11 December 2016

The Loved Dog: The Playful, Nonaggressive Way to Teach Your Dog Good Behavior


Synopsis from dust jacket flap: Every dog owner must make a choice: Do you want a fearful and submissive pet, or do you want a happy, joyful, and well-mannered member of the family?

Tamar Geller's mission in life is to teach her cruelty-free method of "life coaching" for dogs and their people. Her revolutionary play-training uses mutual understanding and respect -- and puts an end to outdated methods that rely on physical exhaustion, choke chains, prong collars, dominance rollovers, or stressful aggression of any kind.

A former Israeli intelligence officer who witnessed the horrors of military dog training methods, Tamar went on to observe wolves in the wild. She discovered that wolves educate and socialize their cubs with games, bonding, and body language, not dominance or punishment. As a result, she developed teaching systems that address a dog's authentic nature, part wolflike and part toddlerlike. Learning can be a positive experience that dogs enjoy and look forward to, and we can actually make it fun for our dogs to listen to us and behave as we want them to.

Tamar's insights have brought dog training into the twenty-first century, and her groundbreaking techniques have won the approval of the Humane Society of the United States, for which she is a longtime advisor. Her celebrity clients include Oprah Winfrey, Ben Affleck, Courteney Cox-Arquette, Owen Wilson, and the Osbournes, and she has appeared as an expert on the Today show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Animal Planet, and more.

In The Loved Dog, Tamar gives you all the instruction, insights, and tips you need to teach your dog good manners, as well as to troubleshoot specific problems and unwanted behaviors. She helps you and your dog learn a common language, resulting in a loving, respectful relationship that will bring you years of joy and companionship. Tamar's play-training approach is so gentle, even children can get involved.

Whether you use Tamar's methods to raise a puppy or teach an old dog new tricks, you'll love The Loved Dog.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2007.

How acquired: Thrift store find.

My thoughts:  I was browsing through the books at a thrift store yesterday when I came across this book. My daughter has a hyper pup who she loves to death, but who is driving her up the walls. They attend a training class each weekend, but he seems to forget everything as soon as he learns it. This book sounded interesting, so I thought she might like to read through it.

After eating dinner last night, I picked up the book and flipped through it, and this passage caught my attention:
Most people think of socialization in terms of taking a dog outside and introducing her to people, kids, and other dogs, but that is far from the truth. Just because your dog is exposed to different life experiences does not mean that she's ready to tackle any challenge. Exposure does not equal socialization.

I adopted an older dog a few months ago, after his previous owner passed away. For six years he had lived in her backyard, having very little contact with anyone but her. He wasn't abused or treated badly, and he's very well behaved. But he was completely unsocialized, and very fearful and timid. When I went to her home to meet him, where he was still living in the backyard while her daughters were slowly packing up and removing her possessions, he ran underneath a shed and refused to come out. He eventually had to be given a sedative with his food in order to be caught and brought to my house (after being taken to a vet for checkup). While he was still woozy that first day I petted him a bit. But after that, it was several weeks before he would allow me to touch him. It's been seven months now, and I can pet him and have finally been able to take him out for short walks, but he still has a long way to go.

Anyway, I turned back to the beginning of the book and began reading. I'd never heard of Tamar Geller, and until now Victoria Stillwell has been my dog training idol. But I liked what Ms. Geller had to say, and the methods she uses. The book starts out more like a memoir, as the author talks about her abusive childhood and her military training. But those periods of her life are important, because they laid the foundation for who she would be as an adult, and helped her to develop empathy for dogs.

After those chapters begins going through basic training techniques, such as sit, down, and stay, as well as potty training, leash walking and issues with jumping on people. Apparently Ms. Geller is a big name in dog training circles, and she works with a lot of celebrities – there is quite a bit of name dropping throughout the book, and stories about her clients and their dogs.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and I plan to try some of her tips and instructions with my boy. As my daughter has struggled to overcome her pup's potty training issues, separation anxiety and nipping, we've talked a lot about using positive reinforcement over negative, i.e., rewarding good behavior and not physically punishing bad behavior. Ms. Geller's methods are very much about positive reinforcement, and making training into a game for the dog. I'm eager to see if my daughter can start applying some of her methods and what kind of results she'll get.  

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



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



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


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



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. 

30 October 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Guacamole (A Taste of Texas Mystery, Book 2)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Tourists are pouring into the town of Broken Boot for the annual Homestead Days celebration. Opening the festivities at Two Boots Dance Hall is smooth-talking country singer Jeff Clark, the ex-boyfriend of Patti Lopez, Josie’s best friend. When the charming Clark woos Patti onstage in an attempt to rekindle some sparks with his old flame, Josie fears her friend will end up just one more notch on the singer’s guitar strap.

To impress her editor at the Broken Boot Bugle, Josie and her Chihuahua Lenny pursue the singer to Patti’s house, hoping for an interview. Instead, they discover Clark facedown in a bowl of guacamole with a bloodied guitar at his side. With Patti suddenly a murder suspect, Josie must use her reporter skills to find out who had a chip on their shoulder—before the killer double-dips...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Berkley, 2016

How acquired: Received from Cozy Mystery Review Crew

My thoughts:  It was nice to revisit Broken Boot, Texas, and follow waitress-slash-newspaper reporter Josie Callahan as she got involved in the second murder mystery to occur in the small town since her arrival home. Once again, Josie is the lucky soul who happens to discover the body. But the murder is much more personal this time around – Josie's best friend, Patti, is accused of doing the dirty deed and locked up.

Jeff, the deceased, is a playboy singer who's band is booked at the local bar, Two Boots, which is owned by Josie's family. He's also an ex-boyfriend of Patti's, and a witness has reported hearing Patti and Jeff arguing shortly before he was killed. In Patti's house.

This time around we don't see Josie interact as much with the locals who were involved in the previous book, other than her family, Deputy Lightfoot and her own ex, Ryan. I was disappointed that Ryan was no longer dating the beauty queen from the first book, as I really enjoyed her spiteful interactions with Josie. We do meet several new characters - the other member's of Jeff's band, plus his skeevy agent and a strange mother/daughter duo who traveled with the band.

I actually kept up better with the mystery and the plot this time. But there still seemed to be a little something missing. Despite the story being set in the same small town, it didn't have quite the same small town feeling, I think just because the local townsfolk weren't as involved and I wish they had been. But overall it was still a fun, breezy read, and while I liked the first book just a little more, I hope there will be a third book and look forward to more from this author. 

You can read my review of the first book here

22 October 2016

Salvatore: A Dark Mafia Romance (Benedetti Brothers, Book 1)

Synopsis from Goodreads: 


It all started with a contract signed by him, then by me, while our families watched. While my father sat silent, a man defeated, giving his daughter to the Benedetti monsters. I obeyed. I played my part. I signed my name and gave away my life. I became their living, breathing trophy, a constant symbol of their power over us. That was five years ago. Then came the time for him to claim me. For Salvatore Benedetti to own me. I had vowed vengeance. I had learned hate. And yet, nothing could have prepared me for the man who now ruled my life. I expected a monster, one I would destroy. But nothing is ever black or white. No one is either good or evil. For all his darkness, I saw his light. For all his evil, I saw his good. As much as he made me hate him, a passion hotter than the fires of hell burned inside me. I was his, and he was mine. My very own monster.


I owned the DeMarco Mafia Princess. She belonged to me now. We had won, and they had lost. And what better way to teach a lesson than to take from them that which is most precious? Most beloved? I was the boy who would be king. Next in line to rule the Benedetti Family. Lucia DeMarco was the spoils of war. Mine to do with as I pleased. It was my duty to break her. To make her life a living hell. My soul was dark, I was hell bound. And there was no way out, not for either of us. Because the Benedetti family never lost, and in our wake, we left destruction. It’s how it had always been. How I believed it would always be. Until Lucia.

Author’s Note: Salvatore and Lucia’s story is a steamy standalone romance with a happily-ever-after. No cliffhanger and no cheating. It is intended for mature readers.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  Mafia, mobsters, gangsters, and the like – not the type of hero who has ever appealed to me. Violent men in violent worlds, breaking laws and laundering money and killing rivals. What's to love about those men? But the author of this book is Natasha Knight, and I very much like her, so I took a chance and doled out the $11.99 for it. And I'm happy to say I have no regrets.

The premise is a little horrifying. Two heads of rival mob families signing a contract for peace between the families, with one man giving his teen-aged daughter to the other man's son. Lucia is forced to sign a contract that effectively gives ownership of her to Salvatore. Would it hold up in a court of law? Of course not. Lucia is a minor and slavery is outlawed. But the mob doesn't follow our laws, and both Lucia's and Salvatore's fates are sealed that day.

Fortunately, Lucia is sent away to a boarding school for the first five years of the contract, so she's of legal age before she is actually physically handed over to Salvatore. She hates him of course, and his father and brother, not to mention her own father for putting her in this position. But she's strong and feisty, and refuses to cower down.

The story is told in first person POV, alternating between Lucia and Salvatore, and I don't think the story could have worked as well otherwise. Hearing Salvatore's side of the story, his thoughts and feelings about a contract that he, too, was forced into, helped make his character sympathetic. He wasn't just a mobster, he was a man who lived under the thumb of his overbearing father, who still mourned the loss of his older brother, and who was determined to protect Lucia and make the situation as easy on her as he could, albeit while still maintaining control of her.

Definitely a relationship with a rocky start. And then a war is brewing, and with Salvatore's brother and Lucia's sister and cousin involved, it's hard to imagine our hero and heroine ever coexisting peacefully. When you're born into a mob family, it seems your life is never just your own, but you can't just walk away. For Salvatore, there is some soul searching, a yearning for a different kind of life. Men who seek redemption – what's not to love about them? 

02 October 2016



Synopsis from Goodreads: When Jordie Bennet and Shaw Kinnard lock eyes across a disreputable backwater bar, something definitely sparks. Shaw gives off a dangerous vibe that makes men wary and inspires women to sit up and take notice. None feel that undercurrent more strongly than savvy businesswoman Jordie, who doesn't belong in a seedy dive on the banks of a bayou. But here she is . . . and Shaw Kinnard is here to kill her.

As Shaw and his partner take aim, Jordie is certain her time has come. But Shaw has other plans and abducts Jordie, hoping to get his hands on the $30 million her brother has stolen and, presumably, hidden. However, Shaw is not the only one looking for the fortune. Her brother's ruthless boss and the FBI are after it as well. Now on the run from the feds and a notorious criminal, Jordie and Shaw must rely on their wits-and each other-to stay alive.

Miles away from civilization and surrounded by swampland, the two play each other against their common enemies. Jordie's only chance of survival is to outwit Shaw, but it soon becomes clear to Shaw that Jordie isn't entirely trustworthy, either. Was she in on her brother's scam, or is she an innocent pawn in a deadly vendetta? And just how valuable is her life to Shaw, her remorseless and manipulative captor? Burning for answers-and for each other-this unlikely pair ultimately make a desperate move that could be their last.

With nonstop plot twists and the tantalizing sexual tension that has made Sandra Brown one of the world's best-loved authors, STING will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final pages.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Grand Central Publishing, 2016.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  One thing I love about Sandra Brown is her heroes. She is wonderful at writing men who often appear on the surface to be dangerous, threatening, villainous, but who in reality are good, honorable, charismatic men who love fiercely and take huge risks to protect others, to fight the real bad guys, to make justice prevail. Unfortunately, she failed at creating that type of man in STING, at least to me. I struggled to feel any sympathy for his character at all, and didn't really connect with the heroine either. That being said, the parts of the narrative about the two of them were the best parts of the book. The other parts, with the FBI agents trying to find the kidnapped heroine and track down her escaped from custody brother, were flat out boring. In fact, they often read more like a true crime step by step accounting of the events that occurred, rather than a novel. So, definitely not my favorite of her books.

And what's with the covers of her recent books all looking the same? 

Meeting of the Mustangs


Synopsis from Goodreads: A black colt is born into a band of wild mustangs and soon learns that life can often be difficult. Follow his story as he goes from a free spirit to being captured for profit, and find out how one man gains the trust and extreme loyalty of a very special horse.

Stats: Self-published, 2015.

How acquired: Received from the author for review.

My thoughts:  The story opens with a young coal black colt chasing a butterfly's shadow. I was captivated from the first sentence as our little hero frolics with his friends, raced away from mountain lions with the rest of his herd, and discovered the joys of playing in the snow. But life isn't all sunshine and flowers for the band of wild horses, and eventually the young colt is captured and thrown into a world of humans, both kind and cruel. At times the story was almost downright depressing, and I would have absolutely loved this book when I was a young, typically horse crazy girl. The narrative flows easily and is beautifully written. The author doesn't dumb down the perils the wild mustangs faced, but uses fairly simple language appropriate for young readers. I quite enjoyed this book.

19 September 2016

Here Today, Gone Tamale (A Taste of Texas Mystery, Book 1)


Synopsis from back cover: After losing her newspaper job in Austin and having her former fiancé unfriend her on Facebook, Josie Callahan scoops up her Chihuahua, Lenny, and slinks back to Broken Boot, Texas. Maybe working as head waitress at Milagro—her aunt and uncle’s Tex-Mex restaurant—isn’t exactly living the dream, but it is a fresh start.

And business is booming as tourists pour into Broken Boot for its famous Wild West Festival. But when a local jewelry designer is found strangled outside Milagro after a tamale-making party, Josie’s reporter instincts kick in. As suspects pile up and alibis crack faster than taco shells, Josie needs to wrap up this case tighter than her tía’s tortillas—before another victim calls for the check…

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Berkley, 2015.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  When I was offered an ARC of the second book in this series, I had to rush out and buy the first book so I could read them in order. I believe these books are what are commonly called “Cozy Mysteries”, a genre I have no real experience with as of yet. But HERE TODAY, GONE TAMALE was a good introduction.

The story is told in first person POV by Josie Callahan, an ex-newspaper reporter whose career pretty much went down in flames. She moved back home and works in her aunt and uncle's Mexican restaurant, and she and her dog, Lenny, live in an apartment above the restaurant. When a local jewelry maker is found dead outside the restaurant, her reporter instincts can't help but kick in, and she makes it her mission to solve the murder, despite the fact that the local police would prefer she mind her own business.

Josie is a fun, fresh and somewhat self-deprecating narrator. She describes her friends, family, and other townsfolk in vivid colorful detail, which is good because there are a lot of characters to keep up with. Her love and loyalty to both her family and the town shine through. The restaurant, Milagro, sounded like a place I'd enjoy visiting. I definitely began to crave some good Mexican food, especially tamales (and I generally prefer enchiladas), while reading.
Some people catch all the breaks, and the rest of us eat too many tamales.

I particularly enjoyed Josie's interactions with her ex-boyfriend's beauty queen girlfriend, as well as with her aunt's mother-in-law, Senora Mari. Not to mention the stoic Deputy Quint Lightfoot, who Josie's best friend practically falls all over and who Senora Mari practically tries to pimp Josie out to. 
Of course,” Senora Mari continued, “if you decide you want to try something new before you settle down and have babies, you could ask Josie. She'd give you a run for your money.”
Great. Now I was a racehorse.

The mystery at times was a little confusing to me, though I usually managed to catch up again within a page or two. That probably had more to do with me being tired all the time and only able to concentrate for short stretches at a time than with the writing and/or plotting.

Fun and breezy, despite being about a murder investigation. I'm looking forward to the second book. 

05 September 2016


Synopsis from back cover: Following the death of his wife, Crawford Hunt, a Texas Ranger, fell into a downward spiral that left him relegated to desk work and with his five-year-old daughter in the custody of her grandparents. But Crawford has cleaned up his act and now the fate of his family lies with Judge Holly Spencer. Ambitious and confident, Holly temporarily occupies the bench of her recently deceased mentor. With an election upcoming, she must prove herself worthy of making her judgeship permanent. Every decision is high-stakes. When a masked gunman barges into the courtroom during the guardianship hearing, Crawford reacts instinctually, saving Holly from a bullet. But his heroism soon takes on the taint of recklessness. The cloud over him grows even darker after he uncovers a horrifying truth about the courtroom gunman and realizes that the unknown person behind the shooting remains at large – and a threat.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Grand Central Publishing, 2015.

How acquired: Borrowed from my mother. I usually buy Sandra Brown's books as soon as they come out, but somehow I missed this one.

My thoughts:  I knew I would love this book because I've come to expect that from Sandra Brown. She writes incredible heroes, men who often appear on the surface to be dangerous, threatening, villainous, but who in reality are good, honorable, charismatic men who love fiercely and take huge risks to protect others, to fight the real bad guys, to make justice prevail.

Crawford Hunt is a Texas Ranger who is in a custody battle with his in-laws, who have raised his young daughter since his wife died. Holly Spencer is the judge presiding over the custody proceedings, but before she can give her ruling a gunman bursts into the courtroom and begins shooting. Crawford throws himself on top of Holly to protect her, and their lives become intertwined from that moment on.

FRICTION was very much more Crawford's story than Holly's, which was fine by me because I adored him. I liked Holly too, of course, but for much of the book she was more of a secondary character as Crawford dug deeper and deeper into the mystery of who the shooter was, who hired him, and why. The mystery unravels slowly, and then ravels, and then unravels some more. However, the last chapter, after the mystery of the gunman was revealed, was a little bit of a let down, neatly and abruptly tying up all the remaining loose ends almost as an afterthought.

If you're already a fan of Sandra Brown, you'll enjoy this book. If you're new to her writing, you'll probably still enjoy it, and then you should seek out LETHAL, MEAN STREAK, and THE WITNESS, which are her best books in my opinion.


Mini Reviews


Somehow I reached my fifties without ever having read this children's classic! And it is such a delightful read. I was of course already familiar with the story (who isn't?), but I very much enjoyed reading it. I was a little surprised when Heidi first goes to live with her grandfather, as I expected him to be much more ogre like, frowning, taciturn, etc. I'm thinking maybe he was portrayed more that way on screen? Anyway, classics are classics for a reason, and HEIDI is a wonderful story.  

TEEN IDOL, by Meg Cabot

Filled with Meg Cabot's trademark humor and teen pathos. Like The Princess Diaries, the plot is a bit fairytaleish, as a mega movie star decides to spend two weeks at a typical midwestern high school as research for an upcoming movie role. He's undercover as a transfer student, and Jenny, a high school junior and secret author of the newspaper's Ask Annie column, has been recruited by the staff to be his student guide. She has to help him blend in while keeping his true identity a secret.

It's not all just light fluffy fun though. The story touches on the serious issue of not just bullying, but of standing by and doing nothing to try and stop the bullying. Through Luke's eyes Jen begins to see the things that go on in a new light, and by the end she has grown as a person and a human being. 


During her school years my youngest daughter was very much into soccer, and this was one of her books from those days. I'm donating it to a school, and read through parts of it. A lot of it is technical and motivational instructions for young girls about the game and the different positions and different moves, and I skimmed over those parts and just focused on the more personal stories about Mia's own life and her childhood and experiences. I enjoyed those parts, but the other parts were boring to me, which is to be expected as I am not the intended demographic for this book. 

27 August 2016



Synopsis from Goodreads: Some people seek marriage counseling; others find wisdom in horse manure. Austen St. Johns has taken up a shovel.

When her marriage transitions from blushing newlyweds to people who merely co-exist, Austen realizes perhaps she's responsible for her misery.

Desiring change, she leaves Oregon for the open plains of a Wyoming ranch where she discovers through love of self how she can save her marriage.

Stats for my copy: Digital download, Tirgearr Publishing, 2016.

How acquired: Instafreebie.

My thoughts:  I struggled to stay interested in this book. The writing is pretty wonderful, almost lyrical and poetical at times. I think my main issue was that I just could not relate to Austen at all.

After just a few short years of marriage, Austen feels like she needs to find herself, so she leaves her husband behind and takes a job on a ranch in Wyoming. It's hard work, cleaning stables and the dining hall, mucking manure, pitching hay, among a bunch of cowboys who look down on her, snicker behind her back, and sometimes play practical jokes on her. But her vast knowledge of herbs and flowers and their medicinal properties soon earns her the respect of her coworkers, who begin calling her “Doc”. Although she's not close to being a doctor.

In the meantime, she does a lot of soul searching about herself, her goals in life, her wants and desires, and her relationship with her husband. They're not separated, in the legal sense, just apart for awhile. She comes to the realization that she must love herself, and eventually she does find herself.

My favorite part of the book was towards the end when her husband comes to the ranch. But most of the time I was just...bored. 

14 August 2016

Wild (Amber Eyes, Book 1 and Book 2)


Synopsis from Goodreads:

Golden Eyes
When Duncan finds an injured cheetah, questions about how she wound up in his mountains—and going after the poachers pursuing her—can wait. First he brings her home. Then he checks in on his patient, and finds not a cat, but a gorgeous, very naked woman.

Aliyah Carter spent the past six months trapped in cheetah form, a prisoner of the poachers who took her to use in an illegal exotic-game hunt. Finally she’s escaped, but now she faces another problem. A devastatingly sexy sheriff who knows her secret.

Amber Eyes
The beautiful, timid cougar that appears at Hunter and Jericho’s remote cabin breaks their quiet routine, warms their hearts—and rouses their curiosity. Why would this wild creature want to form a friendship with humans?

Kaya has survived a lifetime of isolation in her shifted form. Yet there’s something about these two men that draws her to embrace her human side. In the shelter of their love, she blooms. Then they are called away on a mission that goes terribly wrong. Now pregnant and alone, Kaya’s only hope is that the men who love her will find their way home.

Warning: This title contains explicit sex, adult language, sweet lovin’, multiple partners and ménage a trois.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Samhain Publishing, Ltd., 2010.

How acquired: Borrowed from a friend.

My thoughts:  Maya Banks is one of those authors I see all the time, but have never actually read until WILD. I really enjoyed her take on shapeshifters, which has always been one of my least favorite tropes in the paranormal genre.

The first story, “Golden Eyes”, is about Aliyah, who is a cheetah when she's not a woman. While in cheetah form in Africa, Aliyah is captured by poachers, who are bringing wild animals to the Rockies and then releasing them to be hunted. Duncan, the local sheriff, is out investigating sightings of a tiger and a lion when he comes across the injured cheetah, and rescues her from the poachers. I enjoyed the story, and the characters, especially Duncan. Their relationship built up pretty fast, and almost bordered on the fated mates trope, which I'm not crazy about. As per the warning on the synopsis, there was quite a bit of explicit sex, and I loved seeing how Duncan reacted to Aliyah, surprising himself with his own fierceness. In between the beddings, they track down and shut down the poaching ring and it all ends on a nice HEA.

Amber Eyes” was very different. The heroine is Kaya, who is a cougar. She was mentioned in “Golden Eyes”, as she's Aliyah's sister, who disappeared when they were young children. Unknown to her family, she'd been captured, and eventually managed to escape, but by the time she found her way home her family had moved away, and she thought she'd been abandoned and was unwanted. She's been living on her own in the mountains, spending most of her time in animal form, since then. Hunter and Jericho live in a remote cabin, and are a bit of a mystery. They've loved and lost a woman together, but to honor her memory they carry on with their work, which they don't ever talk about, and all we know is they could be called away for an assignment at a moment's notice.

Amber Eyes” had so much more actual story to it – there is no sex until at least the halfway point if I remember correctly. While Aliyah was cautious and wary lest her secret get out, Kaya is much more so. Having not lived among humans since she was a child, she's much more terrified of being discovered and put in a cage. She's drawn to the cabin, drawn to the two men, and has been watching them from a safe distance for a long time, unbeknownst to them. It isn't until she has an injured paw that she finally becomes brave enough to actually approach them.

With Kaya we get a lot of internal dialogue as she worries about being discovered, worries about surviving, worries about Hunter and Jericho knowing her secret, worries about whether or not they want her, especially Hunter who is more standoffish. In the beginning the two men were almost interchangeable for me, in that I had trouble keeping up with which one was which. I liked them both well enough, but not as much as I liked Duncan.

My heart broke for Kaya over and over, as her tragic past and angtsy feelings were revealed. I became much more vested in her story than I had with Aliyah. The pacing of the relationship between Kaya and the men was much slower than the one between Aliyah and Duncan. Hunter and Jericho have loved the same woman before, and while they shared her, it was never a smooth and comfortable relationship because she never truly trusted the relationship. They both want Kaya, but they're reluctant to go through that heartbreak again.

Lots of feels here. Eventually the men must leave for an assignment, and are gone much longer than anticipated. When they are all finally reunited, I teared up. Then Kaya and Aliyah are reunited, and I cried a bit. And then Kaya is finally reunited with her parents, and I blubbered like a baby. So much emotion packed into the last thirty pages or so!

Golden Eyes” is an enjoyable, sexy story. “Amber Eyes” is a wonderful and touching and sweet character study. And Maya Banks has a new fan.