11 October 2017

Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck (Southern Eclectic, Book 0.5)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Carl and Marianne were high school sweethearts, loving the way only teenagers can—with no thought to logic or pride, just a bone-headed, optimistic frenzy of unicorns and hormones. That was all they needed. Or so Carl thought.

Scared of being stuck in Lake Sackett, Georgia, like so many of her friends—without a real shot at a future or achieving her own dreams—Marianne panicked and bolted to college after stomping Carl’s heart into the high grass. But when she returns to Lake Sackett for the summer with her family after years away, she and Carl are drawn together like moths to a flame. As they rekindle their old romance and remember what it was like to be in love, they have to wonder: is this, finally, their real chance at happiness?

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Pocket Star, releasing October 16, 2017.

How acquired: Netgally.

My thoughts:  This is my first time reading Molly Harper, but I've seen her name here and there. Browsing Netgalley one day the title caught my eye, and when I saw the author's name I decided it was time to try her out so I requested it, and a big thank you to the publisher for accepting my request!

This is a sweet second chance romance. Marianne is interesting and self-deprecating. She hightailed it out of her small town to go to college, and Carl was left behind with a broken heart. It's been many many years since I was Marianne's age, but I could relate to the feeling of needing to get away from the place where you grew up. Lately my catnip is small town stories and/or cowboys. Carl isn't a cowboy, but he had many of the attributes that those heroes usually have, though I wasn't sure at first how I felt about him. Wearing shirts with the sleeves torn off...he didn't exactly appeal to me. But he quickly grew on me. Marianne has a lot of family and I had a little trouble keeping track of them all, but I really liked her brother Duffy and her cousin Frankie. I'm hoping that future books in the series will feature them.

I'm not generally a big fan of novellas, just because I like to get more story than the shorter form allows. Marianne and Carl's new, or resumed, relationship was a bit sudden, and I would've liked to spend more time watching them get to know each again after being apart for four or so years. But I loved their interactions, and I laughed out loud a few times.

A quick and enjoyable read, and I'm interested now to see how much deeper Ms. Harper goes into her characters in a full length novel. She certainly seems to be popular, with over four thousand followers on Goodreads! I'm glad I gave her try.

07 October 2017

Always a Cowboy (The Carsons of Mustang Creek, Book 2)

Synopsis from Goodreads: Drake Carson is the quintessential cowboy. In charge of the family ranch, he knows the realities of this life, its pleasures and heartbreaks. Lately, managing the wild stallions on his property is wearing him down. When an interfering so-called expert arrives and starts offering her opinion, Drake is wary, but he can't deny the longing—and the challenge—she stirs in him.

Luce Hale is researching how wild horses interact with ranch animals—and with ranchers. The Carson matriarch invites her to stay with the family, which guarantees frequent encounters with Drake, her ruggedly handsome and decidedly unwelcoming son. Luce and Drake are at odds from the very beginning, especially when it comes to the rogue stallion who's stealing the ranch mares. But when Drake believes Luce is in danger, that changes everything—for both of them.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, HQN Books, 2016.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: The weather just plain sucked, but that was okay with Drake Carson.

My thoughts: I loved the first book in this series, ONCE A RANCHER, so when I stumbled across this book I snatched it up and started reading it almost as soon as I was back home.

Drake definitely appealed to me. Cowboy, cares about animals, stoic, stubborn. I liked Luce, but I understood completely why Drake was exasperated about her suddenly being on his ranch, interfering with his life. But I loved that when Luce wanted to wander around on her own, thinking she was immune to the everyday dangers of ranch wilderness, Drake resigned himself, gritted his teeth and took time out of his day to be sure she was safe. 

They both fell hard a little too fast. I would've liked the story drawn out a bit more so they could actually have time to get to know each other better before suddenly realizing they loved each other. But I loved the descriptions of the wild stallion and his herd, which included several mares stolen from Drake. And I loved how the tough cowboy was such a softie when it came to his dogs. As in the first book, the banter between Drake and his two brothers made me laugh, as did several other scenes.

Not quite as good as the first book, but still very enjoyable, and I look forward to the next two books in the series, both of which I've already ordered. 


01 October 2017

The River at Night

Synopsis from Goodreads: Winifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare; a freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

With intimately observed characters and visceral prose, 
The River at Night “will leave you gasping, your heart racing, eyes peering over your shoulder to see what follows from behind” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author). This is a dark exploration of creatures—both friend and foe—that you won’t soon forget. 

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Gallery/Scout Press, 2017.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: Early one morning in late March, Pia forced my hand.

My thoughts: I don't even know where to start. I'm not an outdoorsy person. I have a phobia of water that is over my head. I can't swim. I have no desire to camp out or commune with nature. I would never in a million years even consider going white water rafting. I would never survive in the wilderness. And this book just reinforced and justified all of that. But I do love to read survival stories, and this one is absolutely gripping. Not just the story, though. I loved the author's voice, her evocative way with words.
The hunter took us in one by one, as if we were words in a sentence he was trying to understand.

The narration is in first person POV by Wini, the most reluctant member of the trip. She'd much prefer to bask on a beach in the sun somewhere, but Pia, the natural leader of the group, enthusiastically drags them all to Maine, where they meet up with their guide for the trip. All four of the women are beautifully written, as are the descriptions of the terrain over which they must first hike, and of course the main character of the story, the vast, tumbling river.
In the distance, our destination: smoke-blue mountains obscured and then revealed by morning fog. I felt equally pulled and repelled. What did the mountains care about our plan to climb them, rafting the waters that divided them? They had eternity before us, and eternity after us. We were nothing to them.

The river isn't the only danger the group faces over three long days. But I feel like anything else I say would be a potential spoiler. So I'll just say this book is terrifyingly terrific.  

24 September 2017

Down & Dirty (Lightning, Book 1)

Synopsis from Goodreads: This hard-bodied football star is used to scoring. But he needs all the right moves to get past a fiery redhead’s defenses in a steamy standalone novel from the bestselling author of Ruined.

Emerson: Talk about bad first impressions. I have too much riding on this job to show up late on my first day looking like the winner of a wet T-shirt contest, all thanks to an arrogant quarterback who drives like he owns the road. Hunter Browning thinks that because he’s famous, he can fix everything with a smile and a wave of his hand. He’s too bronzed, buff, and beautiful for his own good. Or mine. I can’t let on that I’m a fan . . . no matter how much fun we’d have in the sack.

Hunter: Hitting that puddle was my best play since winning the Super Bowl with a touchdown pass. Sure, it’s not my preferred way to get a girl wet, but I’ll make an exception for Emerson Day. She’s got a sharp tongue and a red-hot temper, even with her soaking clothes plastered to her every curve. Now I know exactly what my next play will be: hire Emerson as my personal real-estate agent, save her job—and see if I can take her off the market.

Stats for my copy: .pdf ARC, Loveswept, 2017.

How acquired: Instafreebie.

My thoughtsThis story combined elements that I like with elements that I'm not crazy about, and it all worked. I love an alpha hero. Cocky, arrogant, bring it on. Professional football player and star quarterback Hunter delivers. Witty, cutting banter will always draw me in, and Hunter and Emerson delivered. I laughed out loud several times at their exchanges. A hero who enrages the heroine. Score another point for Hunter. A hero with young kids. Ok, they aren't actually Hunter's kids, but a niece and nephew are close enough. A heroine who turns her nose up at the hero's money and fame. While secretly awed (because she is a football fan), Emerson refuses to let that show, which of course makes her different from every other woman Hunter knows, and therefore more desirable. (Although there is a scene involving a hundred dollar bill that was hilarious.) Characters falling deeply in love in a very short period of time. Not a big fan of instalove, as I like watching a relationship grow, but doesn't bother me too much. First person point of view, present tense. My least favorite tense. But Ms. Wolff does it so well it didn't bother me at all. So score one for her.

Throw in some mega sexy times, and a lot of heart. I cried. More than once. Hunter is the kind of man I would find insufferable in real life, but as I got to know him, and to understand him, I adored him. The narrative alternates between Hunter's and Emerson's points of view, but I felt it was a little more his story than hers. Which was just fine by me. I loved this book. 

16 September 2017

His Runaway Son (Harlequin Superromance No. 699)



Synopsis from Goodreads: Burke Wheeler. Undercover cop. Devoted father. Ex-husband. For the past few years Burke's had very little to do with his ex-wife, Abbie except insofar as she's the mother of his sixteen-year-old son, Justin. Then comes a day every parent fears and dreads. Something Burke's faced as a cop but never as a father. Justin is missing. A runaway. Burke and Abbie know they have to confront their own conflicts, lay aside old animosities, if they're going to find their son. In the process of looking for Justin, they find each other, too.They find each other all over again.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Enterprised, Limited, 1996.

How acquired: From a BookCrossing member.

First line: “Mrs. Wheeler, I know you're upset, but if we're going to find your son, I need a few questions answered.”

My thoughts: Not the best Harlequin I've read, not the worst. Didn't really care much for the heroine. During the marriage she wanted the hero to give up being a cop. Now they're divorced, and she still wants him to give up being a cop. Not that he was blameless in the marriage falling apart, but he went through a character transformation and realized where he'd gone wrong and I felt like he grew as a person and would not make the same mistakes. She, on the other hand, is still basically the same person she was when the book started, though less naive about what her teenage son has been up to. At the end he never said he was going to give up being a cop, so I'm not sure how long the new remarriage will last before she starts in again about that.

01 September 2017

Summer Doctor


Synopsis from Goodreads: This is a novel about a very unusual kind of a doctor. Daniel van Dine, M.D., is inclined to wear coveralls, a flannel shirt, and hip-length fisherman’s boots, and he has a sense of humor. He is a nonconformist and a humanist with a keen sense of history. His religious inclinations are rather strong. He is constantly seeking the reason for human suffering and pain. He feels that a deeply personal doctor-patient relationship is more important than the glamor of medical progress.

Dr. Dan decides to locate on a remote island off the cost of Maine. Here, he will be very busy ten weeks out of every year, for Juniper Island is a summer resort. Here, also, he will be lonely, for the conditions in the winter are primitive and the island is inhabited then only by stubborn and cantankerous fishermen.

This is Dr. Dan’s own story of his first three years on Juniper Island. He treats his patients with compassion and individual understanding. He discovers that a doctor can learn more from his patients than he is ever taught in medical school.

Among his patients and neighbors are a much-married millionaire, a fisherman with a curious sense of ethics, a gloomy anthropologist, a violent artist, and a displaced cleric. Among the women who influence him are a city fashion editor, an ex-chorus girl, a spinster librarian, a gin-loving Indian midwife, and an unusual adolescent. One of these manages to marry him. Also, he owns a dog, a mangy hound answering to the unlikely name of Slob.

Dr. Dan tells his story with wit and wisdom. His career is one of growth, and he reaches certain conclusions of interest to doctors and patients alike.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1963.

How acquired: From my mom.

First line: “Where is this Juniper Island?”

My thoughtsYoung doctor is discharged from military service after serving as a medic in the Korean war, and finds he has no desire to begin his civilian life practicing medicine in a big city where doctors and patients maintain a purely professional relationship and don't actually get to know each other. He remembers vacationing on Juniper Island as a child one summer, and decides to relocate, showing up on the island with no plans in place, nowhere to stay, and no way to actually get back and forth between the island and the mainland since the only bridge was washed away. But with the help of an local he quickly finds himself trading his brand new Thunderbird for an old rusty boat and a fixer upper of a house.

Dr. Daniel van Vine, or Doc as he becomes known, didn't really know what he was getting into, but I loved the way he just barged ahead practically on a whim and set up shop, or rather practice, in his new home on the island. The locals are all pretty colorful characters, and Dan's first person narrative about his interactions and exploits with them are amusing, and filled with lots of slightly philosophical ruminations on life. Some of the conversations about women and their role in society were quaint and antiquated, but the book was written over fifty years ago, so it didn't bother me. I am glad, however, that doctors today do not share Dan's belief that:
...far too much attention is paid, by doctors and patients alike, to the problem of high blood pressure. I could practice just as good medicine, and my patients would live just as long, and more happily, if I threw away my blood pressure machine, but I don't dare.”

When my prescription for my blood pressure medication expired and I wasn't able to get it renewed right away I went off my medication for almost two weeks, and by the end of that second week I felt like I was going to have a heart attack if I did anything that required the least exertion!

Overall I really enjoyed this chatty and engaging book, and I think I'll look around for the author's other books.

15 August 2017

The Art of Hiding

Synopsis from Goodreads: What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?

Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Lake Union Publishing, 2017.

How acquired: NetGalley.

My thoughts: After reading, or starting and giving up on, too many not good books, I stepped back from accepting review books for awhile. Granted, most of those not good books did not come to me via NetGalley, but were offered directly from the author or his/her representative. I felt so soured on the experience that I stayed off NetGalley for quite some time, and instead devoted my reading to books that were already in my massive TBR pile. But when I received a notification from NetGalley that I was auto approved for this book, I thought it sounded intriguing, so I accepted it. And I'm glad I did. 

It's a bit depressing at times, but ultimately quite uplifting. Nina's perfect life comes crashing down around her when her husband is killed in an auto accident. As if losing her husband wasn't enough, she soon learns that his business was in financial ruin, and before she has time to prepare she and her two sons are suddenly homeless and broke. She transitions from living in a huge house of splendor, ferrying her sons back and forth to their exclusive private school and spending her days mindlessly spending money left and right to living in a tiny flat in a bad neighborhood, getting a job, walking to work, and learning to live on a tight budget. It's hard on her, and hard on the boys. But along the way Nina learns to appreciate life and the small joys that come with it if you can keep your mind from being closed off. I enjoyed taking the journey with her, and watching her blossom from pampered housewife to confident working woman. The characters were all well written, with the boys being realistic kids. I loved how Nina and her sister reconnected, and there were a few times when I laughed out loud at their conversations. 

A really nice story about loss and love and learning to pick yourself up and find happiness in everyday life.