienced for decades—but at what cost?

David finds himself keeping secrets other than his own. . .protecting more than himself alone. He’ll have to decide what’s worth the most to him—security or community. When crimes come to light that are older than any mortal, he fears the pressure is more than he can stand. What does God require of him, and is David strong enough to see it through?

Stats for my copy: .pdf ARC, Shiloh Run Press, expected publication date May 1, 2018.

How acquired: Via BookishFirst.

First line: His books were burning. 

My thoughtsI entered to win this book from BookishFirst because the title and cover caught my eye first, and then the synopsis and first page piqued my interest. So I was excited to learn I'd won a copy. The pace is a bit slow in the beginning, with a very interesting premise. David Galloway is over a hundred years old, and has no idea why he cannot die. He's built himself a solitary life, revolving around his bookstore, and has closed himself off to friendships and relationships with others. Then he meets three men and a woman who already know who he is, and who are also immortal, and know how they – and David – gained their immortality. From that point the pace picked up quickly, and I sat up late a couple of nights because I was more interested in the book than my bed.

Before meeting the others, David thought that his immortality was a burden beyond his understanding that God had placed on him. While I liked the direction the story took, and I'm not a religious person, I thought it would've been very intriguing if David's belief was correct, and God had purposely chosen him to carry that burden. But I was happy to start getting to know the group who welcomed him into their fold and became his people. Everyone should have people that they can think of as their people.

There was a nice little side plot about a clerk in David's store who is in an abusive relationship, and a hopeful romance growing between David and his assistant, Tiana.

When I was a few pages from the end I began to fear that it was going to suddenly wrap up all neat and tidy in too short a span of time. But no, the book just ended, the way each day of the week ends. Some issues resolved, others not, and tomorrow is another day. I sure hope this is the start of a series, because I was not quite ready to leave David and his new friends behind.

08 April 2018

The Poison Tree

Back cover copy: In the sweltering summer of 1997, strait-laced, straight-A student Karen met Biba – a bohemian and impossibly glamorous aspiring actress. She was quickly drawn into Biba's world, a for a while life was one long summer of love. But every summer must end. By the end of theirs, two people were dead – and now Karen's past has come back to haunt her...

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Hodder & Stoughton, 2011.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

First line: I let the telephone fall from my hand.

My thoughtsAnd another fantastic new to me author! Claire Seeber, Peter Swanson, and now Erin Kelly. I've already hunted down and collected most of Seeber's and Swanson's back list (plus preordered Swanson's newest), and now my Discover card will get another workout as I hunt down everything Ms. Kelly has written. For a long time my go to has been romance, but these three authors are sending me on a new and wonderful path!

Told in first person POV by Karen, the narrative bounces back and forth between the present and the past. In the past, Karen meets Biba and is mesmerized by her, and by her Bohemian drug-fueled life's-a-party lifestyle. Not so much by Rex, though in the present we know that she and Rex are a couple and have a daughter. We also know that Rex was just released from prison for murder, but we don't know who died or when.

I love Ms. Kelly's writing, it's as mesmerizing as Biba is to Karen. As Karen tells us her story, she drops tantalizing little hints or alludes to something that happens later, and I was constantly on the edge of my seat waiting for the big reveal, and grasping at each secret that finally came to light. Guessing who would die, and then second guessing myself. With good reason, as I was completely wrong.

A five star read for me, and I'm upset that none of the platforms I subscribe to - Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Acorn TV – have the movie version available! I need to see it! 

01 April 2018

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

Synopsis from Goodreads: From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself.

I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, HarperCollins, 2017.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

First line: Every body has a story and a history.

My thoughts: In the beginning I found the writing a little repetitive and...youngish? I don't want to say juvenile, so maybe just short of being juvenile...the first few chapters. And then after her account of the rape, it hit me that those first few chapters were almost hesitant, as if the author wanted to tell us about it but it was a hard thing to talk about and so she needed to work up to it. And after that it didn't feel so repetitive or short-of-being-juvenile. It was just very real. I can't even imagine the courage it took to write this book.

I am about thirty pounds overweight. And I will admit that sometimes when I see a very large or obese person, I think to myself, how did they let themselves get to that point? But underneath that, what I'm thinking is I hope I don't ever get to that point, and I'm constantly reminding myself that I need to exercise more and eat better, and then I don't. I just hope when I've looked at a very large or obese person, my look hasn't actually made them feel like I was judging them.

A powerful and moving book, and a good example of how cruel people can be to others who don't fit their definition of perfect. 

19 March 2018

The Kind Worth Killing

Synopsis from Goodreads: On a flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning Lily Kintner. Over martinis, the strangers play a game in which they reveal intimate details about themselves. But what begins as playful banter between Ted and Lily takes a turn when Ted claims, half-seriously, that he would like to kill his wife. Then Lily surprises him by saying that she’d like to help.

Back in Boston, Ted and Lily forge an unusual bond and talk about the ways Ted can get out of his marriage. But Lily has her own dark history she’s not sharing with Ted. As Ted begins to fall in love with Lily, he grows anxious about any holes in their scheme that could give them away. And suddenly the two are pulled into a very lethal game of cat and mouse, one in which both are not likely to survive when all is said and done.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, William Morrow, 2016.

How acquired: Borrowed from my mom.

First line: “Hello, there,” she said.

My thoughtsWhile at my mom's house, talking about a book we'd both recently read and loved (LULLABY, by Claire Seeber), I commented that it made me want to read more of that genre. My mom promptly disappeared into her room and reemerged with this book in hand. I started it the next day and whizzed through it.

The chapters start out alternating between Ted, who just discovered his wife is cheating on him with their contractor, and Lily, who he meets in an airport bar. The find themselves on the same flight, and Ted spills the whole story to Lily, admitting that he'd like to kill his wife. And Lily, rather than being shocked, says she will help him do so.

As they take turns narrating, both in first person POV, we learn more about how Ted and Miranda met, and Lily's unconventional family, along with some secrets from Lily's past (although she does not share that information with Ted). They plot and plan how to murder Miranda and Brad, the contractor, and when the time is almost nigh, holy plot twist! Something right out of left field, and the twists and turns just keep coming.

This is a fast paced and engrossing book. I feel like I can't say too much about what happens without getting spoilery, but I was glued to the pages. The character's narrative voices aren't very distinctive, but that's literally the only complaint I can come up with. A brilliant and unexpected read, and I've already pre-ordered the author's next book and bought one of his previous books.