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




                                   










26 March 2017

His Hometown Girl (The McKaslin Clan, Series 1, Book 1); Love Inspired No. 180

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


Synopsis from Goodreads: Small-town mechanic Zachary Drake had no illusions about his longtime friendship with winsome, wholesome Karen McKaslin -- even after she called off her wedding to the local pastor. Zach simply intended to lend a grease-stained hand and a sympathetic ear to a pal in need, and keep his secret longing to himself...

Having narrowly escaped a loveless marriage, Karen was counting her blessings. Now she could transform herself into a woman worthy of being loved for all eternity. She never dreamed Mr. Right was waiting for her on the wrong side of the tracks, praying she'd see in his eyes what he didn't dare say...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Steeple Hill Books, 2002.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  Despite the fact that I list Jillian Hart as one of my favorite category romance authors, her books are usually hit or miss for me. Of the McKaslin Clan series, I've read two previously, BLIND-DATE BRIDE, which I could barely finish, and SWEET BLESSINGS, which is one of my all time top ten favorite books – and the reason I keep reading her. (Seriously, for a wonderful character study of a broken man, you need to read it.) So when I realized this book was the first McKaslin Clan book, I dove in, and am happy to report that it was a hit.

I loved the characters, especially Zach, and I loved the continual banter between Zach and Karen, which Ms. Hart does very well. When the book opens Karen has broken off an engagement to Jay when she realizes he isn't marrying her out of love. Her parents are upset and disappointed, her mother, who is pushing her to get back together with Jay. I almost wished there had been more about Karen and Jay and what led up to her realizing she couldn't marry him, and more conflict between Karen and her parents over that broken engagement, just to add more depth. Zach's mother was a drunk who spent all her time in bars while Zach took care of his younger siblings and often went hungry, and when she showed up on his doorstep, I expected a predictable subplot about Zach, who is filled with hate for his mother, coming to terms with her alcohol addiction and learning to forgive her. So I was quite surprised when he gave her some money and put her on a bus out of town, telling her not to come back. And I was glad that story arc carried out the way it did, which to me was very realistic.

My only issue with the story, and it's a minor one but it's also a pet peeve of mine, is that Zach winked way too often. At one point he winked at Karen three times in two pages. And then on the next page Gramma winked. But after that either the winking dropped off, or I was too caught up in the story to note it.


A sweet story about two people from the same small town but with very different backgrounds, coming to terms with what they want in a partner and more importantly, realizing that they deserve to be with the one they love regardless of backgrounds or what anyone else in town thinks. I laughed out loud several times, and I cried a couple of times. 

25 March 2017

Lone Wolf (F.B.I. K-9, Book 1)


Synopsis from Goodreads: When a madman goes on a bombing spree, an FBI K-9 team of one woman and her dog is the key to stopping him before more innocents die and panic sweeps the Eastern seaboard.

Meg Jennings and her Labrador, Hawk, are one of the FBI’s top K-9 teams certified for tracking and search and rescue. When a bomb rips apart a government building on the National Mall in Washington D.C., it will take all the team’s skill to locate and save the workers and children buried beneath the rubble.

More victims die and fear rises as the unseen bomber continues his reign of terror, striking additional targets, ruthlessly bent on pursuing a personal agenda of retribution. Meg and Hawk join the task force dedicated to following the trail of death and destruction to stop the killer. But when the attacks spiral wide and no single location seems safe any longer, it will come down to a battle of wits and survival skills between Meg, Hawk, and the bomber they’re tracking. Can they stop him before he brings the nation to the brink of chaos?

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Kensington Books, 2016.

How acquired: Fresh Fiction Box Not to Miss subscription

My thoughts:  This book sucked me in and had me mesmerized from the first few pages. We meet Meg and her search and rescue dog, Hawk, and immediately follow them into a tense trek along a river and over a railroad trestle as they track a killer. But that case is just our introduction into Meg's world. In the second chapter Meg and Hawk are called back out to a bomb site, and that's when the action really takes off.

The book is also a fascinating crash course into the world of K-9 search and rescue and the relationship between the dogs and their human partners, a subject I'd not really read about until now. And one flashback scene describing how Meg's first K-9 partner was killed in the line of duty had me crying buckets.

In addition to Meg and Hawk and their co-workers, we meet Clay McCord, an investigative journalist with whom Meg makes an uneasy alliance, newspaper reporters not normally being trusted and/or relied upon.


Great writing, an intricate plot, three dimensional characters – it all adds up to a gripping and emotional  page turner. I can't wait for book two! 

23 March 2017

Windsong (Song, Book 2)

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

VALERIE SHERWOOD

Synopsis from Goodreads: ADRIFT UPON THE SURGING TIDES OF LOVE...the incandescent beauty Carolina and her dashing buccaneer, Kells, sail from his Caribbean stronghold to her native Virginia there to await his royal pardon and their glorious wedding. But when an imposter masquerades as Kells, savaging British ships, he is once again outlawed. Fleeing to England, the lovers are swept into a torrent of danger, treachery and desire. Their vows are doubly threatened by the rich ransom for Kells' capture and by a sultry Spanish duchess who claims him as her own. Carolina, wed in her heart and wed forever, embarks on a desperate voyage that may cost her Kells' love and his life and cast into the raging seas the shimmering promise of their WINDSONG.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Pocket Books, 1986.

How acquired: Via BookMooch.

My thoughts:  When I read the first book in this trilogy, LOVESONG, it took me awhile to get into the story. The beginning was good but not fantastic. WINDSONG started out the same way, and while it took a bit longer to pick up, I did eventually get completely sucked in and mesmerized. I do really like the author's writing, so I'm not sure why it took so long to get invested in the story.
...England's king had offered a general amnesty to the buccaneers, but a king's word was the wind's word and easily blown away...

The first part of the book follows Carolina and Rye as they travel to Virginia and her family's home. While they've already married in a buccaneer ceremony on board Rye's ship, they keep that from Carolina's family and announce their betrothal, letting Carolina's mother plan the wedding. But a group of men, posing as the buccaneer and his crew, begin attacking ships, and our lovebirds are forced to flee Virginia so Rye can avoid capture and try to clear his name.

I've just realized something both books have in common. The point where the story really picked up for me in both books is when Carolina leaves America and goes to England. From there many adventures follow. Carolina's sister, Virginia, travels with them, and I really enjoyed her parts of the story and getting to know her better, and especially watching her character's growth once she's out from under her mother's thumb. We also meet Rye's brother, and are reunited with Carolina's schoolmate, Reba.
Home was the Tidewater – no, it was not there either. Home was a man's arms, held wide and welcoming.

Of course there needs to be conflict, which arrives in the form of a Spanish duchess whose appearance throws Rye for a loop. And then he sets sail with the Spanish lady, leaving Carolina behind to continue her travels with his brother and her sister. We soon learn that the Spanish lady is Rye's first wife, whom he believed to be dead. And upon being reunited, he promptly falls into bed with her, which angered me something fierce! It took me quite awhile to get over his betrayal of Carolina, and when she went off half-cocked looking for revenge I hurt for her while cheering her on. 

Fortunately everything comes right in the end, and I'm eager to read the next book, NIGHTSONG.

12 March 2017

Learning to Love


Synopsis from Goodreads: Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely places …

Living in a small village like Hibberton, it’s expected that your neighbours help you in a time of need. But when Andrea Kelly’s house burns down, taking all her earthly possessions with it, it’s the distant and aloof Doctor David Adams – the person she would least expect – who opens his door not just to her, but to her three kids and slightly dotty elderly mother as well.

Andrea needs all the help she can get, dealing with aftermath of the fire and in the suspicious absence of her husband, Jonathan. But, as she gets to know David and his troubled son, Jake, she begins to realise that maybe they need her help as much as she needs theirs …

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

How acquired: Received for review from NetGalley.

My thoughts:  My second Sheryl Browne book (after THE REST OF MY LIFE) and I liked this one even more. Possibly because I more easily related to the heroine, a mother of three struggling to balance work, children and relationship, and trying to find her own identity by opening a “second-chance designer” dress shop. Her live in boyfriend (not husband, as the synopsis says), the father of her youngest child, has become a little distant and emotionally unsupportive, and then on date night he stands her up, leaving her sitting alone in a restaurant. And to top off that misery, when she finally gives up waiting and goes home, her house is on fire and her children are across the street with the new neighbor, surly taciturn David, and his unhappy son, Jake.

Of course once she starts getting to know David, he's not just surly and taciturn, he's actually a man overwhelmed with grief and guilt over the death of his wife, and unable to get through to and connect with eight year old Jake, who will barely speak to him. Both Andrea and David are wonderfully written characters, as are all of the kids, and Andrea's mother, Dee. There's a lot of witty and amusing dialogue as well.
Her red and gold hair tumbling carelessly around her shoulders and a smile so radiant, she could light up Blackpool on her own. 'You could give Julia Roberts a run for her money,' he said, feeling slightly off kilter.
'Do you know he's right, you could,' Dee gazed at her daughter and then turned to David with a heartfelt sigh. 'She'd make a wonderful prostitute.'

There's also a lot of internal monologuing, which I love. The narrative alternates between three viewpoints, mostly Andrea's and David's, but we also spend some time with Andrea's friend, Sally, who becomes a pretty integral character in her own right. The children, both Andrea's and David's, are also well defined and help drive the story forward rather than just being plot moppets.

The romance between Andrea and David builds up slowly and realistically. The attraction is there from the beginning, but of course neither is looking for a relationship. Andrea is already in one, anticipating a proposal any day while wondering why Jonathan has become a little distant and distracted. David is a widower, trying to put back together the pieces of his and Jake's shattered lives.


Occasionally I felt the editing was a little lacking, with a sentence here and there that stumbled along a bit awkwardly. But overall the story drew me in and I quickly became emotionally invested in the characters and their lives. A sweet and heartwarming story.  

21 February 2017

Elementary, She Read (A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery, Book 1)

VICKI DELANEY

Synopsis from Goodreads: Gemma Doyle, a transplanted Englishwoman, has returned to the quaint town of West London on Cape Cod to manage her Great Uncle Arthur's Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium. The shop--located at 222 Baker Street--specializes in the Holmes canon and pastiche, and is also the home of Moriarty the cat. When Gemma finds a rare and potentially valuable magazine containing the first Sherlock Homes story hidden in the bookshop, she and her friend Jayne (who runs the adjoining Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room) set off to find the owner, only to stumble upon a dead body.

The highly perceptive Gemma is the police’s first suspect, so she puts her consummate powers of deduction to work to clear her name, investigating a handsome rare books expert, the dead woman's suspiciously unmoved son, and a whole family of greedy characters desperate to cash in on their inheritance. But when Gemma and Jayne accidentally place themselves at a second murder scene, it's a race to uncover the truth before the detectives lock them up for good. 

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Crooked Lane Books. Expected publication date 3/14/17.

How acquired: Received for review from the publisher through Cozy Mystery Review Crew.

My thoughts:  This book sounded so good that I was really excited to get it and looking forward to reading it. And it was good, but not quite up to my (admittedly high) expectations. The first person narrator, Gemma Doyle, runs a book store/gift shop devoted to Sherlock Holmes and items related to Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Sherlock canon. Not because she is a particularly devoted Sherlock fan, but because her uncle, who IS a particularly devoted Sherlock fan, started the bookstore and she joined him in the business later. But Gemma is a bit like Sherlock. She has acute powers of observation, and there are many conversations wherein she shows off, er, demonstrates said powers of observation by pointing out things the other party to the conversation did not notice or missed. She often comes off as a bit...lofty. Her friends seem to just accept it and aren't put off or insulted by her. But I found her a little irritating at times. She tells us, more than once, that she's offered or attempted to help out the local police investigate crimes in the past only to have her offers rebuffed.

It's been many many many years since I've read any of the Sherlock books, and my only recent experience with him is through the Benedict Cumberbatch TV show (which I do love). So I don't remember if Sherlock himself, the book Sherlock, came across the same way. But since those stories were narrated by Watson, I think that probably helped temper it. Maybe if Gemma's best friend, Jayne, were the narrator here...I just didn't find Gemma to be a very sympathetic character and so I had a little trouble liking her.


That being said, I did like Jayne, and I liked Ryan Ashburton, the local police detective who also happened to be Gemma's ex. And the mystery was good. I was completely in the dark about who the culprit was in the end and it came as a complete surprise. 

15 February 2017

Five Ways 'Til Sunday (Delta Heat 1)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Sometimes a man’s just gotta call for backup…
Delta Heat, Book 1

Marti Kowalski is all wrong for Officer Jackson Teague—he just won’t listen to reason. She didn’t finish high school, runs a bar. Has a tattoo and a blue streak in her hair. Yet he still wants to marry her? She can’t say she’s not tempted, but she’s got a bucket list to complete before she ties the knot.

Not just any bucket—more like a fifty-five-gallon drum of sexual wishes so explicit, there’s no way one man, even Jackson, can fulfill them all.

When Marti turns him down again, Jackson insists on knowing why. That’s when she shows him her list. He takes it, thinks about it—and calls on the only men he can trust: four buddies from his academy graduating class.

Between the five of them, he’s sure they can come up with a plan to check off every item on her list in one wild, wicked weekend. That is, if she has the nerve to follow through—and if he can bear to share her.
Product Warnings
Contains five men on a mission to break down the resistance of one determined woman, using everything in their arsenal from BDSM accoutrements to roleplay of non-consensual situation
.

Stats for my copy: ebook, Samhain Publishing, 2011.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  Hot from the first page! I read this novella in one sitting. Twice. Well, I read it in January 2012, and then again a few days ago. I particularly liked the characters. They aren't just random people, they're a couple who obviously love each other. The blurb pretty much tells you the whole plot. While Jackson gets his buddies to help him fulfill Marti's fantasies, he's not just gung ho completely comfortable doing so. But he thinks if he gets Marti through her bucket list, then she'll have no more excuses not to marry him. So for him, the ends justify the means. And that hastily scribbled bucket list was just an excuse. As much as Marti loves Jackson, she's scared of marriage, and she feels she will not be the right wife for Jackson. So she's shocked when she finds herself checking off each fantasy, along with some extra surprises that Jackson and his buddies plan along the way. *sigh* Where is MY Jackson? 

The Water-Method Man

JOHN IRVING

Synopsis from Goodreads: His wife wants out. His mistress wants a baby. The underground filmmaker he works for wants to make a movie of his life: a documentary of failure. Bogus Trumper is a wayward knight-errant in the battle of the sexes, with only his weapon to blame. His complaint is more serious than Portnoy's-- Portnoy never had to drink all that water.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Pocket Books, 1972.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  This is the second John Irving book I've read. I started collecting everything I came across by him after reading THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, which I loved. Either it's just been a long time since I read Cider House, or this book is just really different. Not to say I didn't enjoy it, because I did. The narrative is somewhat disjointed and bounces back and forth between first person and third person POV, and between the past and the present, so at times it was a little confusing. I didn't love it as much as Cider House, but I did like it enough to want to read more from Mr. Irving.  

26 January 2017

A HAUNTING OBSESSION (Harlequin Presents No. 1893)

MIRANDA LEE

Synopsis from Goodreads: Why did Jordan Vine-Hall make Bonnie Merrick lose her cool? Jordan exuded the sort of arrogance that Bonnie detested, but surely that should have stopped her from being drawn to him so strongly!

After being widowed, Bonnie had taken control of her life and was fast becoming a successful real-estate agent. But when she showed Jordan around the old McClelland house--which was rumored to be haunted-- something else took over....

Suddenly Bonnie and Jordan became obsessed by a passion they just couldn't resist!

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Enterprised Limited, 1995.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  So the hero here is definitely a throwback to the days of politically incorrect heroes. Jordan is a successful barrister, looking for a weekender, meaning a house on the shore for weekends. Bonnie is an estate agent. Their first exchange, over the telephone when Jordan calls Bonnie's office and expresses his preference to deal with a man, obviously does not go well, with both of them simmering after they hang up.

Bonnie has a LOT of hangups about men, thanks to her brief marriage to a police officer who physically and emotionally abused her. She is determined not to fall in love, not to let a handsome sexy man turn her head. She works hard, she's one of the top sellers at the agency, and she's proud of providing for herself. Neither of my exes physically abused me (ok, well, my first ex did a little, in fact he choked me one time and I literally thought he was going to kill me, but you don't really need to know about that), but my second ex was an alcoholic and living with an alcoholic, even one who doesn't get all mean or hit you, can still be an abusive way to live. I totally related to Bonnie.

But to get back on track. Of course when Bonnie and Jordan meet in person they are both wildly attracted to each other. I've already told you Bonnie's attitude, so you know she fights it. Well, before meeting Bonnie, one of her co-workers, who has his own bad attitude because he keeps asking Bonnie out and she keeps turning him down, tells Jordan that she is a slut who is sleeping with the boss and sleeps with her clients. So naturally when Jordan meets Bonnie he already feels contempt for her. So while the sparks are flying, some zingers also fly.

Jordan is actually downright nasty to Bonnie at times. At one point he even lifts his hand to her, though he stops short of actually striking her.
'Don't bother to apologise,' she cut in, her voice chillingly calm now. 'I expected no less.'
Clearly he was stunned, both by her words and her demeanour.
'I don't make a habit of hitting women!' he protested.
'Only whores,' she pointed out drily.
'Not even whores!”

All this should make a person not want to read a book where he is the hero. But we know he's tortured inside with wanting her, and we know he was purposly lied to and misled about her. And of course we know in the end it'll all come out and there will be an HEA.

There's also a house that is said to be haunted, and while Bonnie never sees a ghost she does feel a presence, that sometimes seems to take her over and influence her actions. But the ghost stuff is very understated and not a large part of the story.


I really enjoyed this book, misogyny and all. In fact, I'm on the fence about whether I loved it enough that I want to now hunt down everything else Miranda Lee has written. But I checked my TPR pile and I do have four more of her books, so for now I'll content myself with looking forward to reading them.

23 January 2017

SIZE 12 AND READY TO ROCK (Heather Wells Mysteries, Book 4)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Summer break . . . and the livin' ain't easy!

Just because the students at New York College have flown the coop doesn't mean assistant residence hall director Heather Wells can relax. Fischer Hall is busier than ever, filled with squealing thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls attending the first ever Tania Trace Teen Rock Camp, hosted by pop sensation Tania Trace herself—who just happens to be newly married to Heather's ex-boyfriend, heartthrob Jordan Cartwright. But the real headache begins when the producer of a reality TV show starring Tania winds up dead . . . and it's clear that the star was the intended victim.

Grant Cartwright, head of Cartwright Records, wants to keep his daughter-in-law (and his highest-earning performer) alive. So he hires his oldest son, black sheep of the family and private investigator Cooper Cartwright—who just happens to be Heather's new fiancÉ. Heather should leave the detecting to Cooper. But with a dorm full of hysterical mini-divas-in-training, she can't help but get involved. And after Tania shares a really shocking secret with her, this reality suddenly becomes more dangerously real than anyone ever anticipated.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, William Morrow, 2012.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

My thoughts:  It's been awhile since I read the first three books in this series (almost four years), but I was sucked right in as if it had been yesterday. In fact, this one could probably be read and enjoyed on it's own, without having read the first three books.

Meg Cabot is a master at the snarky humor. And the first person narration just zips along, as if Heather is sitting beside you telling you her story. In fact, Cabot's breezy writing is so masterful that it didn't even hit me until literally the last page that the writing is in first person PRESENT TENSE. Seriously! My least favorite tense, and I didn't even notice for 360 pages!

Heather is such a fun heroine, and Cooper, God, I love Cooper! And I was so happy that he got more page time here than in the previous book. And I'm sad that there's only one more book after this one.  

17 January 2017

OLD DOGS ARE THE BEST DOGS

BY GENE WEINGARTEN; PHOTOGRAPHS BY MICHAEL S. WILLIAMSON

Synopsis from Goodreads: Featuring sixty black-and-white photographs of old dogs shot by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Michael S. Williamson and narrated by washington Post staffer and columnist Gene Weingarten, this is a perfect collection for dog lovers that celebrates man's best friend.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Simon & Schuster, 2008.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:  Beautiful book. Filled with portraits of dogs, all 10 years old or older, with a brief little story or anecdote about each dog. 

MAX. HE WAS MY SOUL MATE.
Reading through this book made me happy and sad at the same time. My Max was 14 when he died on April 18, 2016, and I still miss him like crazy. I'll never get a puppy. I want the older dogs that nobody else wants. 

16 January 2017

TEACHER MAN


Synopsis from Goodreads: Nearly a decade ago Frank McCourt became an unlikely star when, at the age of sixty-six, he burst onto the literary scene with Angela's Ashes, the Pulitzer Prize -- winning memoir of his childhood in Limerick, Ireland. Then came 'Tis, his glorious account of his early years in New York. Now, here at last, is McCourt's long-awaited book about how his thirty-year teaching career shaped his second act as a writer. Teacher Man is also an urgent tribute to teachers everywhere. In bold and spirited prose featuring his irreverent wit and heartbreaking honesty, McCourt records the trials, triumphs and surprises he faces in public high schools around New York City. His methods anything but conventional, McCourt creates a lasting impact on his students through imaginative assignments (he instructs one class to write "An Excuse Note from Adam or Eve to God"), singalongs (featuring recipe ingredients as lyrics), and field trips (imagine taking twenty-nine rowdy girls to a movie in Times Square!). McCourt struggles to find his way in the classroom and spends his evenings drinking with writers and dreaming of one day putting his own story to paper. Teacher Man shows McCourt developing his unparalleled ability to tell a great story as, five days a week, five periods per day, he works to gain the attention and respect of unruly, hormonally charged or indifferent adolescents. McCourt's rocky marriage, his failed attempt to get a Ph.D. at Trinity College, Dublin, and his repeated firings due to his propensity to talk back to his superiors ironically lead him to New York's most prestigious school, Stuyvesant High School, where he finally finds a place and a voice. "Doggedness," he says, is "not as glamorous as ambition or talent or intellect or charm, but still the one thing that got me through the days and nights." For McCourt, storytelling itself is the source of salvation, and in Teacher Man the journey to redemption -- and literary fame -- is an exhilarating adventure.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, Scribner, 2005.

How acquired: Via Book Mooch.

My thoughts:  I read ANGELA'S ASHES in 2007, after which I wrote in my journal entry on BookCrossing:
Very depressing. At first I had trouble too because I just couldn't fathom how the author could remember in such detail things that happened when he was 3 and 4 years of age. But then I began reading with the mindset that it I was reading fiction with a first-person narrator and was able to concentrate on the story. Then when the author was "ten going on eleven" I began to get really sucked in and was captivated until the end.

Then I read 'TIS in 2010:
I really enjoy McCourt's writing, as if he's sitting next to you weaving a tale for you. I liked this book even more than Angela's Ashes. Solid story of a young Irish immigrant intent on getting an education and becoming a teacher, despite all the odds against him - including very little family/friend moral support as he's constantly told he should stick to physical labor jobs that pay better.

TEACHER MAN then languished in my TBR pile until a couple of days ago, when I finally picked it up to read. I don't know why I waited so long, but I really enjoyed it. Teaching has got to be one of the hardest jobs around, and I admire anyone brave enough to make a career of it. Mr. McCourt writes very honestly about his feelings of inadequacy, constantly wondering how to get a handle on the job and expecting to be fired for being a fraud. His methods were unusual, but he was able to connect with kids and get their attention.


The writing flows, sometimes almost in a stream of consciousness style, as Mr. McCourt relates incidents, anecdotes and thoughts and feelings. I read this book in two days, something I've not done with a book in a long time. Partly because I had some time what with our office being closed due to an ice storm, but mostly because the writing and the narration just pulled me in and I became unaware of time passing. The end came all too soon. 

13 January 2017

WEDDINGS FROM HELL


Synopsis from Goodreads: Some marriages are made in heaven . . . Some are not.

What happens when "the happiest day of your life" turns into a nightmare? Forget the drunken best man or the bridesmaid dresses from the '80s . . . none of these wedding day disasters can compare to a cursed bride determined to make it down the aisle, or a vampire who is about to disrupt your wedding.

Join New York Times bestselling authors Maggie Shayne and Jeaniene Frost, USA Today bestseller Kathryn Smith, as well as Terri Garey in four unforgettable tales of unholy matrimony . . . where the grooms are dark, dangerous, and mostly dead, and to love and cherish till death takes on a whole new meaning.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harper, 2008.

How acquired: Bought.

My thoughts:

TILL DEATH, by Maggie Shayne

This is my first time reading Maggie Shayne, though a quick count shows I have around 12 other books in my TBR by her, although half of those seem to be omnibuses with other authors.

When Kira was seven her mother died in a freak accident, and her father took his own life not long after. Now, eighteen years later, Kira receives a call from Scotland, advising her that a relative has died and she needs to come to Scotland for the reading of the will. There she meets her mother's family for the first time – several assorted, unmarried aunts – and learns of a curse placed on the family line – that MacLellan women are always killed at the hands of their husband. She also meets Ian, one of her family's solicitors, who she is instantly attracted to. A short novella but with so much packed into those 91 pages. I really enjoyed it and obviously need to read more of Ms. Shayne.

HAPPILY NEVER AFTER, by Jeaniene Frost

This story is the reason I bought the book. I love Ms. Frost's Night Huntress series, so I was looking forward to this story set in that universe. It's been awhile since I finished the Cat and Bones books, but I think Chance and Isabella, the hero and heroine of HAPPILY NEVER AFTER, had made an appearance in one of the books. I vaguely remember their names.

Isa is engaged to the local mob boss, Robert Bertini. Or at least Robert thinks she is. Isa's brother, Frazier, has disappeared, after begging Isa to go along with the engagement for the time being. So while she can't stand Robert, she's pretending to be love struck. Meanwhile, Isa's grandmother, Greta, knows something's up, but doesn't know what. So she contacts her old friend, Bones, a vampire, and ask him for help finding Frazier. Bones passes the assignment on to another vampire, Chance. I liked Isa, and I liked Chance. He's no Bones, but then who is? I enjoyed the story, and for readers who've not yet been introduced to the Night Huntress series, it's a good peek at what kind of vampires inhabit that universe. But it didn't quite grab me the way the Cat and Bones books did.

GHOUL'S NIGHT OUT, by Terri Garey

This story just blew the others right out of my head. I'm very anal about reading series books in order, and I had looked up each story ahead of time, but somehow I missed the fact that this story was part of a series. Otherwise, I would not have read it until I found the rest of the Nicki Styx books and had read them in order up to where this one comes in (number 2.5 per Goodreads). But I am really glad I read it because I loved it. I loved Nicki. I loved the idea of her seeing spirits and reluctantly helping them with whatever they need help with before they can go into the light, ala Jennifer Love Hewett in “Ghost Whisperer”, which I just happen to be streaming on Netflix.

In this story, Nicki's cousin Debbie has asked her to be a last minute bridesmaid in her wedding. Nicki doesn't want to, especially after seeing the hideous dress she must wear, but she knows her late mother would expect her to. While at a fitting for the dress, Michelle walks in and demands to know why Nicki is wearing her dress. Turns out Michelle was supposed to be the bridesmaid, but after a fight with Debbie she stormed off and was never heard or seen from again. Nobody realizes that she's dead, including herself.

I loved Nicki, and her interactions with Michelle. I loved the way Michelle's appearance changed depending on her mood or what she remembered. We also meet Nicki's boyfriend Joe, and while he didn't actually appear until halfway into the story, I loved him.

I started drifting away from paranormal romance because I got burned out on vampires, but ghosts still fascinate me,and I am very eager now to find the rest of the Nicki Styx books.


I did not read the fourth story in the book, THE WEDDING KNIGHT, by Kathryn Smith, because I know it's part of her Brotherhood of the Blood series, and I have the first three books already, so I plan to come back to this book and read THE WEDDING KNIGHT when I reach that point in the series. I know, I know, when these stories appear in these omnibuses like this they're supposed to work as standalones, but still. 

07 January 2017

KISS OF DARKNESS (Silhouette Shadows No. 32)

SHARON BRONDOS

Synopsis from Goodreads: Adrian Smith's latest orders tore at a conscience that shouldn't exist, pricked a heart that was his curse. But he'd made his deal with Death centuries ago, and now he had to do Its bidding. He would kill the scientist who was on the brink of prolonging human life; then he would return to his own private hell...

Adrian had expected his prey to be an old man whose time was near, but instead, he found himself preparing to harm a beautiful young woman, bursting with life. Yet Adrian could no sooner murder Sue Cooper than he could hope to fight Death and Its agents of evil when they came to do the job themselves...

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Silhouette Books, 1994.

How acquired: Given to me by a neighbor many years ago.

My thoughts:  I was unfamiliar with Silhouette Shadows when I picked up this book to read, and partway through my curiosity got the better of me and I looked up the line. It seems to have had a limited run, from March 1993 to March 1996, with only 66 titles. Some familiar authors and some I'd not heard of. 

Five hundred years ago Adrian lay wounded on a battleground, where he was approached by Death, who offered him immortality in exchange for enslavement. In agonizing pain, Adrian accepted. Since then he has lived his undead life mostly in isolation, leaving his solitary hut only to do Death's bidding.

Sue is a scientist on the brink of a breakthrough in her latest research project, looking for a way to extend the human lifespan. Death does not want her project to succeed, so he orders Adrian to kill her. But of course, once Adrian meets her, he is loathe to take her life.

The story has a different take on vampirism, which was interesting, and not what it seemed in the end. One of Adrian's abilities is to ward. At Sue's apartment, he places magical wards on the door and windows, to keep anyone else out. The description of him doing so is always vague:
After locking it, she saw him step back and make a few movements with his hands.

The next morning, while Adrian is asleep, Sue sneaks out of the apartment. How did she get past his wards you ask? Quite simply:
She set down her bag and tried to imitate in reverse exactly what she had seen Adrian do last night. After two attempts, she heard a soft hum and then a click. When she tried the door again, it opened readily.

I don't know why but this really bothered me. She is a human, with no magical powers or abilities. Yet by simply imitating the hand movements Adrian did, she can turn his wards off and on. It just didn't make sense to me. As silly as this sounds, given the paranormal nature of the book, it just wasn't believable.


This book was not great. It was like one of those corny old B movies. Yet I enjoyed it so much that I feel the need to search for more Silhouette Shadows. 

Click here if you'd like to explore the line yourself.