26 February 2013

By His Majesty's Grace (The Three Graces of Graydon, Book 1)

Synopsis: Much to her chagrin, Lady Isabel Milton has been given to Earl Rand Braesford – a reward from the Tudor king for his loyalty to the throne. The lusty nobleman quickly claims his husbandly rights, an experience Isabel scarcely hoped to enjoy so much. But youth and strength may not save Braesford from his bride's infamous curse...

Accused of a heinous crime with implications that reach all the way to King Henry himself, Braesford is imprisoned in the Tower, and Isabel is offered her salvation – but for a price. She has the power to seal his fate, have him sent to the executioner and be freed from her marriage bonds. Yet the more Isabel learns of Rand, the less convinced she is of his guilt, and she commits to discover the truth about the enigmatic husband she never expected to love.

First line: Braesford was finally sighted in late afternoon.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by MIRA Books, 2011; 373 pages; purchased at a library sale.

My thoughts: While Isabel is a plucky heroine and Rand is a decent hero, I struggled a little to enjoy the book. Rand, despite being baseborn, has developed a close friendship with Henry VII, having been in exile with the king. When he sees Isabel and decides he wants her, Henry makes it happen. Isabel and her two younger sisters have been overseen by their step-brother since their father's death, and of course being women of their time they have no say in their own futures. I can deal with that, I've ready plenty of books with heroines in the same situation. But the king is a step up from the male head of the family, capriciously arranging the lives of not just young unmarried women, but of anyone around him as he sees fit. One minute he could be a great friend to Rand, and the next he's accused Rand of a murder and had him imprisoned. He just left a sour taste in my mouth that impeded my enjoyment of the story.

And then Isabel summed it up:
She hated it, hated that anyone, even a king, could so discompose her. It was the power he held, she knew, the power to decide the life or death of others in an instant, to extend pain or joy, to shut someone away from the light forever or to set them free. No one should have such arbitrary control over another soul. (pp 330-331)
I read that paragraph twice, and suddenly I looked at the whole story in a different light. Like, before that paragraph, Henry's whims and decrees were just matter of fact and accepted. That's life. That's just the way it is. But after reading that paragraph, I saw Henry as just another obstacle for the hero and heroine to overcome.

Okay, I realize that I'm not really making sense here. I've been thinking about this all day, and I'm just not sure how to express my thoughts any better. But putting the whole Henry issue aside...the book was okay. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it.

22 February 2013


Synopsis: After her four-year-old daughter tells her that a sick man is lying in their front yard, Honor Gillette discovers that the man is Lee Coburn, accused of murdering seven men the night before. Armed and deadly, he promises Honor that she and her daughter won't be hurt if she does everything he asks. Then Honor witnesses a shocking act of brutality – and learns that even those closest to her can't be trusted. Claiming that her late husband possessed something valuable and dangerous, Coburn convinced her that he must find it before it falls into the hands of The Bookkeeper, a merciless crime boss who will stop at nothing until they are all dead. Now from Washington, D.C., to coastal Louisiana, the desperate trio run for their lives from the very people sworn to protect them, unraveling a web of corruption and depravity that threatens the fabric of our society.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, 2012; 465 pages (not counting excerpt at back of the book); purchased new.

My thoughts: In my opinion, Sandra Brown is the queen of suspense/thrillers. I was first introduced to her through her straight romance novels, which I enjoyed. The first one I have noted on my reading log is HIDDEN FIRES in 2002. In 2003 someone gave me a copy of THE WITNESS, and it is still one of my all time favorite books. It was my introduction to Ms. Brown as a mystery/suspense writer, and she is one of the few authors whose books I buy new because I want them right away.

Honor Gillette is the widow of a police officer, living alone with her young daughter, who is just adorable. While she is working in the kitchen one morning, Emily comes in and announces there is a hurt man lying in the grass. Honor goes out to investigate and suddenly finds herself at gunpoint. Lee Coburn forces her back into the house, where he holds Honor and her daughter hostage. He's a scary brute of a man and he's wanted for the murder of seven men the night before. He ransacks Honor's home, claiming that her husband had something valuable that he needs to find, though he has no idea what exactly he is looking for.

It's no spoiler to say that Coburn is, of course, actually the good guy. He is able to convince Honor that her life, and the life of her daughter, are now in danger, and the three of them end up going on the run together.

While Honor's gut tells her to trust Coburn, she is still frightened and wary of him. Emily, on the other hand, is enraptured by him from the beginning, and for the most part she enjoys the “adventure” her mother tells her they are having. Coburn is a very closed off man, the silent, brooding,wounded alpha hero type that I love to read about. He's not thrilled to have a kid along and not sure how to talk to one, but he is determined to keep both mother and child safe, even though he seems to expect that his own number will soon be up.

The relationship between Coburn and Honor builds slowly and realistically. Even once Emily has been left in the care of Honor's best friend, Coburn and Honor don't just fall into bed together. The attraction is there from the beginning, but neither has any intention of acting on it. Coburn wants to find what he's looking for, finish the job he started out to do and be rid of this woman. Honor wants to keep her daughter safe, and prove that her husband was a loyal officer and not a dirty cop.

But the ending. As much as I loved this book, I was a little disappointed with the ending. The narrative moves seamlessly from Coburn and Honor to other members of the large cast of characters, good and bad, but we never actually meet The Bookkeeper, who only interacts with other characters by phone. I was completely clueless as to the identity of The Bookkeeper, and when that identity was revealed I was a little taken aback. I still feel a little jarred and disbelieving by it. Though in real life, people often feel that way about high profile criminals, so I guess that's actually realistic.

And then the Epilogue left the story feeling unfinished, though of course in my head I know exactly what happened next and nobody can convince me differently.

Overall the book lived up to the tense, edge of your seat standard I've come to expect from Ms. Brown, and my love affair with her heroes continues.

17 February 2013

Ghost Shadow (The Bone Island Trilogy, Book 1)

Synopsis: There are those who walk among us who are no longer alive, but not yet crossed over. They seek retribution...vengeance...to warn. Among the living, few intuit their presence.

Katie O'Hara is one who can.

As she's drawn deeper and deeper into a gruesome years-old murder, whispered warnings from a spectral friend become more and more insistent. But Katie must uncover the truth: could David Beckett really be guilty of his fiancée's murder?

Worse – the body count's rising on the Island of Bones, and the dead seem to be reenacting some macabre tableaux from history. The danger is increasing by the moment – especially as Katie finds herself irresistibly drawn to David, who may be responsible for more than just one killing...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, 351 pages (not counting excerpt in back of book), published by MIRA Books, 2010; purchased at a library book sale.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Heather Graham, and I picked it up at a library sale because the gorgeous purple cover caught my attention. And I see the author's name a lot and know she's fairly popular – I believe my mother is a big fan.

Katie O'Hara sees and talks to ghosts. I was reminded at first of the Jennifer Love Hewitt TV show The Ghost Whisperer, but with less angst. The comparison didn't last long, however, as Katie does not spend her days constantly being visited by spirits who need her help to move on. Some ghosts talk to her, but others she just sees in passing and has no contact with. She doesn't seek them out or attempt to get them to confide in her. They are just there, the way you and I pass strangers on the street. Except for Bartholomew, the ghost of a former privateer who was hanged for a crime he didn’t commit and who “lives”, so to speak with Katie in her home.

Ten years ago David Beckett's ex-fiancee was murdered. He was a main person of interest, but was never found guilty and then moved away. Many Key West residents believe he was guilty, and the story of her unsolved murder is a popular stop on the ghost tours around town. Now David is back, and shortly after his arrival another woman has been murdered in an eerily similar manner. Katie is drawn into the mystery, and drawn to David.

A good suspense yarn set against a back ground of Key West lore with the supernatural element of various ghosts and a love story woven in. I was pretty much in the dark as to the identity of the murderer up until the very end. While I liked David, and Katie's brother Sean, and David's cousin Liam, a police officer, I think Bartholomew was my favorite character. Katie also has a best friend, but her character wasn't very fleshed out or involved as much as the men were, not that I was bothered by that.

I was eager to start looking for the rest of the trilogy, but a little disappointed when I realized the next two books aren't about Katie. The second book, GHOST NIGHT, is about Sean, and the third book, GHOST MOON, is about Liam. And then there's a prequel book, GHOST MEMORIES, which is Bartholomew's story, but is apparently only available as an ebook, dammit.

11 February 2013

December Acquisitions

24 new books came into my hands in December.


The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice, by Abigail Reynolds, which I stumbled across at Dollar General, and Dewey:  The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World, by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter, which I received from another member of BookCrossing in a trade.


The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires, by Katie MacAlister, and The Poseidon Adventure, by Paul Gallico, both of which came through Book Mooch.

From my Harlequin Reader Service subscription:

Final Resort, by Dana Mentink; Key Witness, by Christy Barritt; Detection Mission, by Margaret Daley

Heart of a Rancher, by Renee Andrews; Home for Good, by Jessica Keller; Sweetheart Bride, by Lenora Worth

Saving Gracie, by Kristen Ethridge; Her Valentine Hero, by Gail Gaymer Martin; The Cowboy's Healing Ways, by Brenda Minton

Sadie's Prize, by Margaret Daley; Stowaway Angel, by Cheryl St. John; Christmas Wishlist, by Karen Toller Whittenburg

My sister gave me a bag of books:

Lilly's Dream, by Peggy Darty; A Single Rose, by Pamela M. Griffin; House of Secrets, by Ramona Richards

A Grand Deception, by Elizabeth Mansfield; Night Prey, by Sharon Dunn; The Officer's Secret, by Debby Giusti

The Sacrifice, by Beverly Lewis; Palace Circle, by Rebecca Dean

10 February 2013

Prairie Tale

Synopsis: To fans of the hugely successful television series “Little House on the Prairie”, Melissa Gilbert grew up in a fantasy world with a larger-than-life father, friends and family she could count on, and plenty of animals to play with. Children across the country dreamed of the Ingalls' idyllic life – and so did Melissa.

She was a natural on camera, but behind the scenes, life was more complicated. Adopted as a baby into a legendary show business family, Melissa wrestled with questions about her identity and struggled to maintain an image of perfection her mother created and enforced. Only after years of substance abuse, dysfunctional relationships, and made-for-television movies did she begin to figure out who she really was.

With candor and humor, the cherished actress traces her complicated journey from buck-toothed Laura “Half-Pint” Ingalls to Hollywood starlet, wife, and mother. She partied with the Brat Pack, dated heartthrobs like Robe Lowe and bad boys like Billy Idol, and began a self-destructive pattern of addiction and codependence. Left in debt after her first marriage, and struggling to create some sense of stability, she eventually realized that her career on television had earned her popularity, admiration, and love from everyone but herself.

Through hard work, tenacity, sobriety, and the blessings of a solid marriage, Melissa has accepted her many different identities and learned to laugh, cry, and forgive in new ways. Women everywhere may have idolized her charming life on “Little House on the Prairie”, but Melissa's own unexpectedly honest, imperfect, and down-to-earth story is an inspiration.

First line: My mother was nearly a month past her husband's funeral when she turned her attention back to my desire to write a memoir.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.; 2010; purchased new from Amazon.com.

My thoughts: Everyone knows who Melissa Gilbert is, and many of us grew up watching her play Laura Ingalls (she is barely seven months younger than I am). In her – and my – young adult days, I have very vague memories of her but at that time I was not much of a TV watcher or movie goer, and I did not keep up with actors and actresses nearly as much as I do now. I knew she'd had a relationship with Rob Lowe, and that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of her from those days. I've been following her on Twitter for awhile now, but not being a fan of reality shows I didn't see any of her performances on Dancing with the Stars.

Regardless, I've always been a fan of sorts, meaning I have fond memories of “Little House” (well, who doesn't?), and enjoying the occasional TV movie when I caught one. Though reading this made me realize that I've not really seen much of her work, or not as much as I thought I had, and I now want to add everything she's done to my Netflix queue, except I already have 500 movies on there so I'll have to add them one at time.

Anyway, the book. Melissa writes very openly about her life, in a no holds barred and self-deprecating manner. She has a wonderful outlook on life and obviously has a good sense of humor. Yeah, she's been through some shit – drugs, alcoholism, self-doubt, and so forth, like millions of other people. She's come through it all a stronger person, and I very much enjoyed reading her accounting of her life.

The only part of the book that was hard for me was her struggle with her feelings about being adopted, her feelings that she started out her life, for the first twenty-four hours anyway, as an unwanted child. I work in the adoption field, and the majority of the birth mothers we work with are not giving up their child because they don't want him or her, they are doing it because they want the child to have a better life than they feel capable of providing. It is the ultimate sacrifice for these women. Fortunately, Melissa does seem to finally find some peace with that aspect of her life.

The blurb mentions “the blessings of a solid marriage”, and of course since the book was published that marriage has ended, and Melissa is now engaged to Timothy Busfield. Marriage is hard work, and all the stress and pressures that celebrities face has to make it doubly hard. I would imagine that writing her memoir was cathartic, and I truly wish her the best in her life. I guess I was really just a little bit of a fan before, but now I find myself adoring her.

03 February 2013

Straight Talking


Synopsis: Meet Tasha – single and still searching. A producer for Britain's most popular morning television show working under a nightmare boss, Tasha is well versed in the trials and tribulations of twenty-first-century dating. She and her three best friends certainly haven't lived the fairy tale they thought they would: there's Andy, who's hooked on passion, but too much of a tomboy to have moved much beyond the beer-drinking-contest stage; Mel, stuck in a steady but loveless relationship; and Emma, endlessly waiting for her other half to propose. Their love lives are only complicated by the sort of men who seem to drift in and out: Andrew – suave, good-looking, and head over heels in love...with himself; Simon – who is allergic to commitment, but has a bad-boy nature that's impossible to resist; and Adam – perfectly attractive, but too sweet to be sexy.

The bestselling first novel that launched Jane Green, one of the brightest stars in contemporary women's fiction, STRAIGHT TALKING sets the record straight regarding the real world of dating, and follows the adventurers of Tash and her friends as they search for fulfillment and the right kind of love. Funny, flirty, and ultimately tender, STRAIGHT TALKING gets at the heart of modern romance.

First line: I was never supposed to be single at thirty years old.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2003; received from a member of BookCrossing.

My thoughts: That mention on the cover blurb of this being Jane Green's “first novel” confused me, as I thought there were a couple of books before this one, but if I've figured it out correctly, this is the first one she wrote, but not the first one published in the US. Though I could be wrong, so don't quote me on that! .

Tasha, the heroine of the story, who also narrates directly to us, the readers, is a very messed up woman who's definition of the perfect relationship is skewed. She goes from one hot passionate relationship to the next, never understanding why it all goes belly up. Her most recent serious relationship was with Simon, who she still desperately misses and wants back. Fortunately, she's in therapy, trying to learn to deal with her issues. In the meantime, she shares with us her life.

Tasha is the type of woman often commonly referred to as a slut. In sharing her story with us, she holds nothing back, letting us in on every wrong turn and mistake she makes with these wrong men. Tasha is crude, often rude, a bit egotistical about her looks and how attractive men find her - men who are arrogant, sexy, and use women like tissue. But like many women who have those traits, underneath it all is a girl with very low self-esteem who doesn't trust anyone and expects to get dumped on. Even when a nice man likes her, she can't give him the time of day if she doesn't feel turned on just being in his presence. She is the very definition of looking for love in all the wrong places. But she is also self-aware, admitting to us these very same faults. She doesn't know how to act differently and so she keeps repeating the same pattern.

Simon is the one who got away. Andrew is the one who she wants to be with next. And Adam is the best friend, who she can talk to about anything and who listens to her complain about the other guys and is always there for her, but who she would never think of in a romantic way. I think we've all had an Adam in our life.

At times Tasha's story made me want to cringe. I wanted to hit her upside the head and tell her to freaking get it together and quit being a whiny baby and grow the hell up. And when she made her biggest mistake, I was furious with her. But I liked her so I always forgave her and hoped she'd do better.

I think this might be my favorite Jane Green book so far.


I've been a fan of Jane Green since the first book of hers I read back in 2004. So looking back over my past reads, I was surprised to find that I'd only read six of her books! But I do have five others in my TBR pile, waiting to be enjoyed. I was not blogging yet when I read the other books, but I did make Journal Entries about them on BookCrossing, so I thought I'd share those now:

MR. MAYBE -- Oh my gosh, I've found a new favorite author! I absolutely loved this book, and I was pretty satisfied with the ending, even though I pretty much saw it coming! I enjoyed following Libby through her trials and watching her grow as a person along the way, but with plenty of humour as well! I wish her brother had been more involved in the story though! (7/19/04)

JEMIMA J -- I enjoyed it, but not as much as Mr. Maybe. At first it was a little disconcerting the way the narration bounced back and forth between first person and third person (sometimes twice on the same page!), and throughout the entire book I felt that the third person narrator was condescending. And it was a little "quaint" to read about how excited Jemima and Ben were about their office finally getting internet access and discovering the joys of the web! But at the end of the book I was still glued to the pages! I have definitely become a fan of Jane Green! (10/15/04)

THE OTHER WOMAN -- After reading Mr. Maybe, I wrote a letter to Jane Green back in July 2004, to tell her how much I enjoyed her books. Well, on March 21, 2005, I received a package via UPS with a letter from the publisher:

"Thank you for your letter to Jane Green. I have passed it along to her and I am sure that she will appreciate your kind words. Enclosed please find a copy of Jane's new novel THE OTHER WOMAN. I hope that you enjoy it." It was signed by the assistant to the president of Viking Plume, a Division of Penguin Putnam, Inc.

I really enjoy Jane Green, although not quite as much as Marian Keyes. Or maybe just differently from Keyes, but they are my two favorite "chick lit" authors.

Anyway, this one is about a woman who falls in love, marries and has a baby. Marrying her husband includes gaining an instant family of in-laws, which at first seems wonderful as Ellie grew up an only child with no mother and a distant father. But soon her mother-in-law is smothering her and trying to run her entire life. A humourous book, but dealing with some serious issues as well, and with a pretty satisfying ending. (8/11/05)

BABYVILLE -- I found it very enjoyable, and liked the different viewpoints as each woman's story unfolded. I kind of feel like I've been in each woman's position at some point! Jane Green never fails to satisfy. (11/20/06)

BOOKENDS -- As usual, Jane Green always pleases me. I noticed that a lot of readers thought this one was a little hard to get into, but I didn't have that problem. I was a little shaken at the suddenly serious turn of events, but was then very happy with the ending. (4/1/07)

LIFE SWAP -- I loved this book. I was a little surprised at how long the book went on before the actual swap happened, but I didn't really mind as I enjoyed reading about both Vicki's and Amber's lives. The fact that the swap section seemed shorter also seemed very realistic to me from what I'd read. But I really would have liked to find out what happened later with Vicki and how her life turned out!

I also thought that the writing style seemed a little different from previous Jane Green books I've read, but it very much suited the story. (6/26/09)