24 September 2017

Down & Dirty (Lightning, Book 1)


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

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

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

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

How acquired: Instafreebie.

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


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

16 September 2017

His Runaway Son (Harlequin Superromance No. 699)

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS INFORMATION THAT MAY BE CONSIDERED SPOILERS.

DEE HOLMES

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

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

How acquired: From a BookCrossing member.

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

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

01 September 2017

Summer Doctor

CHARLES H. KNICKERBOCKER

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

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

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

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

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

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

How acquired: From my mom.

First line: “Where is this Juniper Island?”

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

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

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


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

15 August 2017

The Art of Hiding


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

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

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

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

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

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

How acquired: NetGalley.

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

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

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

23 July 2017

Honeymoon Baby (Do Not Disturb No. 2; Harlequin Presents No. 1985)

SUSAN NAPIER

Synopsis from Goodreads: Jennifer had taken drastic measures to become pregnant, and she was saving every ounce of love she had for her baby. There was no room in her life for marriage -- only now the father of her unborn child had turned up on her doorstep.

Jennifer's first problem was that her entire family believed Raphael Jordan was actually her husband -- and that, at last, the happy couple could have a honeymoon! Her second was that Raphael was delighted with the idea -- and suddenly Jennifer found herself sharing a bed with her gorgeous, sexy, pretend husband!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 1998.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

First line: Jennifer was filling a vase at the kitchen sink when the sleek, low-slung dark green car came gunning around the tree-lined curve of the driveway, almost fish-tailing into a bank of ferns as the driver belatedly realised the bend was a lot sharper than it looked.

My thoughts:  A convoluted plot that slowly unfolds, revealing secret after secret. A recently widowed and pregnant heroine, running a B&B with her mother in the shadow of a once dormant but now awakening volcano. An angry stepson who barges in and, upon being mistaken for her husband by the heroine's mother and other household members (who did not know she was widowed), smoothly steps into that role, forcing the heroine to follow along or tell her family she lied to them. There's so much going on in this book, while not a lot actually happens for a good part of it. Jennifer is likable, but Rafe stole the show, despite the majority of the book being from Jennifer's POV. I was glad I started this book on a Saturday so I had the time to pretty much read nonstop. Sometimes you have to suspend belief and just enjoy the ride, and for me this was one of those times. 

10 July 2017

Girl Trouble (Harlequin Presents No. 1964; Man Talk No. 2)

SANDRA FIELD

Synopsis from Goodreads: He wanted a lover...

Cade McInnes had fallen in love with Lori when she was sixteen and he was old enough to know better. But he hadn't known better. They had parted bitterly.

Not a family!

Now it was ten years later. Lori had a bad marriage behind her and two adorable daughters, Liddy and Rachel. Except they didn't seem all that adorable to Cade. Liddy had taken an instant dislike to Cade. Which was fine with him--he wanted only one blond in his life, not three. But getting Lori into his bed meant accepting two little girls into his heart!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 1998.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

First line: Two shocks in one day.

My thoughts:  The first chapter opens with Cade MacInnis (while it's spelled McInnes in the synopsis, inside the book it's spelled MacInnis) standing outside a photography studio, staring at a picture of Lorraine Cartwright, and remembering the past. The second chapter opens with Cade going to the gym. The third chapter opens with Cade calling his mother. Do you see the pattern here?

GIRL TROUBLE is part of a multi-author series titled “Man Talk”. The entire book is told from Cade's point of view. We never see anything from the heroine's point of view, are never privy to her inner thoughts. And I gotta tell you, I loved that. Back in the day they were all from the heroine's point of view. Then we started getting books told from alternating points of view, and while I still love the old romance books, I loved also getting inside the hero's head. But this is the first romance I've read that is entirely from the hero's point of view, and I would gladly read many more.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's get back to the book. I very much liked Cade, though there were a couple of times when I wanted to tell him to stop being childish. (Of course Lori, as she's now called, doesn't want you to come over when her young daughter, who doesn't like you, by the way, has just learned her father was an abusive jerk. What possible good could you do by inserting yourself into that situation?) I loved the girls, Rachel and Liddy. Loved that Rachel, the older of the two, quickly accepted Cade, while five year old Liddy made no secret of her disdain for him. Usually it's the younger child who attaches herself to the new man in mom's life and the older one who holds him at arm's length. I liked Lori well enough, and that was well enough for me.
He hadn't wanted to leave. And he was hurt by Liddy's attitude. Hurt that a five-year-old didn't like him.
The conflict with Lori's father was resolved ridiculously fast, and her reaction the first time things start to get a little sexual with Cade was a bit over the top, setting up Cade to become quite angsty, which I didn't mind. I got really tired of hearing the ex-husband's name and was glad he did not make an appearance. I really expected him to show up at some point, and maybe even show Liddy his true colors, leading to her opening up to Cade, so I was very happy (and relieved) that the story didn't play out that way.

This is the first book I've read by Sandra Field. But as much as I liked it, I don't feel compelled to seek out more of her books. I suspect a small part of my enjoyment was the novelty of the point of the view. But whatever the reason, I really enjoyed this book.

29 June 2017

Sure of You (Tales of the City, Book 6)

ARMISTEAD MAUPIN

Synopsis from Goodreads: A fiercely ambitious TV talk show host finds she must choose between national stardom in New York and a husband and child in San Francisco. Caught in the middle is their longtime friend, a gay man whose own future is even more uncertain. Wistful and compassionate, yet subversively funny, Sure of You could only come from Armistead Maupin.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, HarperPerennial, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.

How acquired: Via Book Mooch.

First line: There was something different about his wife's face, Brian Hawkins had decided.

My thoughts:  I have loved all of the books in this series so far, until now. In the previous book, I was disappointed in the person Mary Ann had become. Being a local celebrity had gone to her head. And it's stayed there. I did not like her at all in this book. The blurb on the back of the book says she “must choose between national stardom in New York and a husband and child in San Francisco.” She didn't have to choose. The choice was made the minute a chance at stardom in New York was offered to her. She couldn't wait to shake Brian and Shawna off her coattails and leave them behind. And good riddance. She doesn't show any maternal love to Shawna, and Shawna seems a bit indifferent about her.

The blurb also says this is the author's “most enthralling tale yet”, but I respectfully beg to disagree. I was more bored than enthralled. Michael and Thack are still together, but there wasn't particularly any chemistry coming off the page, and they seemed more discontented than happy. Mrs. Madrigal takes a vacation to Lesbos with daughter Mona, and those sections, though more about Mona than her mother, were the best parts of the book. My heart broke for Brian, but as much as he loved Mary Ann, Shawna deserved better and I can only believe her life will be happier with just the two of them.


I'll continue with the series, despite being a bit disappointed with this entry, and I already have Book 7, MICHAEL TOLLIVER LIVES, which I'm still looking forward to, and Book 8, MARY ANN IN AUTUMN, which at this point I think I'll approach with a little trepidation, but I still have hope that she will get the stars out of her eyes and make me love her again. 

11 June 2017

A Virgin River Christmas (Virgin River, Book 4)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Last Christmas Marcie Sullivan said a final goodbye to her husband, Bobby. This Christmas she's come to Virgin River to find the man who saved his life and gave her three more years to love him.

Fellow marine Ian Buchanan dragged Bobby's shattered body onto a medical transport in Fallujah four years ago, then disappeared as soon as their unit arrived stateside. Since then, Marcie's letters to Ian have gone unanswered.

Marcie tracks Ian to the tiny mountain town of Virgin River and finds a man as wounded emotionally as Bobby was physically. But she is not easily scared off. As Marcie pushes her way into his rugged and reclusive life, she discovers a sweet but damaged soul beneath a rough exterior.

Ian doesn't know what to make of the determined young widow who forces him to look into the painful past and, what's worse, the uncertain future. But it is, after all, a season of miracles and maybe, just maybe, it's time to banish the ghosts and open his heart.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Mira Books, 2009.

How acquired: Via Book Mooch.

First line: Marcie stood beside her lime-green Volkswagen, shivering in the November chill, the morning sun barely over the horizon.

My thoughts: So many feels. I loved Marcie. I loved Ian. I loved Marcie's devotion to her late husband, and to the man who brought him home and then fell off the map. I loved her determination to find Ian. To tell Ian his father was dying so he could try to see him one more time, and then to promptly switch her allegiance and stand behind Ian's reasons for not wanting to see his father. For not trying to change Ian, for accepting him exactly as he was. 

I cried a lot during this short book. Not because it was sad, but because it was just so emotional. So good. So very very good. 

10 June 2017

This Charming Man

MARIAN KEYES

Synopsis from Goodreads: Ireland's debonair politician Paddy de Courcy -- the "John F. Kennedy Jr. of Dublin" -- has captured tabloid headlines and the imagination of his country with his charm and charisma. But the crushed hearts he's left behind him reveal more about his character than his winning, vote-getting smile. Lola, Grace, Marnie, and Alicia have all suffered from his selfishness and cruelty. But with Paddy's political star ascending, the time is finally ripe for redemption...and perhaps a bit of revenge.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Avon, 2010.

How acquired: Received from another Bookcrossing member.

My thoughts:  Between chapters were little snippets of narration describing a domestic abuse scene, but without providing any names, and each one filled me with a sense of dread and foreboding, wondering which of the women whose stories are contained in the book was the woman being abused.

Four women, all with some connection to golden boy politician Paddy de Courcy. The narration switches around between the women's viewpoints. We start with Lola, whose connection is obvious – she was romantically involved with him until she learned, via the news, that he was engaged to Alicia. While I liked Lola's story, I did not like her narration. Told in first person POV, diary format, it put me in mind of Bridget Jones, but not in a good way. Short, choppy sentences, not only in her narrative, but even when she is quoting conversations. I know the characters did not actually speak the way she depicted it, but at times it was agonizing to read.
What you like to do?” he asked. “You hungry?”
No, not really. Is a bit early.”

There was a scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when a certain beer was turning frat boys into Neanderthals, and Buffy got drunk with them, and they all grunted and talked like cave men. And after awhile in my head I was picturing Lola and her friends as grunting Neanderthal cavemen people.

Lola mentions a journalist, Grace, who keeps calling her, wanting to interview her about Paddy's surprise engagement. And Grace is who we meet next. Her chapters are also told in first person POV, but not diary style, and I very much enjoyed her story. There are hints of a connection to Paddy but we don't know what that connection is. Grace has a live in boyfriend, Damien, who I very much liked.

Then we meet Marnie, Grace's twin sister. Her chapters are told in third person point of view. Marnie is a mystery. Depressed, withdrawn, she seems to be just existing without really living. Marnie's story is the most unpredictable. You think you know where she's coming from, what's going on with her, and then you learn something that changes that thinking. I felt sorry for her, while slightly despising her for being weak and malleable.

We also get a bit of time with Alicia, but compared to the other girls her sections make up maybe ten percent of the book.

Ms. Keyes definitely does a great job of creating characters who stand out from each other, with their own distinct personalities. I've heard her described as a chick lit author, and while she does fit that category somewhat, she also touches on serious subjects. In addition to the domestic abuse I mentioned earlier, we get alcoholism and a very touching storyline about cross-dressers. Throw in some revenge, heartbreaking confessions, a new love for one of the girls, and another's relationship almost being lost, and (once you make yourself barrel through Lola's frustrating narration style) this was an enjoyable and satisfying read. 

31 May 2017

Positively Pippa (Ghost Falls, Book 1)


Synopsis from Goodreads: From author Sarah Hegger comes an exciting new series set in small-town Utah, where secrets don’t keep for long—and love turns up in the most unexpected places.

For Pippa Turner there’s only one place to go when her life self-destructs on national TV—home to Ghost Falls, and her heavily perfumed, overly dramatic, but supremely loving grandmother, Philomene. If anyone will understand how Pippa’s hit makeover show was sabotaged by her vengeful ex, it’s Phi. But she’s not the only one who’s happy to see her—and Pippa can’t help but wonder if Matt Evans, her gorgeous high-school crush turned Phi’s contractor, is game for a steamy close-up…

Matt owes his whole career to Phi and her constant demands to embellish the gothically ridiculous house he built for her. Getting to see red-headed, red-hot Pippa is a bonus, especially now that she’s no longer the troublesome teenager he remembers. He’s willing to stay behind the scenes while she gives her own life a much-needed makeover, but not forever. As far as he’s concerned, their connection is too electric to ignore. And the chance to build something lasting between them—before she can high-tail it back to Hollywood—is going to the top of his to-do list…

Stats for my copy: ARC paperback, Zebra Books, 2017.

How acquired: Won in a Goodreads giveaway.

My thoughts:  Pippa and Matt are both hitting crossroads in their lives. Pippa's man done her wrong, big time, plunging her career into the toilet. She's run home to Ghost Falls and her over the top diva grandmother to lick her wounds. Matt has spent the last seventeen years taking care of everyone else, giving up his dreams for his own future. Now he has an opportunity to break away from the mountain of responsibility that shouldn't have been his to bear in the first place. They're quickly thrown together, thanks to her conniving grandmother, but then it's such a small town they would've crossed paths eventually anyway. Matt's been crushing on Pippa since they were teenagers, and sparks fly between them.

Phi, the diva grandmother, was a hoot. I loved both Pippa and Matt, but maybe Matt a little more. What's not to like? He's good-looking, charming, rugged, can fix anything, and will do just about anything for his family. He's a bit tied to his mother's apron strings, and he could have come across as a mama's boy, but since we get his story told from his point of view we can sympathize with him despite wanting to slap his mother upside the head. And when Pippa finally made a decision about her future, I loved Matt's (unexpected by her) reaction, which just drove home what a wonderful and decent man he is.

The romance between Pippa and Matt seemed to build up slowly, but the story takes place over a short period of time, so they actually fall into bed together pretty quickly. But since they've known half their lives it didn't feel rushed or unnatural like instalove sometimes does.

This was a fun, sweet romance, with a couple of hot scenes, and a side of quirk. And such a cute cover! I'm already looking forward to the next Ghost Falls book, and definitely want to check out the author's other work, especially her Willow Park series.

28 May 2017

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live

TOM SHALES & JAMES ANDREW MILLER

Synopsis from back cover: In their own words, a galaxy of stars – Mike Myers, Bill Murray, Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Dan Akroyd, Steve Martin, Dana Carvey, Tina Fey, Molly Shannon, Al Franken, Billy Crystal, Chevy Chase, and many others – as well as members of Saturday Night Live's extended family of cast, crew and guests, recall more than a quarter-century's worth of great backstage stories, off-camera gossip, feuds, foibles, drugs, sex, struggles, and calamities. This irresistibly readable book takes us behind the scenes of SNL like no other book ever has.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Back Bay Books, 2003.

How acquired: Bought.

First Line: Saturday Night Live is more than a television show.

My thoughts:  I stopped watching Saturday Night Live sometime in the 90's. At first I just gradually lost interest, when I was working a lot, sometimes until 1:00 or 1:30 in the morning. Then I made a conscious decision to stop watching because I had young kids and I felt like the show was no longer funny, it was just raunch. But after reading this book I now feel very nostalgic and want to go back and watch from the very beginning.


The book follows the show chronologically, with chapter headings broken into chunks of time, such as “Exordium: 1975-1976” and “Heyday: 1976-1980”. It's an oral history, in that the majority of the book is in the words of the people interviewed, from cast members and writers to agents, producers and executives. And it's all incredibly fascinating. In the chapters from the later years, there were some cast members I'd never heard of, and a lot of cast members who I am familiar with but had not known were in the cast (Julia Louis-Dreyfus!). The book is long, 600 pages not counting the index in the back, and only goes up to the 2002-2003 season. Looking at the different editions on Goodreads, another updated edition was published in 2014, with “over more than 100 pages of new material”, and I would love to find a copy of that edition just to read those additional pages. 

20 May 2017

Nanny Returns (Nanny, Book 2)

EMMA MCLAUGHLIN and NICOLA KRAUS

Synopsis from jacket flap: More than four million readers fell in love with Nan, the smart, spirited, and sympathetic heroine of the #1 New York Times bestseller THE NANNY DIARIES.

Now she's back. After living abroad for twelve years, she and her husband, Ryan, aka H.H., have returned to New York to make a life for themselves. In the midst of getting her new business off the ground and fixing up their fixer-upper, Ryan announces his sudden desire to start a family. His timing simply couldn't be worse.

To compound the mounting construction and marital chaos, her former charge, Grayer X, now sixteen years old, makes a drunken, late-night visit, wanting to know why she abandoned him all those years ago. But how can she explain to Grayer what she still hasn't come to terms with herself? In an attempt to assuage her guilt, yet against every instinct, Nan tries to help Grayer and his younger brother, Stilton, through their parents' brutal divorce, drawing her back into the ever-bizarre life of Mrs. X and her Upper East Side enclave of power and privilege.

After putting miles and years between herself and this world, Nan finds she's once again on the front line of the battle with the couture-clad elite for their children's well-being.

With its whip-smart dialogue and keen observations of modern life, NANNY RETURNS gives a firsthand tour of what happens when a community that chose money over love finds itself with neither. 

Stats for my copy: Hard back, Atria Books, 2009.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  My daughter recently got a job as a nanny, and I get texts from her on an almost daily basis complaining or ranting about the mother of the kids. I asked her one day if she'd read or seen the movie of THE NANNY DIARIES, because Mrs. X would make her appreciate her employer. Then I remembered I had this sequel on my shelf, so I pulled it out and started reading. It's been awhile since I read the first book (2004 I think), but I fell right into this one without feeling any need to be refreshed on the first book.

It's twelve years later, and Nan and her husband have just moved back to New York after having lived overseas. There are numerous plot points that take off from there. They buy a house that is literally falling down around them (at one point a stairway collapses and they have to use a ladder to get up and down between floors), Nan starts a consulting business and gets a job with a private school that caters to privileged kids and their pretentious parents, they contemplate having children (Ryan wants to, Nan isn't so sure), Nan reconnects with old friends and not quite friends, and then the biggest plot - Grayer X suddenly pops up, embroiling her back into his life for the sake of saving his younger brother from their warring, divorcing parents.


Despite how busy the story is, the plots all weave together seamlessly. The book is written in first person present tense POV, my least favorite tense, but it's done so very well that I didn't mind at all. In fact I actually liked it. The writing is very engaging and the story is mesmerizing. NANNY RETURNS is a fantastic follow up, with a satisfying resolution and providing closure to the first book.

13 May 2017

Can't Buy Me Love


Synopsis from Goodreads: Is it all too good to be true?

When Willow runs into her old university crush, Luke, she’s a new woman with a new look – not to mention a little bit more cash after a rather substantial inheritance. Could she be lucky enough to score a fortune and her dream man at the same time?

Then Willow meets Cal; a computer geek with a slightly odd sense of humour. They get on like a house on fire — although she soon realises that there is far more to her unassuming new friend than meets the eye …

But money doesn’t always bring happiness, and Willow finds herself struggling to know who to trust. Are the new people in her life there because they care – or is there another reason?

Previously released in the US as Reversing Over Liberace. Revised and edited by Choc Lit June 2016.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Choc Lit, 2016.

How acquired: NetGalley.

First Lines: 'My grandfather's left me his nose. It's in a matchbox.'

My thoughts:  Willow and her mates, Jazz and Katie, are hanging out in their local pub one night, when they run into Luke, an old college classmate. In college Willow had a huge crush on Luke, but he never seemed to notice her existence at all. So she's pretty thrown when he's now happy to see her and promptly asks her out. Willow is a fun, self-deprecating narrator. She has lots of siblings who wander in and out of her story, all of whom (including her) seem to be at a stage in life where they are floundering slightly. At first I thought Jazz was going to be the cliche gay best friend that was all the rage for awhile, so I was relieved when that wasn't the case. Instead she has a gay brother, but he was fairly normal and not at all cliche. And then he introduces her to Cal, who she gets to know, before discovering she didn't really know him at all. He was one of my favorite characters. She often refers to him as being weird, but he was weird in a good way.

Willow, despite being in her early thirties, was a little naive in the beginning, letting Luke's attention sweep her off her feet. The plot was a little transparent, although if I hadn't read the synopsis it might've taken me longer to become suspicious. And Willow of course did not read the synopsis, so maybe I should expect it to take her longer to realize something wasn't quite right. There was a nice little, not exactly a plot twist but more a veering of the storyline that I did not see coming, which, while I'm not sure it was completely realistic it was quite satisfying.


Ms. Lovering definitely writes quirky stories. Sometimes too much quirk can come off as campy or over the top, but Ms. Lovering infuses her stories with warmth and humor and characters you'd like to be friends with. A fun read with some amusing banter and wonderful characters. 

23 April 2017

The Humbug Man


Synopsis from Goodreads: Montana rancher Tate Hollister had to be the grouchiest, grumpiest humbug man widow Maggie Jeffries had ever met. But, as the holiday season progressed, Maggie discovered that Tate wasn't completely immune to the Christmas spirit-his loving embrace on a cold winter's night could prove to be the gift of a lifetime...

Stats for my copy: Paperback, Silhouette Books, 1986.

How acquired: Given to me.

First Line: Tate Hollister lived alone, which wasn't surprising to his nearest neighbor.

My thoughts:  I don't know why it took me so long to finally read a Diana Palmer book. Especially considering she has a huge back list and I have around eighty of her books in my TBR. But one night I wanted a short book to read since my current read was a Kindle book and my phone needed to be charged. So I picked up this slim – ninety-five pages – paperback. And I would've read the entire book in one sitting if I hadn't been so dang tired that I had to quit around page seventy-eight and go to sleep.

I love a grouchy, rude, arrogant hero, a hero who is a loner, a hero who has avoided relationships, a hero who can inspire worship in a child who's innocent little brain doesn't see all those traits that piss off mama whenever she's around him. Tate ticked box after box for me. And despite having been married once, he's relatively inexperienced, and his awkward admissions of that were endearing.
Muscles rippled under darkly tanned skin as he rose from peeking into the oven, and when he turned toward her, she wondered if it was permissible for a modern woman to swoon. 
Maggie is also, despite having been married once, inexperienced, and naive. In fact, she's practically a virgin, her husband having died shortly after their marriage. When she answers the door to Tyler one night and then remembers she's in her pajamas, she's horribly embarrassed. And we're not talking a negligee or peignoir.

Then there's Maggie's son, Blake, who never knew his father and who quickly plots to get his mother and Tate together.


Such a sweet story, and with lots of humor and entertaining banter between Maggie and Tate, and Maggie and Blake. It's short, so Tate's thawing out and losing his grouchiness happens almost a little too quickly, but just almost. I definitely need to read more from this author. 

22 April 2017

Jeopardy in July (Jamie Quinn Mystery, Book 5)

BARBARA VENKATARAMAN

Synopsis from Goodreads: Old people were dying at an alarming rate at La Vida Boca, a posh assisted living facility in Boca Raton, Florida. With its sterling reputation, dedicated staff, and top-notch medical care, none of the deaths are considered suspicious, but when members of the poker club start to die under strange circumstances, attorney Jamie Quinn finds herself once again embroiled in a mystery. With help from her new friend, Jessie Sandler, and her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie uncovers a crime that took place forty years earlier. Can she stop the killer in time? Or is she in danger of becoming the next victim?

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, 2017.

How acquired: Link to free download provided by the author Goodreads.

First Line: With lights flashing, an ambulance pulled up to the front door of La Vida Boca before screeching to a stop.

My thoughts:  When Ms. Venkataraman posted on Goodreads that her newest Jamie Quinn mystery was live on Amazon, with a link to download a free copy, I jumped on it. I've enjoyed all the Jamie Quinn stories, and I think this fifth book in the series is my favorite.

Jamie's boyfriend, Kip, is still off in Australia playing with wombats, but there was plenty going on in Jamie's world to keep her occupied while missing him. Jamie is such a fun character, witty and self-deprecating, and drawn to helping others. We don't see as much of bestie Grace as in the previous book, but P.I. Duke gets lots of page time, and I love the banter between Jamie and Duke. Frenemie state attorney Nick finds himself having to grudgingly bring Jamie into an investigation he's assisting her FBI pal Jayashree with, and while Nick and Jamie aren't the best of friends they definitely have chemistry and their banter is even better than that between Jamie and Duke.

There's a lot going on plot wise – art forgery, poker buddies at a senior citizen living center dying one after another, Kip possibly keeping a secret from Jamie, her dad acting strange when she tells him she's coming to visit him – and Ms. Venkataraman weaves everything together seamlessly. I think I laughed out loud more at this book than the previous ones, and I got quite teary eyed at one point.


This series is fun to read, and while each entry involves a different mystery and could probably stand alone, I recommend reading them in order. I sure hope there will be more Jamie in the future!  

15 April 2017

American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why

MARK STEIN

Synopsis from Goodreads: In American Panic New York Times bestselling author Mark Stein traces the history and consequences of American political panics through the years. Virtually every American, on one level or another, falls victim to the hype, intensity, and propaganda that accompanies political panic, regardless of their own personal affiliations. By highlighting the similarities between American political panics from the Salem witch hunt to present-day vehemence over issues such as Latino immigration, gay marriage, and the construction of mosques, Stein closely examines just what it is that causes us as a nation to overreact in the face of widespread and potentially profound change. This book also devotes chapters to African Americans, Native Americans, Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Chinese and Japanese peoples, Communists, Capitalists, women, and a highly turbulent but largely forgotten panic over Freemasons. Striking similarities in these diverse episodes are revealed in primary documents Stein has unearthed, in which statements from the past could easily be mistaken for statements today. As these similarities come to light, Stein reveals why some people become panicked over particular issues when others do not.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, St. Martin's Press, 2014.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

First Line: Political panic, the irrational fear that one's government is in danger, is by no means unique to any country.

My thoughts:  Five chapters in (84 pages), I finally admitted to myself that this book was boring me to pieces. I was still interested to read about the women, so flipped ahead to the chapter, " Woman Suffrage", but one page in that interest faded.

There are parts of the book where the author talks about specific people, and the events that happened to and around them, and those parts kept my interest. But the rest of the book, dry and repetitive. (I'm actually sick of seeing the word "panic".)


An ambitious project, that in the hands of someone like Mary Roach or Barbara Ehrenreich, could have been fascinating. 

12 April 2017

Comanche Moon (Lonesome Dove, Book 4)

LARRY MCMURTRY

Synopsis from Goodreads: Texas Rangers August McCrae and Woodrow Call, now in their middle years, continue to deal with the ever-increasing tensions of adult life -- Gus with his great love, Clara Forsythe, and Call with Maggie Tilton, the young whore who loves him. Two proud but very different men, they enlist with the Ranger troop in pursuit of Buffalo Hump, the great Comanche war chief; Kicking Wolf, the celebrated Comanche horse thief; and a deadly Mexican bandit king with a penchant for torture. Assisting the Rangers in their wild chase is the renowned Kickapoo tracker, Famous Shoes.

Comanche Moon closes the twenty-year gap between Dead Man's Walk and Lonesome Dove, following beloved heroes Gus and Call and their comrades in arms -- Deets, Jake Spoon, and Pea Eye Parker -- in their bitter struggle to protect the advancing West frontier against the defiant Comanches, courageously determined to defend their territory and their way of life.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Simon & Schuster, 1997.

How acquired: Bought.

First Line: Captain Inish Scull liked to boast that he had never been thwarted in pursuit – as he liked to put it – of a felonious foe, whether Spanish, savage, or white.

Note: I read these books in publication order and that's how I've numbered the series.

My thoughts:  This was a wonderful ending to the Lonesome Dove saga. None of the books can beat LONESOME DOVE, but I think this one ranks just a hair behind the first book. I don't recall a time frame being given in the book, but I think it's set about ten years after DEAD MAN'S WALK. Call and Gus are still with the Rangers, helping protect the great state of Texas from the Comanches. Gus is still in love with Clara, who we already learned in the first book marries someone else. Call is particularly fond of Maggie, a local whore, who is desperately in love with him. Again, we already know her fate, and the fate of her son, from the first book.

I became particularly fond of poor Maggie myself, and much as I love Call I was often irritated at him for not accepting her love, which I am positive he secretly returned, and rescuing her from her life of drudgery. Yes, I read a lot of romance novels, and I tend to look for it in every other genre as well.

As always, Mr. McMurtry's writing is wonderfully flowing and meandering at the same time. The characters are vivid and fully developed, and everyone, even minor characters, seem essential to the story. You can easily see the town, or the prairie, or any other location, in your head.


I'm sad that there are no more stories about Gus and Call, but I am pleased that Mr. McMurtry has lots of other novels just waiting for me to enjoy them.

Click on the title to see my reviews of the other Lonesome Dove books. 

LONESOME DOVE, Book One


DEAD MAN'S WALK, Book Three