29 June 2016

Mini Reviews

Lady's Choice, by Jayne Ann Krentz 

Mira Books, 1997

At first I was afraid I wasn't going to like this one. I found Juliana hard to relate to, and wasn't sure I would like her. As soon as she and Travis had sex for the first time she just assumed that they would be getting married. I'm fine with old fashioned but good lord, it was the 80's/early 90's, not 1900. However, once they got past that little bump in the road I began to enjoy the book, and I particularly liked Travis by the end.

Queen of Babble Gets Hitched (Queen of Babble, Book 3), by Meg Cabot 

William Morrow, 2008

I waited way too long after reading the first two Queen of Babble books to read this one, because I quickly realized I could not remember anything about the first two books. I'd forgotten all the back story about how Lizzie met Luke and Chaz. Once I got past that and just settled into the story, I enjoyed it well enough, but I did want to keep thumping Lizzie's forehead and asking her how she could be so blind. Fortunately, it ended the way I needed it to so I was happy with that.

18 June 2016

The Princess Bride


I watched the movie many years ago, expecting to be entranced because everyone I know loves it so much. I liked it, but I didn't love it. And now I feel the same way about the book. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I didn't bother to read the "Buttercup's Baby" first chapter at the end of the book. I never read excerpts in the back of books, and even though "Buttercup's Baby" was apparently never finished and published (if it was indeed going to be a second book and not just another literary device), I decided to apply that rule here as well.

14 June 2016

Boss's Pet


Synopsis from Goodreads: It was supposed to be an arrangement. Neither expected to fall in love.

RANDALL STERN always gets what he wants: A net worth of over a billion dollars and the status of founding partner of a large and successful law firm. He’s invincible in the courtroom and in the bedroom. When he’s not winning cases he’s enjoying exotic vacations with his choice of women. Women who know what to expect from him when they venture into his bed. Complete and utter domination. He’s set up iron-clad rules to make sure he maintains control, provides boundaries and keep women at a distance. His rules are perfect. Until he meets Brianna Hawkins. Now he’s dangerously close to being thrown off his game. But how can he break his rules without risking letting Brianna Hawkins break his heart?

BRIANNA HAWKINS only wants one thing: A stunning and unblemished career as a new lawyer at the illustrious Stern law firm. She not only made it to # 1 in her law school class but also through the rigorous hiring process to land a spot at the best firm in town. She puts in more hours than any other first year lawyer, and her career is her life, ever since leaving a bad relationship and giving up her personal life for work. The last thing she needs is distraction in the form of Randall Stern, the firm’s billionaire founding partner who wants to mentor her in more than just the legal profession. She’s spent years perfecting her teflar-like surface. She doesn’t let anyone see the fragile nature lurking just beneath it. But when she gives in to what she thinks is just a physical temptation, will she learn how to let down her carefully built up guard and let in the possibility of love? Or will her one tiny indulgence with Randall Stern lead to the destruction of the career she’s worked so hard to build, before it’s even had a chance to flourish?

Boss’s Pet is a stand-alone with a happy ending and no cliffhanger. It includes light BDSM and heavy steam!

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, 2016.

How acquired: ARC received from eBook Itch ARC Group

My thoughts: This is the first ARC I've requested since joining the eBook Itch ARC Group mailing list, and I didn't realize the book would be such a short one. More of a novella than a novel. From the synopsis I think I anticipated a story with a little more depth to it.

Brianna, fresh out of law school, has been hired as an associate at a prestigious law firm. Her relationship with her live in boyfriend has gone stale, even after counseling. They have very differing ideas of what a perfect romantic moment should be, namely, the boyfriend doesn't have a clue. Dissatisfied, Brianna breaks up with him. Randall (will I ever be able to see that name and not think of an evil Jacobite Rebellion era British soldier?) is the founding partner of the firm. His ex-wife apparently did a real number on him, and he does not do girlfriends or commitment. Instead, he chooses one of the new associates each year to mentor, in the courtroom and in the bedroom. Well, in the office actually, since the only time we saw him outside the office was during a mountain climbing expedition, of which Brianna was not a part. All of the associates are assigned a mentor, but Randall's mentee is also his “Pet”. And when he chooses Brianna, some of the other women are absolutely green with jealousy.

The narrative is in first person POV, switching back and forth between Brianna and Randall. We get a lot of internal dialogue, but not necessarily a lot of characterization – the short length of the book doesn't really lend itself to much more.

The book is billed as having "heavy steam", and the few sexual scenes did get pretty steamy, but they didn't last long and there aren't very many of them. Being Randall's mentee entails calling him Boss, wearing specific lingerie that he picks out, and at one point Brianna walks from her cubicle through the building, up the elevator and to Randall's office with a pink feather in her mouth and her shirt open with her nipples hanging out. Fortunately for her it's fairly early in the morning and she and Randall appear to be the only two people in the building.

It's a little out there to believe that an attorney and one of his associates could have the type of relationship they do, which, while not spoken about or openly acknowledged by his partners (on page anyway) is apparently well known and coveted by all of the other female associates. But suspend belief,and it's a quick, easy read and a nice diversion from reality for an hour or so. 

11 June 2016

The Guardian

Synopsis from Goodreads: Julie Barenson's young husband left her two unexpected gifts before he died: a Great Dane puppy named Singer and the promise that he would always be watching over her. Now, four years have passed. Still living in the small town of Swansboro, North Carolina, 29-year-old Julie is emotionally ready to make a commitment to someone again. But who? Should it be Richard Franklin, the handsome, sophisticated engineer who treats her like a queen? Or Mike Harris, the down-to-earth nice guy who was her husband's best friend? Choosing one of them should bring her more happiness than she's had in years. Instead, Julie is soon fighting for her life in a nightmare spawned by a chilling deception and jealousy so poisonous that it has become a murderous desire...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Warner Books, 2004

How acquired: Bought

First line: Exactly forty days after she'd last held the hand of her husband, Julie Barenson sat looking through her window toward the quiet streets of Swansboro.

My thoughts:  When I first read Nicholas Sparks, many years ago, I thought he was an okay writer but a great storyteller. Well, his writing has improved, and his storytelling skills are still intact. And of the Sparks books I've read, THE GUARDIAN is by and far the best, a little ahead of my previous favorite, SAFE HAVEN (which is one of my favorite movies ever, seriously), and way above A WALK TO REMEMBER, THE NOTEBOOK, and TRUE BELIEVER. (I've also read MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE and A BEND IN THE ROAD, but so long ago that I honestly do not remember much about either one.

The prologue starts with Julie mourning the death of her husband, Jim, and suddenly received a belated gift from him of a Great Dane puppy, who she names Singer. Then we jump ahead four years later. Singer is a huge dog now, and at times almost seems more human than canine. Julie still misses Jim, but she's slowly putting herself back out into the world and starting to date.

In his Author's Note in the back of the book, Sparks says that this book was his first attempt at adding an element of “suspense and peril”, and I think he did it very well. There are a lot of days where the only chance I have to read is when I fall into bed at night, and three nights this week I sat up reading long past the time I should've been asleep, staying up until I finished the book last night.

The slow dawning of Julie and Mike's relationship was sweet and believable, and on Mike's side it also provided lots of humor. Mike was Jim's best friend, and has loved Julie for ages, and watching her start dating other men is torture for him. But while he and Julie have a wonderful easy friendship, when it comes to trying to start a relationship with her he becomes awkward and tongue-tied. In fact, when they do finally go on a date, it's Julie who instigates it. Mike's brother Henry teases him unmercifully, and some of those scenes were so funny that I actually laughed out loud, the first time that's happened with a Sparks book.

Sparks is a detailed writer, with lots of stretches of narrative where not much actually happens but we get a good look into the characters and what makes them tick. And then there were also lots of scenes played out more through dialogue, and in both instances my attention never wavered. Towards the end of the book, the tension and suspense ramped up, and knowing Sparks' propensity for tragic deaths, I began to feel nervous and worried about how the book was going to end. And I'm not gonna spoil it for you by telling you how it ends, but I will just say I loved this book. 

06 June 2016

Hot Cowboy Nights (Lucky Penny Ranch, Book 2)


Synopsis from Goodreads: If gossip is the lifeblood of a small town, then Lizzy Logan has been its beating heart. After being dumped by her fiancé for another woman, she could have decided to crawl under a rock. But no, she'd rather really set tongues wagging by "moving on" with one of the hottest cowboys in Texas, who happens to live next door at the Lucky Penny Ranch. Those busybodies don't have to know it's actually all pretend. And just because Lizzy has no aim to tame her wild, blue-eyed neighbor doesn't mean she can't enjoy the ride of her life.

Toby Dawson never was and never will be the settling-down type. But what harm could there be in agreeing to be Lizzy's pretend boyfriend? They'll put on a show for a few weeks and be done. Yet the more he gets to know Lizzy-really know her-the harder it is for him to keep his hands off of her in private. Soon this rough-and-ready cowboy is hoping to heal Lizzy's bruised heart and turn their fake affair into a true romance . . .

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Forever, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing, 2016.

How acquired: Fresh Fiction Box Not to Miss subscription.

First line: Lizzy's plan was to sneak inside the house, up the stairs, and into her room.

My thoughts: I loved WILD COWBOY WAYS, the first book in this series. I loved the characters of Blake and Allie. I wasn't crazy about Allie's good-girl sister, Lizzy, who was engaged to a minister, but she began to grow on me toward the end of the book, which I believe was the intended effect. And after her fiance called off the engagement I was looking forward to her book. So I was very excited to open my most recent Fresh Fiction Box Not to Miss and find this book inside.

HOT COWBOY NIGHTS picks up about six weeks after WILD COWBOY WAYS ended. During that interim, Lizzy and Blake's brother, Toby, have been having a secret hot and wild, no strings, sex only affair. Unfortunately that all happened off page, and I was sad to have missed all that action, especially when Lizzy kept thinking about it and bringing it up in her thoughts. They want different things out of life – Lizzy wants a stable man and a family and a home of her own, and Toby wants to keep his man-whore freedom. So Lizzy decides it's time to call it off. And then she learns that Mitch and the woman he dumped her for will be back in town, and while hanging out with Blake, Allie, and their friend Deke, a plan is hatched whereby Toby will pretend to be Lizzy's boyfriend. This will have the dual purpose of keeping Sharlene, the town ho, from trying to get her claws into Toby, who wants nothing to do with her, and convince the townspeople that Lizzy is over Mitch.

I liked Lizzy, but for some reason I never connected with her the way I did with Allie in the first book. I did however, love Toby, almost as much as I loved Blake. I enjoyed watching Lizzy become more confident in herself and become more sassy and outspoken. And even more so, I enjoyed watching Toby come to grips with his feelings for Lizzy and grow from a shallow club hopper out for a good time to a man ready to settle down but terrified to admit it.

The pious church crowd were pretty harsh in their condemnation of those upstart cowboys, and the way they turned on Lizzy and Allie for associating with them was downright cold. I want to say I can't imagine people acting that way in real life, yet I know there are people out there who probably do. Some of the confrontations were pretty funny.

My only real issue with the book was the lack of contractions, which made a lot of conversations feel stiff. Especially in a town where people use the word y'all in their everyday language and the men often call the women Miz (Insert Name Here). But as expected, this was a fun read, and that's my word to describe Ms. Brown – she is just flat out fun.

Lizzy's other sister, Fiona, shows up briefly, revealing a secret to Lizzy – and to us – and I can't wait for her and Toby's cousin, Jud, to meet in the next book. 

02 June 2016

Dead Man's Walk (Lonesome Dove, Book 3)


Synopsis from jacket flap: Here at last is the eagerly awaited story of the early days of Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call, the heroes of Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, LONESOME DOVE.

In STREETS OF LAREDO, McMurtry brought the story ahead, giving us Call in his old age; now, in DEAD MAN'S WALK, he takes the reader back, to the days when Gus and Call – two of the most beloved figures in American fiction – were young Texas Rangers, first experiencing the wild frontier that will form their characters. We also meet Clara Forsythe, the spirited, unforgettable young woman whose effect on Gus McCrae is immediate and unshakable. Danger, sacrifice, and fear test these two young men to the limits of endurance; friendship, comradeship, and love give them the strength and courage to survive against almost insurmountable odds in the West of the early nineteenth century.

In DEAD MAN'S WALK, Gus and Call are not yet twenty, young men coming of age in the days when Texas was still an independent republic. Enlisting as Texas Rangers under the command of Caleb Cobb, a capricious land pirate who wants to seize Santa Fe from the Mexicans, Gus and Call experience their first great plains, in which arbitrary violence is the rule – whether from nature, or from the Indians whose territory they must cross in order to reach New Mexico.

Through the eyes of Gus and Call, we come to know a group of engaging adventurers, and we meet the great, ferocious Comanche war chief Buffalo Hump (one of McMurtry's most vivid characters); his squat companion, Kicking Wolf, a brilliant horse thief; and the shadowy Apache kidnapper Gomez. It is these enigmatic figures – cruel, swift, and close to invisible – who, together with the harsh terrain of their native land, combine to defeat Cobb's expedition, as well as a major contingent of the Mexican army.

Gus and Call's companions include Matilda Roberts, a colorful whore known as “The Great Western”, and Bigfoot Wallace, one of the most famous scouts of his time. We join them all on their foolhardy expedition to Santa Fe, and on their terrifying return across the Jornado Del Muerto: the “Dead Man's Walk.” The surviving Rangers face death in an unexpected form, when we meet Lady Carey, an English noblewoman who takes them – and the reader – to the startling climax.

The untamed frontier, and the reckless men who live there – the Indians defending it with unrelenting savagery, the Texans attempting to seize and “civilize” it, and the Mexicans threatened by both – are at the heart of Larry McMurtry's extraordinary new novel: at once a riveting adventure story and a powerful work of literature.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Simon & Schuster, 1995.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: Matilda Jane Roberts was naked as the air.

My thoughts: LONESOME DOVE is one of my all time favorite books ever. It's one of those books that stayed with me long after I turned the last page. STREETS OF LAREDO wasn't as good, but was still very worth reading. DEAD MAN'S WALK falls right in between them. It's better than Streets, but not quite on a par with Dove. Which translates to I loved it and highly recommend it.

In DEAD MAN'S WALK we meet Gus and Call as young men, joining up with the Rangers and embarking on their first big adventure. A lot of the reviews I read on Goodreads complained or mentioned that Gus and Call don't really do anything in the book, that all the action occurs around them, that they're more like bystanders than active protagonists. But I didn't notice that at all, and even after reading those reviews and thinking back, I still don't agree. (And this is one reason I wait until after I've finished a book before I read reviews about it. No pre-conceivances – is that a word? - going into it.)

As with the other books, there are lots of characters, mostly new to us, but some familiar names as well. Particularly Clara, who was Gus McCrae's the-one-who-got-away. She's a feisty outspoken storekeeper's daughter, and while Call couldn't understand why, after barely meeting her, Gus is talking about quitting rangering to marry her, I thought she was delightful. But fortunately for the story Gus has committed himself to the Rangers and has to leave Clara behind.

Clara is in the first part of the book, and an English lady becomes rather important in the last part. But the only female who figures throughout the story is Matilda, a whore (with the proverbial heart of gold) who travels with the Rangers in the hopes of eventually getting to California. Along the way she falls for the scout Shadrach, and as the hardships pile up she takes Call and Gus under her wing (but not into her bedroll – she gives for Shadrach). She was one of my favorite characters.

There's lots of violence, as the Rangers come up against both Indians and the Mexican army. Call often laments their lack of true leadership as the group of Rangers dwindles from 200 to double digits, and you could practically see his own future leadership qualities being born. Gus constantly talks about wanting a whore and finding some whores. The two boys are as different as night and day, but they're comradeship is always front and center,and they remain loyal to each other even when they disagree or irk each other. Once this expedition is over and everyone is safely home (or at least back in Texas), it wouldn't be surprising to see them go their separate ways, but their friendship is sealed, and I can't wait to get into COMANCHE MOON, the last book in this series.

And on a side note, some websites have the books listed as this one being Book 1, with Lonesome Dove and Streets of Laredo being books 3 and 4. Which chronologically for the characters makes sense, but since Dove and Streets were written and published first, I consider them Books 1 and 2, and that's how I'm classifying them.