Thursday, December 31, 2009

Review: Forever...

Title: Forever...
Author: Judy Blume
Genre: Contemporary Romance/YA
Published: Pocket/1975
Re-released: Simon & Schuster/2003

Nath's Re-Read Challenge

This is the last of the re-reads for the year and I'm glad I ended it with a book that was a favorite from my youth. Nath has said she will be hosting the re-read challenge again in 2010 but it will be a more casual challenge. You can find out about it here with more information to come in the following days. I want to thank Nath for hosting the challenge and for giving me some wonderful re-reading experiences. :)

From the back cover ~

Awkward, sweet, passionate, innocent, secretive...

Do you remember your first time?

Katherine and Michael won't ever forget theirs. They were seniors in high school. Totally crazy for each other, they thought they had found the one. It was first love, and it was perfect: long talks on the phone, ski trips, and double dates when they simply couldn't wait to be alone.

But was Katherine and Michael's relationship the love of a lifetime, or merely the beginning of a lifetime of love?


Relive the memories in this new edition of Judy Blume's classic and beloved novel. Fall in love all over again with Forever...

The two covers I posted are the original cover with the picture of the girl in the locket. That's the copy I had when I first read Forever... back in my early teens (14). The more recent edition with the red cover and lipstick kiss is the copy I bought a couple of weeks ago. There have been a number of other reprints over the nearly 30+ years since Forever... was first published. I wish I still had the original copy but I left it at home when I moved out years ago. It ended up being sold at a garage sale my mom had, along with some of my other books and my Breyer horse collection. :(

I have very vivid memories of reading parts of this book. Other parts are a little vague. Like I remember the ski trip and I remember the camp but I had completely forgotten about Michael's friend Artie. I definitely remember Ralph*. He still makes me giggle. LOL And I totally remember reading the first time Katherine and Michael had sex. After I finished reading that scene I looked around to make sure no one was watching me, which was stupid since I was in my room with my door closed. But still... then, I re-read the scene all over again, still in shock that they actually "did it". This, even though all of my friends and I knew there was sex in the book, that's why we wanted to read it! It still took me by surprise. Ah, my young sheltered life. LOL

The story is told from Katherine's POV. So it limits how much the reader gets to know Michael. I definitely think of this book as more Katherine's experience of first love than Michael's. Which is okay since it was written specifically for young women. One of the things that I remember most about the book, aside from the sex, was how mature Katherine was. How she made her own decisions and didn't let Michael pressure her into going farther than she was ready to. Katherine was smart and funny and responsible but not always willing to follow the rules. She could think for herself and wasn't afraid to voice her opinion. She was also kind and compassionate. Her relationship with her best friend Erica was a close one that I thought Blume did a good job in showing how that friendship changes when one person falls in love and begins spending more time with the new love and less with the best friend.

I did like Michael, both the first time I read it and now. He was a nice guy that like most teenage guys, thinks about sex, wants to have sex and is so happy when he gets to. :) Since we didn't get his POV it's hard to tell what he was thinking just from his actions and what he says. Michael certainly fell for Katherine and I think he treated her well. He made it clear that he wanted them to have sex and he did get frustrated at times when Katherine would only let him go so far, then tell him no. He's a guy and for guys, their sexual needs are very basic, and that off switch can be hard to find. But I never felt like he pushed her too far. He didn't pull the "if you really love me, you'll have sex with me" crap. Like I said, he did let her know when he got frustrated but he wasn't abusive.

That leads me to another thing about the story. The characters were average. By that I mean they were just like most teens with the usual problems. They have ups and downs but there's no violence or horrible tragedy IMO. Just life. There are a couple of things that happen that are not everyday occurrences but I never felt Blume used them for shock value, more to prove that bad things do happen and life does go on.

Katherine and Michael are both characters I could relate to. The first time I read the book I was younger than Katherine so it was more of a looking up to or "I'd like to be like her" kind of feeling. This time around I see her and Michael like the kids I was friends with in high school with the same fears and concerns that I had. I really like the realness that Blume brings to the characters.

The ending was different that what you might expect but again, I think Blume did this to show how things don't always happen the way you expect but life does go on. I think it was much more realistic and true to real life.

Giving this book a grade wasn't exactly easy. I have wonderful memories of reading Forever... and it definitely left an impact on me as a teen as well as an adult. It was a short, quick read. The newer edition I have is a Trade Paperback with 192 pages. I do wish the story was a bit longer with more time spent with Katherine and Michael. It seem to go by too quickly. So while the book is not perfect the flaws are minor and I still enjoyed the story and the message that Blume penned.

Judy Blume has written a number of wonderful stories for both the young and the adult readers. Deenie, Are You There God, It's Me Margaret? and the Fudge books were some of my favorites as a kid. You can find information on Ms. Blume and her writings at her website.

*If you don't know or don't remember who Ralph is - that's the name Michael gave his penis. When I read that the first time I thought "guys are weird" and I still think that today!

Rating: A-

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reading Resolutions...


I'm not one for making New Year's resolution since I seem to make the same ones, over and over ~ more family time, eat healthier, lose weight, save money, etc. The usual ones that many people make. But as this year is coming to an end I've been thinking about what changes I would like to see concerning my reading and blogging. So I've come up with a few and while I won't guarantee that I'll still have them by the end of 2010, because things do change, I will try my best to make what I consider improvements on both the reading and blogging.

Reading ~

1. Read What I Like - While this may sound simple it really isn't. This is mainly concerning DNFs (Do Not Finish) books. I've gotten better and actually had a few this past year but I have a hard time giving up on a book, especially when it's from a favorite author or when the peer pressure hits and everyone else loves the book but I just... don't.

2. Review Faster - That's not to say write the reviews faster but to write them shortly after finishing the book. I guess it should be review sooner. When I write a review within a day of finishing the book, it takes a much shorter time to write the review. I have a tendency to move on to the next book as soon as I finish one. I need to stop, write the review, then move on. Otherwise I end up with a bunch of books to review then I feel guilty about not reviewing them because by that point I've got a bunch of new books I just finished reading and need to review. It's a vicious cycle!

3. Challenges - Reading challenges that is. I wasn't planning to join any in 2010 because I really need to get the tbr pile down to manageable. It's hovering around 400 - 500, and that's not counting the 70 or so books I have out from the library at any given time. Plans change and it turns out that so far all the challenges I want to join can be fulfilled from my tbr pile! Win/Win for me!

4. No Guilt - This has to do with reading and blogging. Shit happens. It's an old saying but true. I need to be able to let it go. As in, "OMG, I haven't posted in 4 days, I have to write something!" And there I sit at the computer, after midnight, trying to think of something to write. Or trying to write that review of the book that I finished reading weeks ago (see #2). I also have all these books that fellow bloggers wrote wonderful reviews about. I commented and said how I would get that book and read it because they loved it and I know I would too! So I get the book and there it sits on Mt. TBR Pile. I see the book, months later and feel guilty that I haven't read it yet. Got to let it go.

Blogging ~

1. Commenting - I have this habit that if I read a post and see that a bunch of comments have already been made, I think, "They don't need my comment. I don't really have anything to add". Which is so wrong because I know when people comment on my blog, even just to say a few words, it means a lot! So I will try very hard to comment more.

2. Lurking - This goes hand in hand with commenting. I have a tendency to lurk a lot. Princess Lurks-A-Lot could be my title. LOL But I also have a shy nature. I tend to be the one in the background, watching instead of joining. It takes me a while to feel comfortable posting a comment on a new blog. So if you notice I lurk on your blog, it's not that I don't like your blog, it's just that I'm still getting comfortable. I'm going to try to find that comfort a little quicker and stop lurking so much! *Those that lurk here at the Psyche, all are welcome here. Comment away! But if you don't, believe me, I understand. :)

3. More Than Just Books - This one will be hard because, like I mentioned, I tend to be shy and not one for sharing a bunch. But I've tried to be a little better about RL stuff. Posting more about family etc. I'll continue to add little bits of RL in with the books. It makes sense because I love reading about other bloggers RL. It's another side of them I enjoy seeing. The one thing you haven't seen here are posts on the many kerfuffles, cat fights and just plain old stupidity that sometimes goes on in blogland. Part of the reason I don't blog about it is because there's plenty out there that do. Trust me when I say that it isn't hard to find out what this week's latest drama is. That's not to say I don't have strong opinions on some of the topics but for now I just don't want the drama here. But that could change if something really gets to me.

4. Do I Have To Have A Fourth? - Because I had 4 for reading I guess I need a fourth for blogging. My type A personality is showing here. *grins* I think this one should be - Post What I Want To Post, even if I don't think anyone will find it funny or amusing or will have any interest in it at all. There are a number of posts that I've started writing and are still in the "draft" folder. Why didn't I finishing writing them and post them? Because I thought they were boring or stupid or no one will want to read it. Or no one will get my warped sense of humor. Or they'll think I have no sense of humor at all. Self doubt really sucks! I should just finish writing them and post anyway. (I'm already thinking of maybe not posting this post. Stop already and post but use spell check first.) Okay...

So, who's making some resolutions for 2010? And if you're not, is it because you like what you're doing now? If so, good for you! If it works for you then I say keep doing what you're doing.

And what do you think of my resolutions? Any that you might try? Or any that you would suggest for the Psyche? I'm open to any improvements I can make here.

Here's to another wonderful year full of good friends and good books!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

YotC Review: Baby Makes Three

Title: Baby Makes Three
Author: Molly O'Keefe
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Mitchells of Riverview Inn/Book 1
Published: Harlequin/
December 2007
Source: Library/ebook

Year of the Category Challenge

From the author's website ~

Alice Mitchell has seen better days. But that was before the heartbreak of infertility, divorce and losing her trendy New York restaurant. Then, after five long years, her ex-husband reappears in her life. Gabe needs a chef. Alice needs a job. The attraction between them is still undeniable—and just as impossible. Even if sparks fly again, she can't give him what they once wanted more than anything: a baby.

Creating a family, however, doesn't always mean creating a child… Sometimes it just means allowing love to survive. But will they realize that before it's too late—a second time?

While this may be the last book for the Year of the Category Challenge, it certainly won't be the last category I'll read. Going into the challenge I had thought I would read some of the earlier works of authors whose full length books I've enjoyed - Suzanne Brockmann, Nalini Singh and Jessica Bird to name a few. But what happened is that I tried some new to me authors who write category romances and found them quickly added to my "need to read" list. I really never thought I would enjoy the shorter format as much as I do. It was truly a pleasant surprise! Thank you KMont for hosting the challenge and giving me some wonderful reads and more to look forward to!

The cover ~ I think it's a pretty cover. I like the colors and thankfully there's no baby in the clouds, grinning down at them or something. You know how silly some of the Harlequin covers can be. :)

Molly O'Keefe is a new author to me who writes complex characters with real life problems. Baby Makes Three was not a light, easy read. It was a quick read because I had a hard time putting it down, or in this case, closing the laptop.

This is an emotional story dealing with loss, grief and alcoholism. The pain Alice feels comes off the page and hits you right in the face. She's such a mess both emotionally and physically. Alice has fallen off into the deep end and grabs hold of the life preserver Gabe throws her. I just wasn't sure if she could hang on. Her drinking I thought was realistic in that many people turn to alcohol or drugs for the temporary escape they offer. Alice is set in her less than stellar job and drinking herself into oblivion. It's what she wants because if she dares to want more she believes it will only lead to more pain and disappointment.

Gabe has been trying to get his life back on track ever since his divorce five years ago. He has undertaken the enormous task of opening an inn, complete with a restaurant and wedding facilities. His father and brother are there to help him but he is having a hard time finding a chef. All roads lead home or in Gabe's case back to Alice. He finds her working at a chain restaurant and coming off a hangover. Not a pretty sight. Gabe needs a chef and he is desperate enough to offer the job to Alice. He is also stubborn in his determination that he will keep their relationship professional. As far as he's concerned it will be strictly boss and employee. And believe me, Gabe can be very stubborn! There were times when I wished he had given in a bit quicker to his feelings for Alice, had a little bit more compassion towards her.

When Alice sees Gabe again she wants nothing to do with him. Seeing him makes all the pain and loss fresh. But she's desperate and decides to take Gabe up on his offer of becoming the chef for the inn. It's only temporary and Alice figures she can handle being around Gabe for a couple of months. Plus, she doesn't have much choice, she has to work or she'll lose her home.

What surprised me about this book is how much I got into it. Into the characters' emotions and actions. It's not a happy/light book. There were some funny and light moments, mostly between the men. I got some of that smart ass male banter that I enjoy but overall the story dealt with some serious issues.

The one problem I did have is that Alice is portrayed as having what I would consider a serious drinking problem when Gabe finds her. She basically works and then drinks until she's blind drunk. Then gets up and goes to work hung over. The impression I got was that the drinking was part of her daily life, you could say she practically scheduled it in. Once she gets to the inn she is still drinking and this causes problems. Then she stops. And that's it. There's mention of some cravings for alcohol but it's minimal. And it's not like there isn't booze around, it's a restaurant and the guys drink beer so Alice certainly had access. Maybe it was the short format and the author didn't have enough pages to devote to a more in depth look at the effects of stopping cold. Whatever the reason, I was expecting the alcohol to play a larger role in Alice's relationship with Gabe.

So while this wasn't a light read or a holiday one for that matter, I found myself enjoying getting to know these flawed people. There is a sub-plot with Gabe's brother Max. He was shot and is still recovery from it emotionally. And that's about all we know. He's likable enough but distant. His story is in the second book, A Man Worth Keeping. I know I'll be reading more from Molly O'Keefe. You can find out about her books on her website.

Rating: A-

Monday, December 28, 2009

Review: Breakfast in Bed

Title: Breakfast in Bed
Author: Robin Kaye
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: Sourcebooks Casablanca/December 2009
Source: Publisher

From the back cover ~

He'd be Mr. Perfect

if he wasn't a perfect mess...

Rich Ronaldi is almost the complete package - smart, sexy, great job - but when his girlfriend dumps him, Rich swears he'll learn to cook and clean just to win her back.

She'll be happy to make him over,

but not for another woman...

Rich is the only guy Becca Larsen's ever met who hasn't tried to change her. She's glad to help him master the domestic arts, but she'll be damned if he'll start cooking in another woman's kitchen - or bedroom...

I haven't read Robin Kaye's first two books and the couples from the first two books do make appearances in Breakfast in Bed, but I don't think you need to read those to enjoy Breakfast in Bed. Kaye supplies enough back story to give the reader a sense of who the previous two couples are and what their relationships are with Rich and Becca.

First I want to talk about Rich, for a couple of reasons. I found him a very interesting and likable character, with his serious side of psych professor at Columbia and his equally playful side as sexy boyfriend to Gina. He was so adorable and sweet, I could just eat him up! His one drawback... he was a major slob! When Gina dumps him he thinks he can get her back by literally cleaning up his act. He also needs a dinner date for a special event that he hopes will impress his boss. So he turns to Becca, his reluctant roommate, to help him learn to be a domestic god. It was funny to see Rich's attempts at cooking, cleaning and doing all things domestic. Rich had been so spoiled by the women in his life that he was clueless when it came to anything domestic. But he soon caught on and actually became good at it. The tenacity he applied towards cooking and cleaning he also applied in his desire to have Becca in his bed.

Becca, for me, was not very likable at first. She just didn't click for me when I first met her. I think at least part of it had to do with my fascination for Rich. I just found him more likable than Becca. Becca was more closed off, less trusting and harder to get to know. Becca was very stubborn when it came to having Rich in the same apartment and the misunderstanding that caused both of them to be there. She seemed so caught up in her own world of getting her apartment ready to move in and her gallery ready to open. I get that those are busy times and that she didn't have time to cater to Rich. Plus, Rich had left a bad impression on Becca when they last met. She really didn't like him, but was attracted to him, which we know always causes those conflicting emotions. But as Becca started to thaw towards Rich she also started to become more open and more likable to me. Once I got to know her, to understand her, I found that I liked her.

Rich and Becca together - funny, hot, sexy, sweet, touching and emotional. All those words can describe their relationship of reluctant friends to lovers. They were actually good for each other. Rich listened to Becca and didn't give a damn about her money (she came from a very, very rich background). And Becca didn't cater to Rich but let him stumble and fall a few times on his road to being a domestic god. What did surprise me is that as their relationship grew it was Rich who showed more maturity when it came to handling the deeper feelings and emotions. In the beginning I got the sense that Becca was the more mature of the two, basically because she could actually take care of herself while Rich came across as a lost cause when it came to the basics. He really was quite funny. Some of the best parts of the book.

The problem I had with Rich and Becca's relationship came towards the end. This is where, IMO, that Becca proved to be the less mature of the two and her actions really bugged me. Here she has this wonderful guy that is crazy about her and what does she do? Ugh! And I will admit that my feelings about Rich may have made me a little harder on Becca but, dammit, she hurt him! LOL I think a little honesty and talking would have gone a long way in avoiding the misunderstandings but it all worked out in the end and Rich and Becca got their HEA.

All in all, Breakfast in Bed turned out to be a funny, enjoyable romance. Now I need to dig into my tbr pile and read Romeo, Romeo. It's about Rosalie (Rich's sister) and Nick Romeo who is already a domestic god.

Robin Kaye and her books can be found here.

Rating: B+

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What a Week...

I feel like I've been going non-stop this past week. It's been busy but fun! It started last Sunday, my birthday, picking up my favorite sister (she's my only sister *snickers*) at the airport. Ryan, my 9 year old went with and was excited to see his Aunt Kathy from Atlanta. :)

Monday was lunch and shopping at Costco (what a zoo!) and my youngest brother and his family arrived from New York.

Tuesday was a bunch of last minute shopping and wrapping gifts and me complaining because the gift bags I had were either too big or too small for the gifts. But it all got done. Oldest brother and his wife arrived from Denver.

Wednesday was more last minute food shopping and a quick trip to the library. In case anyone is wondering, I got J. D. Robb's Kindred in Death and Ice, a YA by Sarah Beth Durst.

Middle brother and his family got here from Las Vegas and we all met at Auntie Fran's for a casual pizza dinner. At this point there were 22 of us with two more, my nephew and his wife due to arrive from Chicago on Christmas Eve. As you can see we're spread out all over the country!

Christmas Eve day, I braved Target and Kohls for the very last of my last minute shopping. LOL The lines weren't too bad and I made it home by noon. Finished wrapping and we watched a bunch of Christmas shows and got ready for the excitement of the big day. And I also made some sugar cookies which expanded into the attack of the giant sugar cookies. They were still delicious!

Christmas Day we hung out in our jammies and opened presents and were very thankful dh got the day off. He's been working 10 hour days plus Saturdays and Sundays since the week after Thanksgiving. He wants to get a flat screen TV and I keep telling him that TV is getting bigger and bigger the more overtime he works. Now he just needs to get time off to shop for it. LOL

Everyone, all four of my siblings and their families except for my sister's husband, were at my mom's for Christmas dinner. She was thrilled and so happy to have all of us here. It was crazy and crowded but a wonderful time was had by all!



*the boys opening their gifts*

I thought I took more pictures but only a few were actually goods ones. I should be getting some from other family members soon.

Did anyone brave the after Christmas sales yesterday? I decided to stay home and relax with the kids. I haven't had time to read as much I would have liked but I finally started reading a fantasy after what seems to be a dry spell of UF/PNR. So far so good. :) I will be heading to Borders soon, Robyn Carr, Lara Adrian and Sarah Mayberry all have new releases coming out this week!

Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Free Sarah Mayberry eBook...



All Romance is offering a free download of Sarah Mayberry's Home for the Holidays.

Go here to read my review. It's a wonderful story and it's Sarah Mayberry - you can't go wrong!

Go here to All Romance website and download the free ebook. It's available in Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Reader, Mobipocket and Epub.

It's easy to create an account and the discount will show up when you check out. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Review: ICE

Title: ICE
Author: Linda Howard
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published: Ballantine/November 2009
Source: Library

From the inside cover ~

'Tis the season for mistletoe and holly, Santa . . . and suspense. And the gift that keeps on giving is Ice: premier thriller author Linda Howard's breathless tale of a man, a woman, and a battle for survival against an unforgiving winter-and an unrelenting killer. Oh what fun it is to read.

Gabriel McQueen has only just arrived home on holiday leave from the service when his county-sheriff father sends him back out again with new marching orders. A brewing ice storm, and a distant neighbor who's fallen out of contact, have the local lawman concerned. So he enlists Gabriel to make the long haul to the middle of nowhere, and make sure Lolly Helton is safe and sound. It's a trip the younger McQueen would rather not make given the bitter winter weather-and the icy conditions that have always existed between him and Lolly.

But there's no talking back when your dad is the town's top cop. And there's no turning back when night falls just as Gabriel arrives-and discovers that the weather outside isn't the only thing that's frightful. Spotting strangers in Lolly's home-one of them packing a weapon-is all it takes to kick Gabriel into combat mode. And his stealth training is all he needs to extract Lolly from the house without alerting her captors. But when the escape is discovered, the heat-and the hunt-are on. And the winter woods are nowhere to be once the ice storm touches down, dropping trees, blocking roads, and trapping the fleeing pair in the freezing dark.

Wow, the blurb is almost as long as the book. Okay, not really but ICE is a very quick read. IMO it should have been in an anthology along with maybe another popular author and a new author, giving that new author some exposure. But what do I know...

First off, the heroine, Lolly is not a TSTL heroine. Thank you Ms. Howard! I had some concerns because it really could have gone either way. But Lolly turned out to be pretty smart and not one to cower in the corner. She did need Gabe's help and was smart enough to take it and run, with him! I liked that Lolly had a backbone and she used common sense to get away from her captors.

What bugged me about her was that she downplayed her abilities, acting like it was no big deal that she was able to think on her feet and not fall apart. And that she was surprised that Gabe was attracted to her. She was sorely lacking in self-confidence which was most likely rooted in her shyness as a child. Gabe and Lolly had grown up in the same small, Maine town together but were not friends. He was outgoing and popular and she was the shy daughter of the mayor. Which meant that people took her shyness for being stuck up, only making things worse.

Gabe is a typical alpha hero. Nothing wrong with that. I love alphas and Gabe does his job well, helping get Lolly away from the bad guys and fighting them when he needed to. Gabe's internal dialogue as he made his way to Lolly's house on the mountain was entertaining. He was not looking forward to seeing "Miss Hoity-Toity Helton" as he thought of Lolly. It's been fifteen years since they were in high school together and he's expecting her to be the same snob he thought she was in high school. Gabe has since joined the army, been married and widowed and now, with the help of his parents, is raising his young son. Since he's stationed in North Carolina and his schedule is so erratic, his parents take care of his son and he gets to see him whenever he can get time away from the army. Not at all the best situation for Gabe or his son.

The way the story unfolds and the development of the characters is told a bit backward. First comes all the drama and adventure with Gabe and Lolly escaping the crazy people that were holding Lolly hostage at her home. Then they make it back to civilization where they can catch their collective breathes. Then they are able to talk about the more mundane like how they can have any kind of relationship with Gabe living in North Carolina and Lolly living in Portland, Maine. What Gabe's life is like living away from his son. If either of them are romantically involved with anyone. It's like Howard put the "getting to know you" phase of the relationship last.

The problem I had with the book and why it wasn't an A read, wasn't that the writing or plot were bad but the story was so predictable. There's so much more that could have been expanded on and enhanced to make it a more complete and fuller story. Once it was established that Lolly wasn't going to be a crying heap of uselessness, the story became fairly predictable with Gabe and Lolly working as a team to eventually defeating the psycho kidnappers and making their way to safety where they have hot "Thank God we're alive" sex. Then Howard wraps up the ending with a pretty bow of the potential for a continuing of the HEA that started on the mountain.

I should briefly mention Lolly's kidnappers. They didn't impress me at all. It was pure dumb luck that they managed to get as far as they did. It would have made for more interesting storytelling to have more background on the antagonists and for them to have some type of history with Lolly or Gabe. Would have made for a longer book too!

While I liked ICE, I would definitely recommend it as a library read. Too short and predictable for hard cover prices, even with a discount. :)

Rating: B

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Review: Death in the Stocks

Title: Death in the Stocks
Author: Georgette Heyer
Genre: Mystery/1920's
Published: Sourcebooks/December 2009
Originally Published: 1935

Source: Publisher

From the publisher's website ~

A bobby on his night rounds discovers a corpse in evening dress locked in the stocks on the village green. Inspector Hannasyde is called in, but sorting out the suspects proves a challenge. Anyone in the eccentric, exceedingly uncooperative Vereker family had the motive and means to kill Andrew Vereker, who seemed to have been universally disliked. One cousin allies himself with the inspector, while the victim's half-brother and sister, each of whom suspects the other, markedly try to set him off the scent. To readers' delight, the killer is so cunning (not to mention the author), that the mystery remains until the very end…

While Georgette Heyer is primarily known for her Regency Romances she also wrote a number of historical fiction, short stories and mysteries. Death in the Stocks is one of her mysteries. It starts with the death of Arnold Verekers and ends with the murderer being caught. Typical, right? But what happens in between those two events is what made this such a captivating and different read from my usual. Heyer has written a most amusing novel with some characters who are not very likable but are still quite interesting not only in their lack of remorse at the death of Mr. Verekers but in their actions after the murder.

The deceased, Arnold Vereker, seems to have inspired dislike, even hatred, in just about everyone he met. It's up to Superintendent Hannasyde to sort the lies from the truths and figure out who killed Vereker. There is no lack of suspects, from Verekers half siblings, Antonia and Kenneth, both spoiled, indulgent and self-absorbed people who cared little for their half-brother except for his money. In fact, Antonia becomes quite upset when anyone refers to Arnold and her brother and makes a point of correcting the mistake by reminding them that he was her half-brother.

Then there are Antonia and Kenneth's intendeds, Rudolph Mesurier and Violet Williams, respectfully. Mesurier works for Verekers and we find out, has been up to a bit of embezzling from Verekers' company. He fully intends to pay it back but it still provides a motive for murders. Violet Williams comes across as a lovely young woman with a bit of a soft heart and even shows some sadness over the death of Verekers. She enjoys the finer things in life and while she is to marry Kenneth, he is an artist who is unable to afford those things for Violet. But with the death of his half-brother, Kenneth, being the heir, inherits and can then provide Violet with the type of lifestyle she enjoys.

Superintendent Hannasyde's questioning of the possible suspects was the source of wonderful and witty dialogue. The way Heyer had Hannasyde volleying questions and returning the answers with more questions, attempting to make sense of those answers, all made for some face paced scenes with the reader, at least this reader, not always sure who the most likely suspect was. The twists and turns Heyer takes getting to the finale had me changing my mind a few times as to who I thought killed Arnold Verekers.

The lack of remorse and blatant disdain Antonia and Kenneth show for their now deceased brother comes across as both amusing and at times morbid. They seem to lack the ability to curb their show of dislike for their half-brother. Part of what I found so fascinating is their lack of remorse for the deceased. The way Antonia and Kenneth speak of their half-brother regarding his death borders more on fascination and the financial effect on them rather than any sadness. I was never sure what either of them would utter next. I didn't know if they were completely guileless or quite devious and guilty of the murder.

Antonia and Kenneth did have someone on their side. Their cousin and legal counsel, Mr. Giles Carrington. He actually had a brain and would at least attempt to curtail his cousins more unrestrained comments. He was the calm in the eye of the lives of the Verekers. Carrington was the one that attempted to make some sense of the mess his cousins found themselves in. Carrington was a character that Heyer gave not only the intellect to sort through the mire of the events leading up to and after the murder but to keep a clear head amidst the chaos of his cousins lives.

If you are in the mood for something witty, well written and decidedly different, then definitely give Death in the Stocks a try.

More information on Georgette Heyer can be found here or here.

Rating: A-

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Review: Burn

Title: Burn
Author: Linda Howard
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published: Ballantine/July 2009
Source: Library

From the inside cover jacket ~

Money certainly changes Jenner Redwine’s life when she wins a lottery jackpot. But it also costs her plenty: Her father rips her off and disappears, her fortune-hunting boyfriend soon becomes her ex, and friends-turned-freeloaders give her the cold shoulder when she stops paying for everything. Flush with new money, Jenner can’t imagine ever finding a place in the world of the wealthy.

Seven years later, though, she’s rubbing elbows with the rich, despite the fact she still feels like a party crasher. Luckily she finds an ally–and a guide to the rarefied realm of privilege–in shy, kind-hearted heiress Sydney Hazlett, who quickly becomes Jenner’s confidante and surrogate sister.

When Sydney invites Jenner on a charity cruise aboard a luxury liner, Jenner reluctantly agrees. But while she’s expecting–and dreading–two weeks of masquerade balls, art auctions, and preening glitterati, what she gets is more like a Hitchcock movie than a Love Boat episode. Taken hostage by a menacing stranger, Jenner must cooperate in a mysterious cloak-and-dagger scheme–or else. With nowhere to run, and with Sydney’s life as well as her own at risk, Jenner is drawn into a game of dizzying intrigue and harrowing danger. But as her panic gives way to exhilaration, and fear of her captor turns to fascination, Jenner rediscovers feelings she hasn’t had in years–and realizes she’s found a life worth living. If she survives.

I liked it. Which surprised me since most of the reviews I read were not what I would call favorable or glowing. It's hardcover so if you paid big bucks for it that could potentially influence your enjoyment. My only investment was time which is at a premium when it comes to reading but, IMO Burn was worth my time.

We start with Jenner having a bad day. And then it only gets worse when she gets home to find her loser boyfriend making himself comfortable in her living room. He treats her like crap and she has finally decided she's not going to put up with it any more, so out he goes. One improvement in her life leads to another - winning the lottery changes Jenner's life in ways she couldn't have imagined. Being responsible for millions of dollars turns out to be a full time job. Watching Jenner go from barely paying her bills to having millions made for some interesting reading in people and their reactions to change.

Jenner, thankfully, is smart enough to know she has to guard her winnings and takes steps to do this. I was glad she didn't go the way of giving her money away to friends and relatives and was smart to get it set up so that she couldn't loose the bulk of the money. The first part of the book is about Jenner's life changing from poor to obscenely rich. The second part is about that obscenely rich lifestyle that Jenner is still not quite comfortable, even after seven years of living it.

Jenner's life with the rich and famous has taken her all over the world and introduced her to people she never would have met. But she only has two close friends, only two people she trusts. One is her lawyer and the other is a woman who knows what it's like to be rich and wanted for her money. When we catch up to Jenner it's been seven years since she won the lottery and she's about to go on a charity cruise. You get the feeling that Jenner does all the charity work because at least some part of her feels guilty for having so much money. She's done well with her investments and has even more than her initial winnings.

The romance between Jenner and her captor, Cael Traylor, was far removed from a standard romance. At first it was forced because Jenner had to pretend to be lovers with Cael. Then once they became lovers this is still this feeling of each of them holding back. Cael because he is on a mission and doesn't plan on seeing Jenner after the mission. And Jenner because she still doesn't trust and how can she trust a guy that's kidnapped her? The suspense and action definitely took priority over the romance. There was just too much going on with the team of covert operatives focused on their mission to allow for much romance. Even Jenner, once she begins to figure out why Cael and his team are on the ship, gets into helping.

I liked Jenner. I found her interesting and would have liked to see more of her life after her lottery winning instead of the little bit we got before being fast-forwarded 7 years ahead. She was a loyal friend and I can understand why she was so distrustful of people. I liked the friendship she and Sydney had, both young, single women with a boatload of money, always wondering at the motive behind any new friendship. It came across as genuine. Jenner's relationship with Cael wasn't as fulfilling for me. I don't know if it was because the actual romance didn't get as much page time as I would have liked or because the mission always seems to interfere in their evolving relationship. Jenner and Cael were together a lot but it was so much acting like they were lovers that when they became lovers it seemed like it was more from all the togetherness than any real feelings of love. Whatever it was, I didn't get a real connection between Jenner and Cael.

So overall, not a bad book but not one of Howard's best. If you're wanting more suspense than romance in your romantic suspense then this could work for you. I couldn't find a website for Linda Howard but here's her book list on Fantastic Fiction.

Rating: B

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Review: Anyone But You

Title: Anyone But You
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published: Harlequin/July 1996

Reissue: November 2006
Source: Library

From the author’s website ~

For Nina Askew, turning forty means freedom—from the ex-husband whose career always came first, from their stuffy suburban home. Freedom to have her own apartment in the city, freedom to focus on what she wants for a change. And what she wants is something her ex always vetoed—a puppy. A bouncy puppy to cheer her up. Instead she gets…Fred.

Overweight, smelly and obviously suffering from some kind of doggy depression, Fred is light years from perky. But for all his faults, he does manage to put Nina face-to-face with Alex Moore, her gorgeous, younger downstairs neighbor.

Alex looks great on paper—a sexy, seemingly sane, surprisingly single E.R. doctor who shares Fred’s abiding love for Oreos—but a ten-year difference in age, despite his devastating smile, is too wide a gap for Nina to handle. Ignoring her insistent best friend, some interfering do-gooders and the ubiquitous Fred—not to mention her suddenly raging hormones—Nina thinks anyone but Alex would be a better bet for a relationship. But with every silver-haired stiff she dates, the more she suspects it’s the young dog-loving doctor she wants to sit and stay!

Fun, fun, fun! That's what comes to mind when I think of Crusie's Anyone But You. It was funny and sweet and sexy as hell. It's sort of a friends to lovers story, which is one of my favorite tropes. I say sort of since they are both attracted to each other right from the start. Usually a friends to lovers scenario might have one of the characters attracted to the other with the other oblivious to the attraction. This time around they tried to ignore that attraction with Nina thinking she's too old for Alex and Alex thinks Nina isn't interested in him because he isn't mature enough.

Nina Askew just turned 40. A big milestone and one she celebrates by getting a dog. Not just any dog but Fred. Little did Nina know, but Fred is cupid in disguise. He's an adorable character who's personality shines through. With her divorce final and her house sold, Nina has settled into an apartment and a new job. She started working as a secretary for a small publishing company and has since been promoted to editor. There's an interesting subplot regarding Nina's friend Charity and a book Nina encourages her to write about her past love life. Charity's life is full of men but Nina isn't looking for a man, she's enjoying living on her own and doing what she pleases. When she first meets Alex she notices how good looking he is but he looks, and acts, way too young for her. He's just her sexy, too young neighbor that she really shouldn't be fantasizing about. :)

Alex comes from a family of doctors, specialist. Alex isn't a specialist, he's an Emergency Room doctor and loves it. His family doesn't and are always trying to get him to choose a specialty. When Alex meets Nina he finds her attractive and likable. She's fun to hang out with, easy to talk to and he enjoys just being with her. The only problem is that he's attracted to her and she doesn't seem to think of him in that way. So he sets out to change her mind. What I liked about Alex was that he was this sweet, wonderful guy that cared a great deal about Nina and didn't give up on her and their relationship.

The relationship Nina and Alex create starts with friendship and evolves from there. They get to know each other, their likes and dislikes, quirks and habits. What they don't realize is the attraction each has for the other. They both assume that their not each other's type; Nina thinks Alex wants young, beautiful women with bodies equally young and beautiful. Alex thinks Nina wants someone who can give her a wealthy lifestyle of an expensive home filled with equally expensive things. What takes them a while to conceive is that they are perfect for each other. That their friendship was only the beginning and was meant to be more.

I really liked the fact that Alex was younger than Nina and still saw Nina as a very attractive woman. He didn't let the age difference come into play when it came to being sexually attracted to her. The age hang up was all Nina's. She couldn't believe that a young, sexy and sweet guy like Alex could possibly be attracted to her. The way Crusie showed Nina's thought process and how she came around to thinking that Alex enjoyed her company in and out of bed was like another freedom that Nina gave herself.

The secondary characters are a very eclectic group of friends and family that give Nina and Alex different perspectives on their lives and relationship. The interactions with Fred were cute and funny and at times I got the feeling that Fred might be the smartest one in the room.

I will say that Alex was acting like an idiot towards the end when he tries changing careers to please Nina. Everything got sorted out and Nina and Alex realized they were happy together, regardless of the age difference or Alex's income. This was a fun, quick story with colorful characters and an interesting twist on a common plot. A very enjoyable read!

Jenny Crusie and her books can be found here.

Rating: A-

Friday, December 11, 2009

Book Shopping For Kids/Part 1...

We all know that books make great gifts. But finding the right book isn't always easy. Finding the right book for a child can be a bit tricky. Kids have so many things to occupy their time that sometimes books get relegated to the bottom of the list after sports, toys, video games and television. So how to get those kids to turn off the video games and TV and read a book?

I decided to consult the experts and find out what books they recommend. The three experts I consulted have a combined reading experience of over 20 years. Their taste vary from science, fantasy, animals, monsters, super heroes, sports and humor. Their love of reading varies from reading almost anything to the very picky reader. The age range is from 8 to 15, two boys (8 & 9) and one girl (15). Can you guess who enjoys reading the most?

I also used my years of experience reading to the three expert consultants (civilian)* and came up with some books I enjoyed reading, sometimes over and over and over again. One thing the books, especially for the younger kids, have in common is the amazing illustrations.



Preschool/Kindergarten ~

A silly book to read and brings back memories of the fun the kids had when we read it together is The Napping House. The story builds on itself, adding characters as the story progresses. This book is such a fun book to read together. It's an easy book to memorize and then you can take turns reading it to each other.

On a cozy bed lie a snoring granny, a dreaming child, a dozing dog, a snoozing cat, and a tiny slumbering mouse. But then an unexpected visitor arrives to interrupt this rainy afternoon at the napping house . . . where "no one" now is sleeping!

Laura Numeroff (author) and Felicia Bond (illustrator) have created a wonderful series - If You ... Each book features a different animal from pig, cat, mouse and moose. Each starts with a different offering from the narrator to the featured animal. The initial offering causes the animal to want something else. Once they get that something else... they want something else. Kids love the logic of the animals in these books. And the illustrations are cute and fun.


Mercer Mayer has entertained all of my kids with his Little Critter books. Even I have some favorites. Little Critter is an adorable animal, (what, I'm not exactly sure) that experiences many of the same things human kids experience growing up. There are hundreds of Little Critter books for a wide age range.


One of the boys favorite kindergarten teachers is a dog. What? Yep, a dog. A border collie to be specific. The Miss Bindergarten series has a dog for a teacher and animals for students. The illustrations, done by Ashley Wolff are vibrant and bold with their bright colors and the stories, written by Joseph Slate, are an amusing look into the life of a kindergarten teacher and her students.


And if you want some beautiful illustrations with exceptional storytelling then look no further than Jan Brett. She writes wonderful stories full of furry woodland creatures and children and happy endings. The illustrations are not only the main picture but the borders are gorgeous with smaller picture that go with the story and feel of the books.


Many of the author websites also have activities and reading guides you can download and print. Definitely check out their websites. This is just a small taste of the wonderful books that are out there for the early readers. If you have a little one in need of a gift this holiday season why not give them a book.

What books for the younger kids do you recommend?

Next up, books for middle school readers.

*Whenever I hear the words "expert consultant" I always add on the word civilian, thanks to Roarke. :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Review: Don't Tell

Title: Don't Tell
Author: Karen Rose
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published: Grand Central/July 2003
Source: Purchased

From the back cover ~

DON'T LOOK...

It was a desperate plan. But Mary Grace Winters knew the only way to save herself and her child from her abusive cop husband was to stage their own death. Now all that remains of their former life is at the bottom of a lake . . .

DON'T TRUST . . .

Armed with a new identity in a new town, she and her son have found refuge hundreds of miles away. As Caroline Stewart, she has almost forgotten the nightmare she left behind nine years ago. She is even taking a chance on love with Max Hunter, a man with wounds of his own. But her past is about to collide with the present when her husband uncovers her trail and threatens her hard-won peace. Step by step, he's closing in on her— and everything and everyone she loves.

DON'T TELL

First a shout out to nath for recommending this author. After one book I'm hooked! Rose does an admirable job combining the suspense with the romance, balancing the two so I never felt that either was lacking. The antagonist is known right from the start, it's what his next move will be that kept the novel suspenseful. The romance between Max and Caroline was interesting because of how each characters' past continued to have such a strong influence on their current relationships.

Caroline Stewart has faced horror and adversity that no one should ever have to live through. She not only lived through it, she survived it, barely. She's a likable woman with a few close friends and a love for her son above all else. She's young, only 30, but has a maturity due to the situations she found herself in at a young age. Caroline is a woman that comes across as kind and considerate to others but also a very private person. She keeps her distance from what would be considered eligible men and prefers to form ties with older, "safe" men. Men that would hold no romantic interest in her. So when Max comes along she is leery of him but also finds herself attracted to him.

Max had this presence when he walked into the room. He was very tall, 6'6, and not a man easily overlooked. He is friendly but has no problem taking charge when he needs to. He has a past that still haunts him and uses a cane to help him walk. Max has some very major baggage that he allows to color his decisions regarding career and personal life. He went from being top of his game to losing practically everything he loved. It's been years but he still feels the guilt and loss and can't seem to get past it. It's like everyone else has moved on, why can't he? At times this drove me nuts to the point where I wanted Max's brother, David, to smack Max upside the head.

The relationship between Max and Caroline had just the right amount of hesitancy from both of them to make it believable given their past experiences. They stayed true to character and didn't pull a 180 with their pasts suddenly becoming less significant than they were before they met. Rather, Caroline still had concerns with her developing relationship with Max and how it will effect her son Tom. I thought it was a gutsy move on the part of the author to have Max be such a large man. It was shown quite clearly how his size affected Caroline at first and how she was able to overcome that fact and get to know this man that could tower literally over her.

Then there is the big bad nasty who still haunts Caroline. Her abusive husband is trying to come back into her life but first he has to find her. Rose makes it very clear through his words and his actions that this guy is a fanatic when it comes to control. Control of women and anyone who he deems less than him. He doesn't seem to have any limits on what he will do to maintain that control. That, for me was the truly scary part of his character. You don't know what he will do and you get to the point where you have to think he will do anything to get Caroline and more importantly, his son back. This is a guy you don't want to cross. Not only is he extremely abusive, he's a cop. So what do you do when threaten by a cop? Tell another cop? How do you know who to trust? That's what Caroline had to overcome. Rose does an admirable job of getting the reader inside this guy's head and trying to make sense of his twisted logic.

The secondary characters play such crucial roles in the romance and the suspense of the story. There's Dana who runs the shelter where Caroline and Tom get help starting their new lives. And there's Special Agent Steven Thatcher. He's one of the good guys and has the difficult job of unraveling the threads that lead back to what really happened to Caroline and Tom. And of course there's Tom. He's an interesting character for many reasons but one is that he's on the brink of becoming an adult. We get to see his very adult protectiveness towards his mother as well as his need for her to still be his mother.

Karen Rose has a wonderful website. It's the kind of site I like because it has not only information on each of her books but she has a page that shows how each book is related. Who the main and secondary characters are and where/how they show up in other books. I love charts, graphs and family trees when it comes to linked books. I just wish I had looked at this sooner, then I would have known about a certain character in Don't Tell.

This is not a short novel, coming in at 482 pages for the paperback, but it went by fast for me. If you're looking for a good book that combines romance and suspense then give Don't Tell a try.

Rating: A

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Review: My Unfair Lady

Title: My Unfair Lady
Author: Kathryne Kennedy
Genre: Historical Romance/London/1885
Published: Sourcebooks/December 2009
Source: ARC from Publisher

From the author's website ~

He created the perfect woman…

The impoverished Duke of Monchester despises the rich Americans who flock to London, seeking to buy their way into the ranks of the British peerage. So when railroad heiress Summer Wine Lee offers him a king’s ransom if he’ll teach her to become a proper lady, he’s prepared to rebuff her. But when he meets the petite beauty with the knife in her boot, it’s not her fortune he finds impossible to resist…

For the arms of another man

Frontier-bred Summer Wine Lee has no interest in winning over London society—it’s the New York bluebloods and her future mother-in-law she’s determined to impress. She knows the cost of smoothing her rough-and-tumble frontier edges will be high. But she never imagined it might cost her heart…

From acclaimed author Kathryne Kennedy comes a delightful new take on the romantic classic My Fair Lady. As a Wild West beauty takes Victorian London by storm, the devilishly handsome duke she’s hired to instruct her in proper deportment begins to wonder if his unconventional pupil might be perfect just the way she is...

While it took a bit longer to read My Unfair Lady than I would have liked, once I got into it, I did enjoy the story of Summer and her duke. I do think I would have enjoyed it more had the pace been quicker, with more details of the duke's attempts at transforming Summer into a lady. Even without that, I found the developing relationship between the two quite interesting.

From the beginning, Summer Wine Lee is an enigma to the Duke of Monchester. He really doesn't know what to make of her and what he considers her very unlady like manner. She is like nothing he has ever encountered. He also resents the fact that he needs her, or rather her money. He may be a duke but his father sold off everything he could before he died and left Byron with only what was entailed which was little more than a run down castle and the title.

I liked Byron the duke, but he wasn't easy to get to know at first. When we first meet him he comes across as an arrogant aristocrat who would prefer to have nothing to do with the uncivilized Summer. What Byron lets the public see isn't what Summer sees in private. Byron has far more layers to him than meets the eye. I knew he couldn't be as cold hearted as he portrayed himself, Summer would never have fallen so hard for him. The way Kennedy developed his character, showing the reader why Byron did what he did, his relationship with his family, made me like him so much. He does what he can to survive in the world of the ton. I do think he genuine liked Prince Albert but would have preferred living in the country as opposed to London and all it's intrigue.

Summer is a breath of fresh air to the stuffy London ton. She is accustomed to saying what she thinks and not being under the rule of any man. Her father adores her but is consumed with making money so Summer has been more or less raising herself. She has a small menagerie of "critters" who she rescues and adopts into her odd little family. Her best friend Maria decides that Summer needs someone to teach her how to be a proper lady if she's to be presented to the Queen. And Summer is determined to become a lady and be presented to the Queen, then she'll be able to wed her fiancé Monte. So the Duke of Monchester is hired for the undertaking of turning an American heiress into a lady.

This is an odd love triangle, for sure! There's Summer's secret fiancé Monte in New York and on the other side of the Atlantic are Summer and Byron thrown together at dinners and balls acting as a couple but both determined to resist any attraction. The whole thing about marrying Monte bugged me. I never understood why she continued to want him once she developed such strong feelings for Byron. And then once they got physical she still insisted she wanted Monte. It just seemed to go against her practical, frontier upbringing. From everything Summer said about Monte and the New York society it didn't sound like it would make her happy. I think she was doing it, trying to fit in with the Astors and New York because that's what she thought her father wanted. While she may have had feeling for Monte, those feelings were nothing compared to what Byron made her feel.

Overall, I liked Summer and Byron and their round about way of falling in love and finding their HEA. I much preferred their relationship when they were away from proper society and were able to be themselves. There is a mystery subplot that adds a bit of danger and intrigue to the story and shows the reader that both Summer and Byron are capable of taking care of themselves and each other. I enjoyed the way Summer kept surprising Byron, showing him the different sides of her and fascinating him as well as shocking him at times. And Byron had some surprises in store for Summer too.

Information on Kathryne Kennedy and her novels can be found on her website.

Rating: B

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cheryl St. John Winners!

Big Thank You to Cheryl St. John for offering to do the interview and her generosity in giving two of her books from her back list to two lucky readers. Those two ladies will need to go here to check out Cheryl's books and pick a first choice and a second choice, just in case your first choice isn't available. Cheryl will do her best to get the first choice for each winner.

And the winners for Cheryl's giveaway ~

Alicia

Jill D

Cheryl's current release is Her Colorado Man and I'll be ordering one copy from the BookDepository for one lucky winner.

The winner of Her Colorado Man is ~

Lyoness2009

All three winners have been emailed. Please email back with your information so Cheryl and I can get those books out to you. Thanks to all the readers for welcoming Cheryl to the blog. :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Review: Courting Miss Hattie

Title: Courting Miss Hattie
Author: Pamela Morsi
Genre: Historical Romance/Arkansas (approximately 1910)
Published: October 1991
Source: Purchased

Nath's Re-Read Challenge 2009

From the back cover ~

They's Shared A Lifetime Of Friendship...
But It Took Only One Kiss To Spark A Wildfire Of Passion In An Unlikely Bride.

The news spread like brush fire through the whole county when widower Ancil Drayton announced his intention to start courting Miss Hattie Colfax. She was certainly spirited and delightfully sweet natured, and she'd managed to run her family farm almost single-handedly. But wasn't a twenty-nine-year-old lady farmer too old to catch a husband?


An Irresistible Suitor.

All his life handsome, black-haired Reed Tyler had worked Miss Hattie's farm--and dreamed of one day settling down on his own piece of land with the pretty young woman he'd sworn to marry. Hattie was someone he could tell his hopes and troubles to--someone he looked on as a sister. So he thought, until the idea of Ancil Drayton calling on her made him seethe. Until the night a brotherly peck became a scorching kiss... and Reed knew nothing would bank the blaze--and that his best friend was the only woman he would ever love.

Pamela Morsi is one of those authors that I choose when I want something different. Different hero, different heroine, different feel. What I get when I read her is a different story but still a comforting, welcoming story. A story that pulls me in a makes me feel like I know these people, like they're just as real as my neighbors down the street. The first time I read Courting Miss Hattie was years ago, along with Morsi's Simple Jess and I remember feeling drawn to these characters the same way I was again drawn to Hattie and Reed along with their families and friends.

I loved Hattie! She was so much fun to read. You can't help but like her and her common sense approach to life. She has this innate ability to get to the heart of things, so that you know what she's thinking. It doesn't occur to her to be dishonest. In a way she has led a sheltered life even though she has shouldered a huge amount of responsibility for a very long time. Hattie longs for a husband and family but that doesn't stop her from enjoying her life on her farm. It's one of the thing that I loved about her. She's not one to feel sorry for herself, she has her moments of sadness but doesn't wallow in them. That's not to say she was perfect. She had this tendency to sell herself short, to buy into what the townsfolk thought of her. That she was destined to be alone, a spinster that everyone liked but no man wanted to marry. That's when I wish someone would have given her a swift kick in the rear! LOL

Reed Tyler is hmm... he's a product of his environment, having believed what everyone else seemed to believe, that Miss Hattie was a nice lady but a spinster and not one to be considered for marriage. He never really saw Hattie as anything other than a friend and business partner. He was her friend and sharecropper. They had known each other forever but only knew a small side of each other. The public side that everyone else saw. In a way Reed reminded me of a little boy. They have no interest in a certain toy until another child starts playing with it. Then they suddenly realize what a fun toy it is and how much they want it, decide that, "hey, that's mine" and don't want to share. That was Reed with Hattie. Once Ancil Drayton starts courting Miss Hattie the blinders came off and Reed realized that he didn't want anyone to have Hattie but him.

There are certain parts of this book that I'm sure readers will remember fondly long after they close the book. One was the way Reed teaches Hattie the three different kisses - pecks, peaches and malvalvas. Keep in mind he's teaching her how to kiss another man, which doesn't dawn on him at first. At first he gets caught up in the teaching, typical man, then when he realizes what he's done, he tries to backtrack and convince Hattie that she should stick to giving Ancil only pecks. Hattie, being Hattie, doesn't like that and says "Why would you peck when you can peach!"

The fact that Hattie(29) is older than Reed(24) by five years didn't factor in much for me. He started working at the farm when he was eight years old, so they've grown up together, they're comfortable with each other. Reed grew up in a loving family and with responsibility for himself at an early age so you could say he's more mature than his age. Hattie, inexperienced in the ways of men and women, still has the practical experience of farm life. So while she's older than Reed, he's more experienced in sex, so it kind of balances out. At least that's my logic and like I said, their ages didn't really factor in for me. :)

It takes Reed a long time to finally be the one courting Miss Hattie. There are obstacles to overcome and responsibilities to be met and Reed is an honorable, responsible man. I was so happy when they could finally be together and once Hattie let her hair down, both figuratively and literally, she led Reed on such a wild ride. Her joy for life followed into her love for Reed.

Another wonderful re-read! If you haven't tried Ms. Morsi, give her a try. She has this ease of writing that allows the reader to just slide into the story, the town and the characters' lives. The secondary characters are well written, interesting without taking the focus off Hattie and Reed. The plot and characters always come back to Hattie and Reed. Morsi also creates a distinct setting by adding in the flavor of the time period and location with colorful sayings and the attitudes of the time.

Pamela Morsi is still writing but I haven't read any of her most recent releases, I'll have to look into changing that. Her books and author info can be found on her website. (Warning: music comes on when site loads)

Rating: A+

Monday, November 30, 2009

Author Interview and Giveaway ~ Cheryl St. John

Please help me welcome author Cheryl St. John to Leslie's Psyche.

I remember first hearing about Cheryl St. John from Kristie of Ramblings on Romance, who has mentioned a number of times that Cheryl is one of her favorite authors and she writes western historicals (win!) I knew I had to add her name to my to buy list.

I started by reading the highly recommended Joe's Wife. And yes, it was all that Kristie said it would be. Loved that book! (You can read my review here.) The thing about Cheryl's writing is that it's real. Real people and situations that the reader can relate to even when those people lived in another time and place.

Some information about Cheryl from her website ~

Cheryl St.John is the author of over thirty Harlequin and Silhouette books. Her first book, RAIN SHADOW was nominated for RWA’s RITA for Best First Book, by Romantic Times for Best Western Historical, and by Affaire de Coeur readers as Best American Historical Romance. Since then she's received several RITA nominations and three Romantic Times Achievement Awards. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real life situations."

As well as being an avid collector and a gardener, Cheryl is an amateur photographer. Visit her blog to see photographs of her garden, her family, and learn about the things that make her laugh--and there are a lot of them.

Cheryl is admittedly blog crazy. She has a personal blog, From the Heart, a recipe blog, and a blog that follows a home remodel. She guest blogs whenever and wherever she's asked, and blogs twice a month at Petticoats and Pistols.

Cheryl has led writing classes on a local and national level, and she teaches monthly online workshops for writers. Her motivational gifts of exhortation and encouragement make her a sought-after speaker. She's the worship leader at the fastest growing Word of Faith church in her city, serves on her church's advisory board, and is active in Heartland Writers Group, her local RWA chapter.

Does she sleep? Not much.

Cheryl was nice enough to indulge my inquisitive nature and answer some deep and meaningful questions. Okay, the questions may not be too deep but Cheryl's answers are insightful and interesting. She has great taste in authors (Maggie Osborne and Pam Morsi, two of my favs). She likes the angsty dark brooding hero (don't we all) and gave us a peek at what she's currently working on.

Leslie ~ Is there any one particular book you are most proud of? Why?

Cheryl ~ That is such a difficult question to answer. It's like thinking about which of your children you are most proud of. They're all special in a different way. There are books I am LESS proud of than others, but I won't say which ones or why. When I think back, there are books that stand out in my mind as projects I particularly loved and still do: Land of Dreams, Saint or Sinner, The Doctor's Wife, Joe's Wife, Prairie Wife, Marvel's story in A Western Winter Wonderland, Her Montana Man and my upcoming Her Colorado Man.

L ~ What do you enjoy reading? Romances, non-fiction, mysteries. Who are some of your favorite authors?

C ~ I saw you reviewed The Promise of Jenny Jones recently. I love Maggie Osborne. I fell in love with romance by reading LaVyrle Spencer, Candace Camp/Lisa Gregory, Francine Rivers, Jill Marie Landis, Pam Morsi and others. I still love the Americanas and western the best. I also enjoy contemporary romance and an occasional Stephen King or Dean Koontz.

L ~ When you start writing a book, what do you start with - the main characters and build the plot around them or do you start with the plot and build the characters around it?

C ~ A combination probably. Usually some glimmer of an incident or situation that grabs me. Ideas strike writers at odd moments, usually when we're not trying too hard. When the left-brain backs off and allows the right brain freedom, ideas flow. This happens in the early morning, in the last hour before falling asleep, in the shower, driving, and while baking. Relaxing my left-brain is my reason for shopping and making brownies. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. I start with a situation and a character and then flesh out the character, add more people and create a believable lot from there. Sometimes it takes me as long as a year or two to actually get all the pieces to come together. Such was the case with Her Colorado Man. I had this idea that a man would get letters from a child and then--to the mother's dismay--pretend to be the child's father. How in the world I would make that believable was the problem, so that binder kept going back on the shelf. Occasionally I'd pull it out and drive my critique partners crazy trying to brainstorm it. And then finally, when I wasn't trying too hard, the answers came to me.

L ~ Do you have a favorite type of hero you prefer writing?

C ~ A couple of types. I love the wounded, angsty dark brooding hero, but I adore the guy next door equally well. I don't mind a guy with a secret, but most often it's my heroines who hide things. And how.

L~ On your website you mention that you enjoy photography, gardening and collecting. Do you incorporate these joys into your writing?

C ~ Laughing here, because I'm doing that right now. In my current story, my heroine is a fish out of water, trying to make a home for her governor candidate husband and impress the locals, while she knows nothing of normal families. The ladies put a bug in her ear that she needs to do crafts and decorate her home, so she's ordering and decorating, and I'm having a heyday with the research. I love Victorian collections. An excess of possessions were so much a part their society that they defined people's and morals and culture. And thank you for visiting my website! It's still shiny new and I'm super proud of it.

L ~ Do you have a favorite place where you like to write? Or do you write wherever you happened to be when the mood hits you?

C ~ I work at my desk. It's a method that works for me. When I sit and put my fingers on the keyboard, words come. Occasionally when I only want to see a few lines and not edit, I sit on a sofa and use my Alphasmart, but I'm basically an office writer.

L ~ What book are you currently working on?

C ~ My working title is Wyoming Wildfire. I brought my heroine from a bordello in Dodge City and married her to a man running for governor of the Wyoming Territory. And whoops--he doesn't know about her past. What fun this is going to be!

L ~ You're well known for your historical westerns, is there another genre that you would like to write?

C ~ I like to write contemporaries as well. It's a change my brain needs from time to time. I can only choreograph story people on ranches and horses for so long before I want them to drive a Mustang and drink a Coke, you know?

Cheryl has a wonderful backlist of treasures to search out at your UBS. If you don't have a UBS handy you're in luck. Wendy aka Super Librarian, recently shared some exciting news about some of Cheryl's hard to find books. The people at eHarlequin were smart enough to ask Wendy for some recommendations for ebook bundles, see Wendy's posts here and here. Two of the bundles selected will feature Cheryl's books. The first bundle, The Harvey Girls, to be released in January will include Cheryl's books; The Lawman's Bride, The Preacher's Daughter and The Doctor's Wife. The second bundle, Love American Style, to be released in February, will include Cheryl's book Prairie Wife along with books from Judith Stacy and Cheryl Reavis. Check back at either Cheryl's website or eHarlequin for ordering information as the release dates near.


Cheryl's newest release (December 2009) is Her Colorado Man.

When eighteen-year-old Mariah found herself pregnant and unmarried in her small Colorado town, she disappeared. One year later, she returned with a baby—though minus the "husband" who had conveniently ventured off to Alaska's gold fields to seek his fortune….

But now, with handsome adventurer Wes Burrows turning up and claiming to be the husband she had invented, Mariah's lies become flesh and blood—and her wildest dreams a reality!

I haven't read it yet but Kristie did and you can read her review here. She gave it a 4.5 out of 5!

Also available are three reissues from Cheryl's Montana Mavericks series.

The Magnificent Seven (September 2009)


Marry Me...Again (December 2009)

Cheryl, I just want to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and visit here at Leslie's Psyche!

And now for the giveaway ~ Cheryl has been generous to offer two books from her backlist, as long as she has copies. You can go here to view Cheryl's backlist. Since Cheryl will be sending these out and postage has gotten so expensive, this is open to US residents.

In addition to Cheryl's two books, I'm giving away one copy of Cheryl's new release - Her Colorado Man. This is open to any one that Book Depository ships to.

So that's three winners! Leave a comment on this post by midnight Sunday, December 6 to be entered in the giveaway.